Luther Middle School’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee has organized a Dia de los Muertos “Day of the Dead” ofrenda for students to honor those who have passed while celebrating the vibrant Mexican holiday. The ofrenda which means “offering” was set up on campus on October 24th and will continue to be on display through the end of the holiday on November 2nd.
“The tradition of Dia de los Muertos stems from Aztec culture in what is now central Mexico,” said Sonya Garza Barry, a parent on the PTSA’s DEI committee, who helped spearhead the project. “The ofrenda is packed with symbolism, and each element is meaningful to the holiday.” 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.
Emails were sent to Luther learners explaining the project and asking them to submit photos to to be placed on the school’s ofrenda. “The students have been very positive and accepting of the ofrenda,” said Nicole Maggi, another parent involved in spearheading the project. “We’ve been hearing how cool it is from the school community.” The ofrenda is located outside the counseling office on campus so while it is not visible to the public walking by, the students are able to enjoy it in between classes and breaks.
“We have such a diverse population at Luther, and one thing we really want to focus on is creating compassion,” said Maggi. “When people stop seeing ‘otherness’ and begin to see and understand the beauty in cultures that they might not be familiar with, that starts to build compassion. We feel the ofrenda is just one small way to do that,” she added. Thanks to the PTSA and parents like Maggi, Garza Barry and Manisha Parikh, the Dia de los Muertos ofrenda is a beautiful way to celebrate Latinx culture throughout the Luther community.
Students brought in photos of relatives, friends, pets and even celebrities to honor on the ofrenda. “The shared altar reminds us that the community is one ‘family,” said Garza Barry. The DEI committee has been so happy with the success of the ofrenda that they plan on putting together displays outside the library to honor each heritage month. Luther’s ASB students currently have a Filipino Heritage Month display on exhibit. “We hope to offer multiple cultural experiences and activities throughout the year. The DEI committee is new, so sky’s the limit,” added Garza Barry.