SHS Creates Dia De Los Muertos Memorial for Earthquake Victims

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  • One of the sections of the stand has traditional flowers decorating the sides and a small sign with the number of the deceased.

  • One of the other blocks shows different aspects of Hispanic culture, from papel picados to Mexican flags, as well as elementary picture books, attracting the attention of those who pass by.

  • The stand sits in the corner of the patio to allow those who are just passing by to get a glimpse of culture, even if they don’t have the time to completely absorb it.

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To honor the victims of the recent earthquakes in Mexico, the Spanish Honor Society (SHS) created a memorial in the library on Wednesday, Oct. 18 as part of the Día de Los Muertos traditions. A group of students came together to set up the stand with the oversight of Ms. MilyBett Llanos-Gremillion, educating people about the disaster and about Hispanic culture.

Día de Los Muertos, otherwise known as Day of the Dead, is a thriving Hispanic tradition celebrated around the time of Halloween. But along with the festivities, a dark reminder of the terrible earthquake which occurred in Mexico a few weeks ago resurfaces, families remembering lost loved ones. As part of one of its service projects, SHS created a memorial in the library in honor of the deceased.

“We’ve been doing it for the past couple of years for SHS, and so we just continued the tradition,” Amie Nguyen ’18 said. “Except this year, there was the big earthquake in Mexico, and we wanted to use this altar to commemorate those victims.”

The 6.1 magnitude earthquake, which occurred about a month ago, killed over 369 people, who were mostly children and teens. Relief efforts were already weakened by the 7.1 and 8.1 earthquakes which hit the same area a few weeks before, causing slowed responses and resulting in increased deaths. While the lives lost will never return, Día de Los Muertos brings hope to the victims. Strengthened by the memories and dreams of those who can now never fulfill them, the residents who were affected raise fists of defiance, hope, and motivation as the preparations for the celebratory parade commence.

“It’s a celebration of life,” Ms. Llanos-Gremillion said. “Yes, those people are sad, and you know, the fact that this person has moved on to a better life [empowers them]. Nevertheless, they are greatly missed. It becomes more of a celebration, than a solemn, sad event.”

The celebrations, seen throughout Austin, usually consist of honoring dead relatives by clearing up the area near their graves and placing fresh flowers as a message of respect. To honor the traditional culture, students brought in or created different aspects of the customs of Día de Los Muertos, such as small skull statues and fake marigold flowers, to create a unique way of honoring the victims.

“Last year, we celebrated the life of Juan Gabriel, because he passed away last year,” Nguyen said. “But, every year, even if there is not a death or tragedy that we need to commemorate, it’s still a good idea to just commemorate the dead in general, and any relatives.”

SHS prides itself on celebrating and raising awareness of Hispanic traditions by creating projects just like the memorial. As Hispanic families light candles and begin to string flowers, people who are now educated by a new perspective join in, with eyes now open to a new culture and to an unfortunate tragedy that they may have never been informed of.

“We created the memorial for the other people in our school who maybe don’t take Spanish or who aren’t in Spanish Honor Society,” Clarissa Alvarado ‘18 said. “We created it to show them that different cultures are really beautiful, and that we should celebrate everything in our world, not just [things] in the United States point of view.”

A parade, Viva La Vida, celebrating the occasion of Día de Los Muertos will occur this Saturday, Oct. 28 from 12-9 p.m. in downtown Austin at 5th street between I-35 Northbound Frontage Road and Waller.