Dia de los Muertos

by Selma Quemada-Valenzuela, 1st-grade Teacher (1B)
Many Mexicans families believe that death is just a rite of passage. The Day of the Dead, el 'Dia de los Muertos,' is 4,000 year-old tradition celebrated in Mexico on November 1st and 2nd each year. This is a celebration deeply rooted in the ancient history of Mexico. It is tradition that the celebration of Dia de los Muertos begins at home with the creation of an altar-ofrenda, which means the offering. The altar’s purpose is to celebrate the life of their loved ones who have passed away. The altar-ofrenda includes special items such as: sugar skulls, flowers, candles, fruits, clothing, photographs, artifacts and pictures, which have a connection to their ancestor that is being honored.

As a third generation, Mexican American growing up in Los Angeles, my parents taught me that Dia de los Muertos was a very sacred and religious celebration which took place in Mexico. We would go to the cemetery to decorate my grandparents’ grave with flowers and other items. It was not until I began teaching in the Bay Area that I came to realize that El Dia de los Muertos was accepted and embraced by many. I will have an ofrenda at my home to honor my parents, grandparents and mother-in-law. My students will also be making small ofrenda boxes to honor their ancestors. The Disney animated movie Coco is about Dia de Los Muertos and I highly recommend it.