The famous Mexican author, Octavio Paz wrote, ‘The Mexican…is familiar with death. [He] jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it. It is one of his favourite toys and his most steadfast love.’
While the Year 9 Spanish students initially found this quote rather creepy, recently they were able to explore and better understand Paz’s description of the Mexican view of death. They discovered that celebrating death came in the form of a holiday called Day of the Dead which is actually a festive and celebratory time when families honour and remember their loved ones who have passed away. If one were to travel to México, Central America, or to parts of the USA during November 1st and 2nd, they would find lively markets selling dead bread, sugar skulls, and lively skeletons. Students learned that such images symbolise what the Mexicans’ ancestors, the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, believed: that death is part of a cycle, life and death are interconnected, and death can be sweet and not be feared.
A big part of this holiday is the ‘Ofrenda’ or Offering where families create an altar with traditional items such as marigolds, sugar skulls, and a photo of the loved one. In order to experience and simulate this tradition, Year 9 students honoured a famous person who has passed away. They built an altar and gave a tribute in Spanish about this person describing his/her life and accomplishments. As a culmination, students viewed the movie, ‘Coco’ which reinforced the view that family and ancestors are connected and that remembering our loved ones is of great value to us.