Day of the Dead comes alive

Jones’s Latin American community unites to celebrate the holiday


On Nov. 2, Jones celebrated the Day of the Dead with mariachi music and Mexican folkloric dance and food, commemorating the holiday and the Latin American community.

 Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is typically celebrated in the beginning of November and is a time to honor loved ones that have passed. Practiced in many Latin American countries, it is meant to be both a cultural and symbolic event.

“It’s a celebration of the life of the deceased, celebrating their death. It’s a grand symbolic event,” said Samantha Ortega ‘23, president of the Jones Folklorico Dance Club. 

Those involved in organizing the event found it to be a good opportunity to represent their Latino culture and showcase their interpretations of the holiday.

“It’s good to spread the culture. So, as I was searching for a song for the celebration, I found a good, upbeat song that represented the celebration of life,” said Ortega.

Many thought that having a Day of the Dead celebration was a brilliant way to share culture enjoyably.

“The premise of the idea was great. I saw a lot of joy coming from the audience which I think is the purpose of a cultural hub like that” said Olivia Guerrerro, a Latin American Literature teacher and sponsor of the Association of Latin American Students (ALAS).

Day of the Dead also served as a chance for Latino students to experience solidarity.

“I felt like the Latino community was coming together in a space that is predominately white,” said Ruby Aguilar ’23, a member of ALAS.

By connecting with others in the community and event, Latin American students expressed an ability to combat a previous sense of isolation.

“When I first came to Jones I was surprised by the diversity because I used to attend a mostly Black and Hispanic school,” said Aguilar. “Initially it was a little isolating until I saw the Día de Los Muertos festivities, went to Spanish classes for heritage speakers and joined ALAS.”

While the event brought people together and celebrated the holiday, Day of the Dead also served as a chance to spread awareness on matters pertaining to the community.

“As the years have gone on, the violence in my community has worsened,” said Ortega. “I’ve found that Day of the Dead was a very important way to celebrate their life and bring awareness and justice to the violence they experienced.”

Students also noted the personal importance Day of the Dead had on them as they remembered their family members who have passed.

“It’s my grandma’s second year anniversary of being on the altar. She was someone I was close to, so having Día de Los Muertos feels like a way of having her back,” said Aguilar.

Displaying the uniqueness of Latin American culture throughout the performance was of utmost importance. Hence the usage of Catrina makeup, an iconic skull design used as a symbol of Day of the Dead and a reminder of mortality.

“We wanted to do something representational, that would bring the performance altogether. And we thought doing the Catrina makeup would do just that,” said Ortega.

Witnessing the many people attending the Day of the Dead celebration showcased the vast impact the Latin American community has.

“Oftentimes in ALAS a few of the same people show up,” said Guerrerro. “So seeing many people show up was very impactful since it demonstrated that our reach branches further than to the few kids who show up on a regular basis.”

The celebration was a way to bring staff and students together in the Jones community.

“Even passerbyers would walk by and wonder, ‘what’s going on here?’ And then would stop for a minute to look. I think even that was really cool to witness,” said Guerrero.

Organizers were content with the event and reported that they thoroughly enjoyed it.

“I enjoyed the celebration; it went very smoothly, which I’m glad about,” said Ortega.

Despite a general feeling of success, those involved with the planning of the Day of the Dead performance expressed room for improvement.

 “I just think there needs to be a bit more logistical organizational planning. For instance with mics, techs, etc.,” said Guerrerro.  

Overall, she appreciates the efforts made to bring Day of the Dead traditions into the school. 

“I really liked the event,” said Guerrerro. “Obviously there are tweaks that could be made but I think this is something that I would like to see continue moving forward.”

Day of the Dead brought a sense of unity and enlightenment to the Latin American community.

“I realized that I found my community and was able to learn about the different cultures within Latin America,” said Aguilar.