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Day of the Dead altar memorializes loved ones, and fragrant flowers welcome them home.

In some American families, it’s common to want to shield our young ones from the bleakness of death and grief. In an attempt to soften pain and fear, children are told privately and delicately when unavoidable tragedies occur.

But in varying Latin American cultures, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), brings light and a sense of comfort to the realities of mortality — and an opportunity to celebrate the lives of loved ones who’ve died. This holiday’s history is not limited to one particular nation or culture; it is in fact a result of cultural blending. Deriving from the 16th century Mesoamerica and Europe, the holiday includes influences from both Aztec philosophies as well as medieval European rituals practice.

Parents, students and staff adorned the table with photos of deceased loved ones.

Parents, students and staff adorned the table with photos of deceased loved ones.

Although the bright fiesta follows Halloween, a holiday that promotes fearing anything related to death, Dia de los Muertos does the opposite. At HOLA, we are proud to celebrate a tradition that takes multicultural impacts and arranges them into a bountiful, colorful bouquet. Over Halloween weekend, HOLA’s Visual Arts Department teamed with a number of community partners to participate in a festival hosted by Councilmember Gil Cedillo at MacArthur Park Metro Station Plaza. Students and staff worked a booth where they colored masks and painted faces in traditional Day of the Dead style.

 

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HOLA visual arts students attend a festival at MacArthur Park Metro Station Plaza hosted by Councilmember Gil Cedillo.

On Monday, back at HOLA, Alex Nataren, Ana Albarran and Veronica Matos led HOLA’s community of parents, students and staff through a celebration of history. Together, they constructed a traditional altar, representing an acceptance of the cycle of life and death. Speckled with photos of loved ones who have departed, bundles of large paper marigolds, created by Ana and HOLA parents, of autumn colors (the season of natural death) invigorated the scene. Overhead, an arc symbolized the ascending path after death to the heavens.

For HOLA, a weekend spent celebrating Day of the Dead and Halloween in tangent was a profound experience. It was a chance to learn some history, create art, honor deceased loved ones and celebrate the continuity of life and community.

 
 
 

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