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Students brought to life an ancient, indigenous Mexican tradition at Santa Maria High School this
week. Students from the group CE’ENI celebrated Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), setting-up a
beautiful and elaborate altar in remembrance of fallen alumni and school staff.

The group’s name, CE’ENI, is not only a Spanish acronym for Educational Student Collective of
Indigenous Nations, but is also a Mixteco word that signifies “their children.” The group formed
from students desire to promote cultural and linguistic pride of Latino indigenous roots and this
week’s celebration did just that.

Día de los Muertos is a tradition that goes back over 3,000 years. It is a commemoration of life
and death with the purpose of honoring beloved ancestors, family and friends. It is one of the few
practices of indigenous people in Mexico that has survived over 500 years of conquest and

“Many Indigenous people believe that our loved ones never leave us, even after death. The altar
pays tribute to them with photos, fruit, bread, flowers and other items as a ‘welcome home’ and
‘thank you for visiting’ gift” said Elizabeth Cortez, CE’ENI club-advisor.

The group hopes to not only empower students on the SMHS campus, but to also share their customs
and traditions with teachers and staff.

“It’s important to keep our culture alive because some students are embarrassed about where they
come from or sometimes don’t even know about how beautiful our traditions are, we want everyone to
know this is who we are” explained Isabel Morales Ventura, twelfth grader and Vice-President of

CE’ENI President Kimberly Gomez said students decided to dedicate the altar to SMHS teachers,
students and staff because “they were once part of our lives and they will never be forgotten.
Santa Maria High will always remember them.”

Throughout the week many people from the SMHS family have shown their appreciation and contributed
to the celebration. Some have added pictures of SMHS Saints and Ms. Okie-Goldin’s art students
brought their Día de los Muertos artwork to the altar. The group is looking forward to next year
and hopes to expand the celebration and invite even more people to participate.

The altar supplies were funded by a grant from Youth Making Change, a teen-led grant-making
program that awarded CE’ENI $3,000 last school year.

NONDISCRIMINATION POLICY: The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District is committed to ensuring equal, fair, and meaningful access to employment and education services. The SMJUHSD does not discriminate in any employment practice, education program, or educational activity on the basis and/or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics of age, ancestry, color, disability, ethnicity, ethnic group identifications, gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, marital, family or parental status, medical condition, military or veteran status, nationality, national origin, immigration status, political affiliation, pregnancy and related conditions, race, religion, retaliation, sex (including sexual harassment), sexual orientation, or any other basis prohibited by California state and federal nondiscrimination laws respectively. Not all bases of discrimination will apply to both education services and employment. If you believe you have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or bullying, immediately contact the District’s Discrimination, Equity and Title IX Compliance Officer Mr. Kevin R. Platt at 2560 Skyway Drive, Santa Maria, CA 93455, (805) 922-4573 or You may request a copy of SMJUHSD’s Uniform Complaint Procedures, Non-Discrimination Policies, Sexual Harassment Policies or click here.