by Vivian Power
On November 2, 2016, Developing Virtue Girls School’s Spanish class students participated at an altar exhibit at Mendocino College. In the Latino tradition, altars are created and put in the homes to honor the souls of the departed members of the family to keep alive their memories among their relatives and community on el Día de los Muertos (All Souls Day). The altars usually contain photos and favorite objects of the persons memorialized and, in this way, even the children born many years after, learn and form attachments with the lives of their ancestors.
The students at DVGS have been very creative in their various interpretation of this traditional festivity. Across the years they’ve designed beautiful unique altars that include origami, lotus flowers, birds and other icons of their culture together with brilliant paper flowers, “papel picado” and “pan de muerto”, crafting a fusion of cultural elements from both the Asian and the Latino traditions.
Although they could have chosen to include pictures of their own departed family members, they have generally preferred to use the altars to communicate a statement of social justice. Among others, they have dedicated their altars to honor the lives of educators;
outstanding historical figures that are shaping their knowledge like Einstein, Confucius and Cesar Chávez; living beings now extinct; and even cultural practices from the past that have disappeared today. However, one perennial presence on all our altars has been the image of Master Hsuan Hua, the founder of Instilling Goodness and Developing Virtue School.
Students met and spoke with Sr. J. Arturo Reyes, Mendocino College President, and Ms. María Cetto, chair of the Spanish Department. They both felt great admiration for the thoughtfulness of the students’ altar and their artistic and communication skills.
At these festivities, students also have had a chance to interact with other aspects of our Mexican community that supplement these exhibits, like music, food and face painting. And best, they have been able to listen to live Spanish communication and to speak it among themselves and with others.
Through this unique cultural experience, students demonstrated aspects of: (1) the core virtue of filial respect (for ancestors and worthy leaders); (2) spirituality, an acknowledgment of the spiritual realm of the departed souls, and honoring the learnings passed on by spiritual leaders; (3) the necessary research to gather data that informed the altars; (4) interaction with our local Spanish-speaking community, through cultural and linguistic exchange.
Categories: Student Work