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Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican indigenous tradition, is alive and well in many Latino families and in the families of Santa Maria High School students.

More than 300 students and staff recently participated in various Dia de los Muertos activities organized by Club C.E.’E.N.I. (Educational Collective of Students from Indigenous Nations, from acronym in Spanish) on campus.

The Day of the Dead activities included workshops about the history and symbolism, a community alter, school art gallery and other information that ensured that this indigenous custom survives the test of time. Everyone involved learned it is a time when families remember, celebrate and heal from the loss of departed loved ones. It is not a time to mourn, but rather a time to remember, celebrate and keep the memory of loved ones alive.

CE’ENI Advisor Elizabeth Cortez said the environment engaged students.

“Students felt proud in putting the message out that this is an indigenous practice their family celebrates and is worth sharing with others,’’ said Cortez, adding the mission of SMHS CE’ENI is to give a voice to our indigenous students on campus by celebrating their languages, cultures and traditions. “They are often made to feel ashamed of this part of themselves, but through these events they are embracing this beautiful tradition and sharing it with the SMHS campus.”

Students agreed.

  • “I learned a little bit more about old customs of Mexico, where this tradition comes from and how it came to be what it is today.” “I think it’s important because it puts another light to the usual spooky Halloween. We honor the dead, but not mourn. More people can learn.”–Cesar Ayuso, 11th Grade, AP Spanish Language and Culture
  • “I learned about the meaning behind El Dia de los Muertos, the history and how it is part of our culture. Also, how it is fine to remember the dead and it’s not always about crying that we lost our dead, but also see it as a good way and be positive about i “It is important to share this tradition with the school because for most of us its part of our culture and we need to keep doing this to not leave our culture behind.” –Araidna Romero, 10th Grade, AP Spanish Language and Culture
  • “With these events, I hope that we can raise awareness and respect from SMHS, and also love, not hate, from our community. So what I liked most was that everyone from different cultures got together and participated.”  Organizing these events was important because many people knew very little about Dia de los Muertos and what it’s about. So showing them this tradition also educated them about it at the same time.” –Alvaro Morales, 10th Grade, CE’ENI Student

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