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The University of Southampton
Modern Languages and LinguisticsPart of Humanities

Call for UK schools to participate in Mexican Day of the Dead 2021 Event

Day of the Dead's faces
Date:
1 - 2 November 2021
Venue:
Schools

For more information regarding this event, please email Outreach Team at MLOutreach@soton.ac.uk .

Event details

For several years now University staff and students and school children, have gathered at the end of October to celebrate El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

Day of the Dead's altar

With its Catholic and Aztec roots, Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an important event which is celebrated annually on 1-2nd November. It comprises a beautiful series of rituals when Mexicans, in Mexico, the USA, the UK and across the worlds, happily and lovingly honour the lives of many departed ancestors. Families remember their dead, place altars in their homes and decorate tombs and attend huge street events.

We have invited annually about 100 secondary school children and staff on campus to celebrate this event by attending an engaging lecture discussing the festivity, doing a fun quiz and visiting an altar built on campus where the children learn about the different features of the altar. Due to Covid-19, we have sadly had to cancel these in-person events.  

Mexsu: Centre for Mexico - Southampton Collaboration

However, for this year (2021) we are inviting schools across the UK to participate in Day of the Dead activities at school as a way of encouraging children to become involved with exciting cross-curricular hands-on activities whilst also enhancing cultural awareness. We invite schools to send us (anonymised) images or videos of their creations to our Twitter account by the 1-2nd November.  

Altar

Here are some of the activities and teaching resources you can use. Whilst the Mexican Day of the Dead takes places 1-2nd November, teachers could for example start thinking about the activities a few weeks before (or earlier), in order for children to have time to develop/create the artworks and altar for example. The activities can range from children learning about the Day of the Dead with engaging teaching resources, altar building, sugar skull painting, sugar skull marigold arts crafts, the writing of typical Day of the Dead poems (calaveritas). The Day of the Dead is a family event engaging children and adults of all ages. The wonderful aspect of this kind of event is that it can therefore cater for all years in secondary school (7-13) as well as across different subjects (e.g. Spanish, Technology and Design, Art, media studies and sociology/ history). The children could add their own spin on their creations (e.g create Covid masks with colourful Day of the Dead patterns).  

Picture from Mexusu

Introducing the sociocultural context Day of the Dead students

What is Day of the Dead and why is it important to celebrate in schools in the UK? 
School Day of the Dead events are widely celebrated in US Schools as the Mexican American diaspora is very large. In the UK the Mexican diaspora is important too and so running such events in UK schools would be an important way of celebrating cultural differences and inclusivity, as well as of highlighting how the festivity is not a Mexican Halloween but rather a religious and cultural event, with Catholic and Indigenous roots. These school activities seek to highlight the importance of appropriating culture in a respectful manner too.  

Discover more about the context of the Day of the Dead:

Hands-on Activities. Here are some ideas and links, but there are many more on Internet.

  • Create an altar. What is an altar and how to create an altar?
  • Write a calavera (skull) poem in English or Spanish) typically written by Mexicans during the celebrations
  • Make sugar skulls or marigolds
  • Create a Covid mask with colourful Mexican patterns; face-paint
  • Cook Mexican Treats
  • Do a competition for the best altar/skull poem/ painted skull

Useful links:

Useful link to Teaching Spanish resources:

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