Teachers, parents and students from all around Ventura came together at Buena High School on Oct. 29 to take part in a celebration of the dead. Día de los Muertos, a Latin American commemoration of the deceased, is both a memorial and a cultural celebration.
“I really like the Day of the Dead whole celebration and want to learn more about the culture and where it came from. I [also] came to reunite with some old friends,” Foothill sophomore Vineta Sondors said.
There were memorials glowing down a long stretch of classrooms, illuminating the crowds of people taking part in this cultural experience. Student entertainment such as a DJ, orchestra, Aztec dancers and jazz groups engrossed the public.
Buena students chose to honor a special teacher, Amy Reinert, who passed in 2012. There is a permanent garden toward the back of campus with a large gate that says “Amy’s Garden.” It holds ceramic tiles decorated by students and faculty.
For this event, Buena High School students created a special luminary path so that everyone at the event could honor the garden with a visit.
Spanish students also sold raffle tickets, paintings and t-shirts to help support the Spanish department. These raffle tickets were pulled at the end of the night and a few lucky winners got prizes.
The student-created memorials were presented with candles, sugar skulls, flowers and pictures of the deceased people they commemorated.
Buena’s Spanish students could pick from a variety of people to create their project around such as celebrities, pets and family members.
One Buena sophomore Brett Beattie built his project to honor Steve Prefontaine, a former Olympic runner.
“I am a runner, and he was a really good runner but he tragically passed away,” Beattie said.
Each classroom was divided into categories depending on the person commemorated and were open to the community.
“Spanish is more than just a language, it has a lot of cultural elements,” Foothill Spanish teacher Josiah Guzik said.
Guzik, now teaching Spanish two and three at Foothill, was one of the founding members of Buena’s Día de los Muertos event two years ago. He “had the dream of starting a big cultural event, for students and families to come together and experience culture, rather than just learning about culture.”
If the students could take one thing away from this event, Guzik hopes “that their eyes would open to the beauty of the holiday, Día de los Muertos. To see that Spanish is really a big language with lots of things to take away from it.”
Background Photo Credit: Grayson McCoy/The Foothill Dragon Press