The beginning of the month of November is a very sacred time for the people of Central and South America because the 1st and 2nd are known internationally as Dia de los Angelitos (All Saints’ Day), being the first, and Dia de los Muertos (All Souls Day), being the second.
Dia de los Angelitos is the day that departed souls of children return home, and spend one full day with their loved ones; furthermore family members place toys, sweets, milk, and cookies on the altar.
Dia de los Angelitos isn’t paid as much attention to as Dia de los Muertos. The Dia de los Muertos altars have special parts to them that are needed to call it complete, such as el perro negro Dia de los Muertos, proudly celebrated by many Latinos and Hispanics, is often wrongly perceived as morbid, or invading of the sanctity of death.
Mrs. Leon, a teacher at Holtville High School, who is currently in charge of creating the school’s Dia de los Muertos altar, stated that she thinks, “... it’s a tradition that is celebrated both culturally and religiously, and allows us to celebrate those who have ‘gone on’ before us.”
Becky Alaniz, resident of El Centro, from Holtville, said, “It’s a unique holiday and tradition that I see highly celebrated in our community; you see latinos and latino owned and operated businesses preparing for Dia de los Muertos in the sense of having sugar skulls, candles, and flowers.
“You don’t really see any other cultures or nationalities doing that,” she added.
When Josie Haucke, a foreign exchange student from Germany, was interviewed, she was asked, “Have you ever heard about Dia de los Muertos before?” Josie happily replied, “Yea, from Mr. Guzman in Art,” yet when asked if she has ever heard of it before, “No, I haven’t heard of it before, I don’t think so.”
Although Gustavo Marquez’s opinion has come across as a bit different, by saying, “I think it’s like a day to remember the dead; it’s to remember those family members who have died,” Gustavo, a resident of Holtville and a well knowledged man in religion and culture, describes his opinion more in depth by stating, “Now it’s a traditional day, in Mexico, to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. It’s not really important to me, I just see it as a holiday for the Mexican people”
As for how traditional this day is, Mrs. Leon explains, “My family has been doing it for years and years, and we we actually do have, like, a small altar in all of our houses, honoring our grandparents with something that was a favorite of theirs. A lot of my students also say that they do this at home, as well.”
Becky follows about the same path, and explains by telling, “I think it’s becoming more important to me. Now that I’m getting older, and I’ve seen more friends and family pass away, I feel like I have a chance to reflect on their lives, as well as my own.” Ms. Alaniz takes this from a more personal approach, though saying, “I myself have been practicing it for the past three years; I started to when my nana, grandmother on my mother’s side, passed away in, 2011.”
Josie simply gave, “Isn’t it Halloween in Mexico?” It was, afterwards, explained to her. Josie was asked if it was important to her, she said “Not really, no. If it were I would’ve heard it before. I see it here in school, because of the table [altar] in front of the office.”
It’s a huge piece of Mexican heritage and culture, right? “Definitely, or else I wouldn’t be doing this. I do this because a lot of cultures are lost when families come here from Mexico. I think they [students and young adults] should continue sharing their experiences with younger generations, that’s also why I do this annually,” comes from Mrs. Leon. Becky left her response short, in saying, “Yes, it is, absolutely, because it brings families together, and I strongly believe in that.”
Gustavo, again, stands in a different point of view, “Yea, I think it’s a big part of our heritage. It’s been here for hundreds of years and now it’s a big tradition, but it’s getting bigger and bigger every year, now it’s crossing borders into other countries,” when asked if he believed in people celebrating this day so passionately was legitimate, and justified, he solely responded, “Yea, I think so.”
What about Dia de los Angelitos? Ms. Haucke was asked if she’s ever heard of Dia de los Angelitos, and said, “No, only the day of the dead, but I think they have to pay attention to it too. I think it’s, not more important, but it’s more sad that the children are gone because they were too young. I think I would. If I knew the children, but I don’t know of any children who’ve passed away.”
Mr. Marquez, believes, “No,” when asked if Dia de los Angelitos should be viewed separately, “it should be just the same, it’s only one day before Dia de los Muertos, it’s to tribute the young people who are ‘away,’” then, when asked if he has ever practiced Dia de los Angelitos, he spoke strongly, “I’ve never really practiced it,” he was then inquired about if he never had a reason to practice this day, he suddenly spoke softly, with a hint of labor in his voice, “No, I just don’t practice it because I’m not really into practicing those holidays.”
Ms. Alaniz left the interview on this note, “I think it should be viewed as much as Dia de los Muertos, and I think it’s very important, as well. I’ve never practiced it, but that’s because I am fortunate enough to not have a reason to, yet I’m not insensitive towards those who have lost young family members and friends.”