Celebrating Día de Los Muertos at North Forsyth

Junior Ansley Peels’ ofrenda (right) was made for the Mexican female painter Frida Kahlo (Photo by Cassidee Jackson).

Junior Ansley Peels’ ofrenda (right) was made for the Mexican female painter Frida Kahlo (Photo by Cassidee Jackson).

Throughout the first two weeks of November, North Forsyth’s AP Spanish Language and Culture students created ofrendas, or altars, to celebrate Día de Los Muertos. In the spirit of the holiday, the class decorated the media center with their class projects, posters and paper skeletons.

Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a two-day Mexican holiday from Nov. 1 to Nov. 2 in which families commemorate the lives of their late family members. The holiday’s ancient history began with the Aztec, Toltec and Nahua native peoples, who regarded death as something to celebrate, as opposed to being somber about. 

Sophomore Ian Barnes’ elaborate ofrenda was made for the Venezuelan military dictator Simon Bolivar (Photo by Cassidee Jackson).

Ofrendas, or altars, are made to represent the items and beliefs of late relatives and inspirational figures. For the AP Spanish Language students’ summative project, they picked one iconic Hispanic cultural, political or religious figure and conducted a month-long project to create their beautiful ofrendas.

Students’ ofrendas included tangible objects such as candles, photos, calaveras (skulls), cempasúchiles (the traditional flower for the holiday) and papeles picados. The papeles picados are small cut-out papers that are used to add color and air, an element of nature. 

Some ofrendas included pan de muerto (traditional sweet bread), water, salt y calaveritas de azúcar (sugar skulls) as a food element. The food is thought to help nourish the spirits when they return during the celebrations.

Junior Marissa Frias’ ofrenda was made for Mexican singer Jenni Rivera (Photo by Cassidee Jackson).

Junior Marissa Frias completed her project on the Mexican singer Jenni Rivera, who was a Latin musical sensation with multiple hit albums in the banda genre. The banda genre is regional Hispanic music with wind instruments.  

Frias chose the singer Rivera because “[her] mom loves her and she listens to her all the time.” In Frias’ project, she noted that Rivera’s life was marked by “tragedy and struggling.” In Rivera’s music, she “targeted women that were in the same situation as her–in domestic violence” as she underwent those issues with her previous husbands in her life.

For her ofrenda, she colored it in black and red and had small butterflies around the box. The butterflies represent Rivera’s perseverance, especially considering how “in the genre she’s in, the music is dominated by a bunch of males and she somehow surpassed that.” She also hand-made the skirt for the doll representing Rivera at the center of her ofrenda.

Frias’ most favorite part was “making the doll–the dress; it was actually really funny… because it was a Harley Quinn doll and [she] transformed her into Jenny Riveras.” To Frias, Día de Los Muertos is “remembering the people that have passed away”–especially the “people that you loved.”

Overall, the Día de Los Muertos celebrations at North Forsyth were definitely a hit and were successful at celebrating iconic Hispanic figures. ¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!