The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Opinion: Learning by participating memorable way


November 14, 2018

This is the season of fall festivals and dressing up as scary or funny characters for Halloween. However, another holiday taking place this time of year is El Día de los Muertos; originally known as Día de Muertos, it translates to Day of the Dead.

In learning about this holiday, celebrated at several of our schools, the commonly recurring thread was, “It’s not Halloween, and it’s not scary.”

Originally celebrated at the beginning of summer — and we’re talking a few hundred years ago — it gradually shifted to the fall, specifically, Nov. 1-2 when All Saints’ Day is celebrated. It’s widely believed that early origins even date back to the Aztecs.

Regardless, it’s a time for families and friends to gather together and remember those who have passed on. Colorful shrines — called “ofrendas” are often set up, decorated with flowers, candles, and food items in honor of the loved ones no long with us.

While the subject sounds somber, the event is anything but. There’s music, dancing, parades and many participants are not only dressed colorfully, but often painted in special, elaborate makeup, in the manner of “La Calavera Catrina,” (the Elegant Skull), a cultural figure thought to laugh in the face of death.

Walking into our Arts Academy at Bella Vista, the performing arts center was filled with colorfully dressed and made-up students and staff. Principal Shelly Norris welcomed me and provided a quick tour of all the aspects of the AABV celebration of El Día de los Muertos.

“Our parents are amazing,” she began. Parents had brought all sorts of decorations and put them together. There were indeed bright flowers everywhere, and students sang and danced as they passed by the ofrendas that parents had assembled.

Celebrations were split by grade levels, with the kinder through second grades together, followed by the third through fifth, when the little ones headed back to their classrooms.

One of our bilingual elementary schools, La Casita, was also celebrating El Día de los Muertos. There was a special face-painting station set up in one of the hallways, with school staff members Corey Pickett, Mary Amaro, and Jill Balkun creating elaborate face-painting masterpieces for the both students and staff. Principal, Sylvia Martinez provided a tour of the colorful ofrendas that had been set up, some with exceptional detail and described at length the activities that were taking place for the celebration in the various classrooms.

Learning by participating … always a memorable way to go.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools. She can be reached at [email protected]


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