Our first event of the school year was a celebration of dia de los muertos, or the day of the dead. One of our own from the MEPN program, Annette, generously offered to share her experience with this holiday and led a discussion regarding the traditions surrounding it. This tradition is centered around the alter, and in this case we dedicated it to Florence Nightingale, the lady with the lamp.
The ofrenda (alter) is meant to keep the family close, traditionally built at the cemetery where the loved one is buried. The deceased are honored with food, drink, and gifts of the things that they loved. It is believed that during these days (November 1st & 2nd) the loved ones can enter the world of the living and that to honor them brings good fortune.
Annette led a discussion on evolving traditions, including the newly established day of the dead parade in Mexico City, as well as the rising popularity of la Catrina, pictured in the painting by Diego Rivera on the screen above. She is an iconic figure within Mexican culture, representative of a more jovial approach towards death.
The group listened while munching on pan de muerto, a traditional bread representing the skull, bones, and circle of life. Annette’s mother was able to pick it up in Tijuana, a reminder as we ate of the geographical and cultural proximity we share to Mexico. We washed down the pastries with hot chocolate, commonly enjoyed during this holiday and a treat on a San Diego fall day.
It was a powerful first gathering, made more meaningful by a student teaching the group a piece of her own cultural heritage to the benefit of those who came. We are looking forward to seeing what this group can accomplish this year!