Students pay tribute during Day of the Dead

Carol Jankowski - District 709
Morton High School Spanish student Haley Shumaker paid tribute to an uncle during a class project honoring the Mexican tradition Dîa De Los Muertos.

Students at Morton High School learn how to speak Spanish but they also learn about the culture of countries that speak that language.

“We do grammar and vocabulary but we want to learn about the people of the language we are learning,” Vonda Zehr, a Spanish teacher at MHS, said.

Dîa De Los Muertos — Day of the Dead — is a tradition in Mexico that is often misunderstood.

“The misconception comes in when people are seeing the skeletons and they think it’s satanic and it’s not. It’s a tribute to those that have died,” Zehr said.

She said the Mexican holiday is about honoring those that have died, somewhat like Memorial Day in the United States. The holiday is a mix of the cultures of indigenous people in Mexico and the Catholic faith. The skulls and skeletons represent the duality of life. “They believe the spirit comes back home and pays a visit,” Zehr said.

Families in Mexico often create an alter to commemorate a loved one who has died. That alter may include items that represent the deceased person’s interest as well as food, candles and flowers.

Students in Zehr’s class created their own tributes to family members or to a famous person who has died.

Kaleigh Anderson, a sophomore, created a tribute to her grandfather.

“We used to garden together and grow pumpkins for the Pumpkin Festival. It was a fun and good way to show a tribute,” Anderson said.

For sophomore Haley Shumaker, this activity reminded her of an uncle that passed away in the last couple of weeks. Her tribute recognized her uncle's love of baseball.

“I like that we can remember people that have passed,” she said.

All students in Spanish classes at MHS learned about Dîa De Los Muertos — which officially started on the evening of Oct. 31 and ended Tuesday.