Celebrating life during the Day of the Dead

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Despite having been done for many years, the celebration of Día de Muertos in Spanish classes in schools across the United States remains controversial.  Although it is true that this celebration is framed within the cultural aspects of the Spanish class, it is also true that it is important to take into account our students´sensitivity to certain topics.

The reactions that humans generally have to cultural practices in other countries or communities are marked by our own culture and by our personal experiences. Due to the influence of religion, the Western world has a fearful vision of death. It can be said that it is almost taboo to talk about death. That is why the vast majority of our American students react in a pre-emptive and sometimes even negative way to this Mexican celebration.

I must confess that it took me at least five years to get used to celebrating this day in my classes. In Colombia and in the vast majority of Latin American countries, the Day of the Dead is not celebrated, All Saints’ Day is celebrated, but in a very different and less festive way.

How then can we continue to honor and celebrate this cultural tradition in our classes without causing discomfort or rejection in students and families?  Very easy. We all know that the main intention of the celebration of the Day of the Dead is to celebrate life. Celebrate those who were and are no longer, celebrate our time on earth.  So why instead of giving so much emphasis to death we better emphasize life on this day? We could say something like: The Day of the Dead, The Day of life. o Celebrating life on the Day of the Dead. However, it is important to talk and mention life, so that the students understand the real meaning of this celebration. 

It does not help much that Dia de Muertos is so close to the celebration of Halloween, but if we begin to handle a less morbid language we will help our students culturally syncretize their life experiences with the Mexican tradition.

One way I plan to celebrate life on the Day of the Dead is through songs that exalt life, that celebrate life, that lead us to hope and optimism. I surveyed my colleagues followers on social media and these are the songs they recommend for us to celebrate life.  ¡Feliz Día de la Vida, Feliz Día de Muertos!

Eso que tú me das: Jarabe de Palo  (recommended by Mónica Espinoza)

Un canto a la vida: Vanessa Martín  (recommended by Rafael Ángel)

Hasta la raíz: Natalia Lafourcade (recommended by Jim Tripp)

De vez en cuando la vida: Joan MAnuel Serrat (recommended by Lucía Shelley)

El derecho de vivir en paz: Víctor Jara (recommended by Rich Madel)

La vida es un carnaval: Celia Cruz (recommended by Fabiola Vacatoledo)

Madre Tierra: Chayanne (recommended by Haydee Arnold)

Hoy es domingo: Diego Torres (recommended by @tmcduss)

Vivir mi vida: Marc Anthony (recommended by Jaime Basham)

Gracias a la vida: Mercedes Sosa (recommended by Julie Speno y Paulino Brener)

Me gusta la vida: Funambulista (recommended by Profe Lizardo)

Resistiré: Celiz Cruz (recommended by El Profe Castro)

Oye: Sonora dinamita (recommended by Ma Isabel Hinestroza)

Quiero tener tu presencia: Seguridad Social (recommended by La.rianita)

Celebra la vida: Axel (recommended by Maureen Aguilar)

Rie y llora: Celiz Cruz (recommended by Linda Mokel)

(Please give creditr where credit is due)


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