By: Linda Wang
On Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, festivities made their way to Los Gatos High School as the Spanish program celebrated Dia de Los Muertos. For every period excluding seventh, students from all Spanish classes gathered in the small gym to try authentic foods, celebrate tradition, and honor loved ones who had passed.
All across the lavishly decorated small gym, Spanish teachers worked together to set up stations where students focused on a unique aspect of the holiday. Several stations included traditional foods such as pan de muerto, the Day of the Dead bread, and chocolate caliente ––– warm, authentic Mexican hot chocolate. Students exercised their arts and crafts talents at two other stations: one where they created marigolds, and one where they designed Day of the Dead skull masks. Marigolds (cempasúchil), which the students made with tissue paper and pipe cleaners, hold significance as the designated flower of the dead. Students could also pose with their skulls, or calaveras, in the set up photo booth. “[All of the celebrations] are to attract spirits to cross over to the present life,” Seńor Dominic Calmels explained. “People will create an ofrenda to commemorate a person or pet who has passed, and on the altar they will put the Day of the Dead bread, the marigold flowers, candles, and pictures of the person or pet who has passed.”
Calmels also earned the nickname DJ Calmels after curating his specially designed playlist for the event. Following the other Spanish teachers, Seńoras Liv Johnson and Zasu Mazzuforo, students learned to salsa to Calmel’s Latin beats. “Seeing the smiling faces was the most meaningful part,” Calmels reflected. “We started this in 2019 and didn’t do it in 2020 because of COVID. In 2021, we still did it with masks. This year we did it some with masks and without, and it was just fun to see everyone celebrating together.”
Of course, the celebrations did not go without the most important aspect: honoring the dead. Students and teachers alike submitted photos of late family, friends, and pets, which the Spanish teachers presented on a slideshow throughout the event. AP English Language and Creative Writing teacher Kristen Austin was one of many who submitted a photo of a family member: in this case, her father. “Even though my father is not among the Latino side of my family, our family has always marched in the Dia de Los Muertos celebration and parade in the Mission District of San Francisco to honor loved ones who have passed. It was our family’s tradition,” she reminisced. “I was happy to contribute. The idea was a thoughtful gesture on the part of the Spanish teachers who organized it.”