Burbank Schools Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and Dia de los Muertos

Photo courtesy of Luther Middle School's Diverse Voices PTSA group.

Luther Burbank Middle School, Walt Disney Elementary, and Ralph Emerson Elementary are among the many schools in Burbank celebrating Hispanic Heritage month and Dia de los Muertos with festive food, ofrendas, and events.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 each year in an effort to highlight the history and culture of Americans with Hispanic heritage. President Lyndon Johnson put into observation Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, but in 1988 President Ronald Regan expanded the celebration to cover a whole month. September 15 marks the anniversary of independence for the Latin America countries of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Mexico celebrates their independence on September 16 and Chile on September 18.

Luther Burbank Middle School kicked off their Hispanic Heritage Month on September 29 with the help of their PTSA group, “Diverse Voices,” by selling paletas, aguas frescas, and Refresco de ensalada de fruta to students during lunch. Lisa Raluy, the school’s culinary arts program teacher worked with her catering students to make, prepare and sell the paletas for $1 during their lunch break where they completely sold out.

Paletas are similar to popsicles and are very popular in Hispanic and Latin American cultures.  Flavors sold included honeydew mint, pineapple chile, watermelon, lemon strawberry, raspberry, and mango. Refresco de ensalada de fruta, a popular El Salvadorian fruit salad drink was also sold.

Luther’s “Diverse Voices” will also be gathering on October 25th to put together a Dia de los Muertos ofrenda that will be on display outside the counseling office until November 2. Dia de los Muertos which means “Day of the Dead” is a way for people to honor those who have passed. The ofrenda, which means “offering,” is a way for the school to celebrate the vibrant Mexican holiday and honor the heritage of their students. 

Ofrenda at Luther Burbank Middle School 2022

There are three tiers on the table representing the sky, earth and afterworld, while the papel picado (traditional paper banners) represent wind and the candles represent fire. People place favorite food of the deceased and the smell from the marigolds is said to guide the spirits to the ofrenda. Students and staff are invited to contribute pictures to be included.

Walt Disney Elementary School is having their annual Dia de los Muertos Festival this week on October 28 from 4:30-7:30pm. “The event is an annual celebration that began in 2015 as an opportunity for the school and local community to learn about and celebrate this meaningful tradition that honors the loved ones that we’ve lost,” said Vanessa Waite, the PTA Communications Chair for Walt Disney.

The event admission is $5 for adults and free for kids. The festival will include things like churros, tacos, pastries, face painting, games, entertainment, as well as performances from Aztec dancers, a Mariachi band, and dance instruction from Garri Dance Studio. Craft areas will be set up for kids to make flower crowns and decorate alebrije, a Mexican tradition that symbolizes spirit animals that guide you through your life. Disney will also have a community ofrenda for anyone to continue to or families can pre-purchase their own ofrenda to display at the event. For more details and to purchase admissions and activity tickets visit https://disneypta.org/dia-de-los-muertos.

Another elementary school, Ralph Emerson Elementary, is currently collecting photos from students of loved ones that have passed away for their Dia de los Muertos ofrenda. Their beautiful and festive display will be set up on their auditorium stage and will be offering walk throughs of the ofrenda for students and families on October 30 and November 1.

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