Destiny Cortez carefully fixes the flowers she has placed on her altar, which is dedicated to her great-great-grandparents. Cortez made sure she included beans, rice and chicken since that was the food her great-great-grandparents ate at their village in Mexico. For Cortez, this altar was special because she made it with the help of her grandmother.
“It was sensitive for her, so she obviously cried a little and took her time doing it,” Cortez said.
Cortez’ grandmother talks about them to her family, and she even has an altar set up all year long.
“Well, she talks to it once in a while just to let my great great grandfather and my great great grandma know that they are still there,” Cortez said.
Cortez is enrolled in a Spanish class at Coachella Valley High School. All students taking Spanish are helping set up decorations for the festival. They will also showcase their paintings and altars.
Zorayda Baltazar is a Spanish professor at Coachella Valley High School, and she said it is important to have this cultural event at schools.
“Generations are changing and so are our traditions,” she said. “Kids have to learn about Day of the Dead, so they can pass it on to their offspring.”
The library is full of bright, vivid decorations. Students and staff members placed all 750 altars in aisles and have put up pictures of Catrinas, which are dressed up skeletons.
Students had the option of dedicating their altar to a loved one, a celebrity, or they could choose a theme.
Donny Fitzgerald thought of making his altar about marriage.
“It’s two people, and a cake, flowers, candles, xoloscuintle and a cross,” Fitzgerald said.
Students have learned about the history of Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, which is rooted in Mexican indigenous customs and Catholicism. This tradition is now celebrated all over Latin America on November 2nd.
“A lot of people just forget their family members, so this is a time to come together as one and remember,” Fitzgerald said.
Although Cortez never met her great-great-grandparents, she has learned to love them thanks to her grandmother who celebrates Day of the Dead.
“It’s just weird because I never met them, and I wish I had the opportunity to meet them because she [my grandmother] says they were great people,” Cortez said.
The festival will take place on October 25, 2018 at 5 p.m. at Coachella Valley High School.