With a new building in place for foreign languages and the arts, San Benito High School held its annual Dia de los Muertos event Nov. 3 with an estimated 500 people attending.
What started as a celebration in one art class on campus has turned into a joint effort of the foreign language and visual and performing arts programs at the school.
“Louise Roy, a now retired ceramics teacher, was doing this with her ceramics classes and invited me to join. I have kept her tradition going since her retirement,” said art teacher Luisa Toste. “I have kept it going because 60 percent of our population is Hispanic. Also, it is important to do this since the majority of my art students will not have other recognition if not for a celebration of their learning and art work.”
Student works included altars to remember those who had passed, painted stones, ceramic skulls and studio art pieces. The event also included live performances and music by student and adult performers.
San Benito High senior Camaxtli Torres was part of an Aztec dance group along with members of his family.
“This is how we celebrate our loved ones and keep their memories alive,” Torres said, adding that his aunts introduced him to this part of his culture. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Torres’ aunt, Carla Torres De Luna, agreed that the event—and dancing—were important.
“I’m from Hollister,” she said. “I have been raised here. I went to high school here. I have my family. It’s [dancing] a good way to give back to the community.”
Spanish teacher Leticia Villegas helped put on the celebration. She said she jumped at the opportunity when asked to participate.
“Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition that has the ability to bring the community together,” Villegas said. “Our students need to know the culture and tradition.”
John Robrock, an art teacher who recently retired from San Benito High, came to support student works as he did when teaching at the school. He was accompanied by his wife, Jennifer Coile.
Coile said she likes “seeing the collaboration among programs: Spanish, the migrant program, visual art and dance. It’s wonderful to have a free event attended by babies to grandmothers.”