DÌa de Los Muertos fosters remembrance and celebration


Día De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, was celebrated throughout Latin American countries and communities on the first two days of November. At Berkeley High School, an altar was constructed in the C Building, honoring three students who passed away earlier this year.
According to Susi Lopez, a BHS Spanish teacher, the school has never had a proper, organized celebration of Día De Los Muertos, with most celebrations being confined to the Spanish classes. Before the pandemic, many of the classes in the Spanish department would create displays in the Little Theater, however, since the Little Theater began renovations, the tradition has been put on hold.
“Spanish teachers do small projects like maybe small altars inside of shoeboxes or drawings, but not in a very public way like we did this year,” Lopez said. “Also, the pandemic got in the way, so the routines and plans that we (previously) had every year fell by the wayside.”
Daniel Nube, another Spanish teacher, also spoke about the lack of representation schoolwide, with the only portions of the school acknowledging the celebration at all, being the classes in the Spanish department. He also spoke about his own observations as a new teacher at BHS around 11 years ago.
“I don’t remember it being celebrated schoolwide very much when I first started here. I don’t remember any big events or anything like that,” Nube said. “I do remember in the Spanish department that most teachers did something in one way or another … so I think it’s always been recognized in Spanish classes but not necessarily schoolwide.”
Nube added that Día De Los Muertos is an important tradition for many people, and is not necessarily a sad holiday, but rather, remembers and celebrates loved ones who have passed.
“In my opinion, it’s a beautiful celebration of people who have died, but not in the sense of being sad or mourning their death, but rather it’s remembering who they were and focusing on nice things about them or memories that you want to have about them,” Nube said.
This year, there was a schoolwide altar in memory of the students who had recently passed away. Lopez chose to help lead this effort for her students.
“Because a lot of my students were friends and grew up with Jazy and Angel Sotelo, we decided that it was important to bring back the altar and do it in the C gallery, just as a way to honor the memory of Jazy, Angel and Dominic Hernandez,” Lopez said.
She also described the importance of giving students the opportunity to process the loss of those students. According to Lopez, reviving the celebration in the Spanish department, especially this year, would give students a chance to work through their emotions with a community that joins them in celebrating the lives of those students.
“We’re trying to bring it back. … It became really important to me as one of the lead teachers in the native speakers program to do that, to honor the kids and give my students a space to grieve and remember and honor the memory of our three students who died.” Lopez said.
The items left by students on the altar in the C Building gallery were given to the families of the students. In addition to the memorial in the gallery this year, M building hallways were lined with student-made posters celebrating the lives of famous people who had passed.
Lopez declared her plans to continue having a celebration of Día De Los Muertos that is more available to the student body in future years.
“It’s really important to just continue to create spaces and dedicate time to remember people who have passed, and also to maintain that celebration that’s really important to Mexican and Latin American culture,” Lopez said.