Ánimo Ellen Ochoa Opens Campus for Community-Wide Día De Los Muertos Celebration


Ánimo Ellen Ochoa Charter Middle School (AEO) hosted its seventh annual Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) community event that highlighted over 300 student altar presentations. Community members also had an opportunity to tour the school, visit candy stations, enjoy community resources, and a live DJ.

AEO’s Principal, Cynthia Ybarra, said, “We are having the most wonderful celebration. The event is a magical celebration, a moment where our students can honor their loved ones and the people in their lives that way. They’ve also done altars about societal issues. We’re very proud of what our students are doing.” 

Día de Los Muertos, celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, is a tradition that dates back some 3,000 years to Aztec rituals, according to HISTORY.com . Customs vary between regions. The celebration takes time to remember and honor family and friends who have passed away. Festivities come in many forms, such as displays or altars in the home or gravesites of the departed. 

Altars traditionally include offerings like pan de muerto (bread of the dead), sugar skulls, marigolds, and favorite foods and beverages of the departed. Every ofrenda (offering) is unique and apart from traditional gifts, the offerings include items associated with the individual’s memory and habits. 

This year’s event feautured , 6th graders who created altars to celebrate lost loved ones and 7th and 8th graders who presented on societal topics such as femicide, bullying, immigration, and suicide.

7th-grade student Miguel Fuentes spoke about the display he created as part of a class project to bring light to femicide. “We did this (altar) to show people what is happening in the world at this time and show what we can do to stop it,” said Fuentes. 

“It is important for people who are special to us to be remembered because they either taught us something or were a huge influence on our life,” Fuentes added. 

Fabiola Guzman-Lopez, AEO’s social science teacher, spoke about the importance in creating these altars. “I think one of the most beautiful things about this event is that we see all students’ pride when they finish their product. At first, students are hesitant about the creativity part. Still, they are incredibly proud of what they’ve put together by the end,” Guzman-Lopez said.  

Through cultural and community events like the Día de los Muertos event, our schools at Green Dot California build spaces for students to learn and expand their cultural knowledge and horizons.