by Julia Casas
This collection of print and non-print materials is meant to introduce children to the Mexican celebration known as the Day of the Dead. Also known as Día de los Muertos, this celebration takes place on November 1st and November 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. This holiday can be traced back all the way to the Aztecs and is now celebrated all over the world and in many cultures.
The Day of the Dead is a time for families to gather and celebrate their loved ones who have died. Mexican culture has a different view on death and chooses to celebrate it. During this celebration, families will visit the gravesides of loved ones or build altars in their memory. The dead are honored with their favorite foods and other offerings.
These materials are meant for use in the classroom and can be used to expand the holdings of a school library. The intended age group for these materials is for children between the ages of 8 and 10. These resources are intended to introduce children to Mexican folk culture and the Day of the Dead. Children who have had limited exposure to the Day of the Dead will learn the history of the holiday. Children will also learn how people celebrate the Day of the Dead and the activities here will give children the chance to take part in the festivities themselves. I have compiled resources from several different mediums — books, videos, PDFs, and DIYs. Several of these resources were found using ALSCs Great Websites for Kids and others were found through educational institutions.
* Ancona, George. Pablo Remembers: The Fiesta of the Day of the Dead. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1993. Print.
“Around the time of our Halloween, people in Mexico are preparing for their own celebration, the Fiesta of the Day of the Dead. During this three-day celebration, families go to great lengths to honor the spirits of their deceased relatives. Ancona personalizes his photo-essay by introducing young Pablo, who lost his grandmother two years earlier, and shows how the boy and his family will celebrate this special day. Among the holiday traditions are skulls spun from sugar, special bread, altars inviting the spirits to return to a household, bells, fireworks, and visits from relatives. Kids not familiar with the tradition will no doubt find it fascinating; and for Mexican children living in the U.S., the book can be an important link to their heritage. Unfortunately, the holiday’s origins are best explained in the author’s note that appears at the end of the book, which most kids will probably skip. It’s too bad that the information couldn’t have been incorporated into the text; still, the book is handsomely designed, and the color photos are intriguing. Both the English and the well-translated Spanish edition should find an audience.” — Ilene Cooper (From Booklist)
* Barragan, Elisa Garcia. “Jose Guadalupe Posada: About This Artist.” MoMA.org. Oxford University Press, 2009. Web. 20 Nov. 2012.
Jose Guadalupe Posada was a Mexican artist who died in the early1900s. His illustrations and cartoon work have greatly influenced many Latin American artists and cartoonists. His satirical cartoons were celebrated for their political subject matter. Posada liked to use calacas, or skeletons, to portray his subjects and his work has come to be associated with Day of the Dead. Calacas are often shown laughing or smiling which is meant to remind us not to mourn or fear death too much. MoMA keeps several of Posada’s works in their permanent collection. They can be viewed online along with a short biography of the artist.
* “Dia De Los Muertos.” Azcentral. The Arizona Republic, 2009. Web. 20 Nov. 2012.
The Arizona Republic is the main news source for Phoenix and surrounding cities. Azcentral, together with Kathy Cano-Murillo, a blogger and crafter of Chicano-pop art, have created a resource to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Some links are area-specific, like events and happenings around Arizona, but other information can be adapted for classrooms anywhere. There are several wonderful craft ideas, such as how to create a matchbook shrine or papercut flowers. There is also a handy glossary of terms in English and Spanish and several education guides for teachers. Also included is a link to a photo album depicting art exhibits, altars, traditional mexican folk dances, and Day of the Dead sculptures. This site can be used to generate craft ideas or to show students how other people have celebrated the holiday.
* Pomade, Rita. “Mexican Lithographer Jose Guadalupe Posada: Past and Present.” MexConnext, 2006. Web. 20 Nov. 2012.
This look at the past and present of the great artist, Jose Guadalupe Posada, provides great information about the artist and his influence. Posada mastered the craft of lithography while he was young and by 1895 he was highly skilled at engraving in metal and etching in zinc. At this time, Posada was the only one working in these mediums; it was actually Posada who introduced these techniques to Mexico. This article would be a good companion to MoMA’s website, which includes images. The text may be a bit advanced for some readers, but it could be read before class by the teacher and then presented to the students in an easier to digest form. Quotes from the article could also be picked out and used as part of a display or included on an information sheet. Read more…