Spanish Meets You Hosts Día de Los Muertos Celebration Virtually

Spanish Meets You hosted a virtual celebration of Día de Los Muertos, or “The Day of the Dead,” on November 2.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Spanish Meets You (SMY) hosted a virtual celebration of Día de Los Muertos, or “The Day of the Dead,” on November 2. The event consisted of a presentation of the traditions and history of the holiday, guest speakers, and festivities.

SMY is an educational organization that offers virtual tours of Spanish-speaking countries, a pen-pal program, and tutoring services to supplement and enrich students’ Spanish education. SMY recently started educating students on various cultural celebrations and decided to host a celebration of Día de Los Muertos as a way to encourage students to appreciate and spread Spanish culture. “It was important to host this event because SMY hopes to spread the Spanish culture, and the Day of the Dead definitely takes up a large part of the Mexican culture as one of their most important holidays, so we want to let more people learn about this and celebrate it with us,” senior and SMY Vice President and Webmaster Xin Lei Lin said in an e-mail interview.

The event began with a presentation of the culture, history, and traditions of Día de Los Muertos. Afterward, there was a quick Kahoot! game, in which students participated to synthesize the information they learned during the presentation and received extra credit. In addition, there were two presentations by guest speakers Sylvia Moreno, a Mexican-American woman from Texas, and Bryan Velazquez, a Latino student from Florida. Moreno presented her altar, which was used to honor her deceased friends and family. Afterward, Velazquez gave a video presentation, in which he described aspects of the altar of his family and the food he eats during the holiday. Next, there were three breakout rooms in which the attendees could join to watch “Coco,” a Disney Pixar film about the afterlife and traditions of Día de Los Muertos, make origami marigolds, or make sugar skulls.

The organizers wanted to create enthusiasm for learning Spanish culture and ease tensions among the different cultures at Stuyvesant. “SMY wanted to host this event as a way of communicating just how easy it is to fall in love with another culture rather than pit ourselves against it,” senior and SMY President Brian Zhang said in an e-mail interview. “My personal experience and enthusiasm with learning Spanish [were] derived from living in the physical intersection between Chinatown and a predominantly Latinx community and witnessing the hostility that often existed between these two groups. There is a similar dynamic at Stuy, a majority Asian school that can occasionally fall to implicit racism, and we would like to be the solution and shade of grey to that problem.”

When planning for the event, SMY recognized that they had to be mindful of their audience to make the event engaging for all. “Hosting events virtually is extremely difficult because it is a challenge to keep everyone engaged and interested. We tried to include as many events and activities as possible that fostered not only an understanding of the event, but also an exploration of it,” Zhang said. “Our participants also included younger students from our program, so we had to make sure that the information we presented had to be concise but just as informative.”

Due to the virtual nature of the event however, SMY faced slight technical difficulties when hosting the celebration. “Zoom allowed us to house 100 participants, and it maxed out in less than a minute after we broadcasted the webinar. Unfortunately, this meant that many students were not able to participate, so we hope to accommodate more people next year,” Zhang said.

Many participants had also experienced minor technical problems on their end. “I don't know if I can blame the event coordinators for this, but there were significant lags during the presentation, and certain gray bars hid the screen at times. Also, sometimes the background music overpowered the voices of the speakers, so it was a bit difficult to follow along at times,” senior Fahima Miajee said in an e-mail interview.

Others had noted the duration of the event and hoped it would be shorter in the future. “One thing the event [coordinators] could have done better is to minimize the duration of the event since it lasted nearly four hours,” junior Joshua Gao said in an e-mail interview. “I would have liked if there were more guests present [at] the event.”

While the event was not perfect, students responded positively to this event, as many felt that they learned a lot from the presentations and activities. “I really liked attending the event, and I thought it was a fruitful session. I left knowing more about Día de Los Muertos and what it really means to those who celebrate it. I think it’s really important to know the cultural significance behind it, in addition to the colorful celebration one sees in the media,” Miajee said.

Gao agreed, adding: “The general experience was quite positive. The presenters spoke very fluent and coherent Spanish, just like that of a native, and I really enjoyed the live house tour to see the sugar skulls and family photos in-person.”

Likewise, SMY leaders felt content with how the Día de Los Muertos celebration went and remain eager to improve it for next year. “We are overall very satisfied with how the event went; if the event is hosted next year, we would love to incorporate more guest speakers and provide a range of activities for students to engage in,” junior and SMY Vice President Naya Mukul said in an e-mail interview.