Calaveras and Papel Picado: Stuyvesant Throws Annual Día de Los Muertos Celebration

The annual Día de los Muertos Celebration included decorations, exciting activities, and ultimately taught students about the culture and history of Spain.

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By Jane Rhee

Festive Latin music streams through the fifth floor. Students sport painted calavera faces and teachers emerge from their offices dressed head to toe in vibrant, traditional attire. An altar filled with sugar skeletons and paper flowers is at the center, and candles illuminate the clay figurines and captivate everyone that passes by. Stuyvesant’s annual celebration of El Día de Los Muertos has begun.

The Spanish Language department hosted activities and decorated the fifth floor in honor of El Día de Los Muertos, or “The Day of the Dead,” on November 2. While it is mostly celebrated in Mexico and parts of Latin America, the Spanish Language department has brought the same excitement and tradition to Stuyvesant for the past three years in hopes of starting a long-lasting tradition.

Students enrolled in a Spanish course contributed by setting up this event. They assisted in the creation of decorations like papel picados, flowers made of tissue paper, and prepared the traditional Mexican ofrendas. “I helped by making marigolds and skulls at home and during school. I also participated in decorating the halls,” freshman Melody Lin said. In addition, some students recreated traditional calavera face paint on their classmates and teachers at a station on the fifth floor and prepared traditional foods, including pan de muerto, a type of sweet bread, and a type of spicy Mexican hot chocolate.

The language teachers got into the spirit of the celebration as well. Spanish teacher Anna Montserrat was inspired by La Calavera Catrina, an iconic character in an etching created by Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada, for her makeup and outfit.

While the celebration was visually vibrant and exciting, students were also able to truly appreciate the significance of the holiday through the event. “I think it’s an important celebration at Stuy[vesant] because many students take Spanish. It’s so good that we not only learn the language itself but the culture as well,” Lin said.

Others perceived the celebration as a means to learn more about the culture and history of Spain. “I found [out] that the Spanish believe that the souls of their loved ones will come back to them on this day and that’s not supposed to be scary. Instead, they are glad and happy that their loved ones can come back and visit them on this day,” sophomore Xinlei Lin said.