Old Rochester students celebrate Day of the Dead

Nov 20, 2022

Old Rochester Regional High School World Language teacher, Diana Carreira, and Art teacher, Kathryn Butler, collaborated with Librarian, Allison Barker, to host a presentation of student artwork created in celebration of the Day of the Dead (or Día de los Muertos in Spanish) in the high school’s library.

Displayed are 23 alebrijes, which were co-created by Spanish and Art students, and 4 real-size altars (ofrendas in Spanish) made by Advanced Placement (AP) Spanish students for Cesar Chavez, Roberto Clemente, Frida Kahlo, and Selena Quintanilla.

The AP students chose these famous hispanic individuals, because their lives were clear examples of the ORRHS core values of Resiliency, Equity, Growth, and Integrity.

The nahual is a belief of several pre-Hispanic cultures, especially the Mayan, Toltec, and Mixtec. They are beings that can transform themselves into animals, which allow them to communicate with nature. These Mexican spirit animals, alebrijes (pronounced ah-leh-bree-heh) are imaginary creatures that possess elements from different animals, both fantastic and real, they appear in dreams and describe people’s character traits and abilities. Alebrijes are a traditional craft that originated from the vivid dreams of Mexican artist, Pedro Linares, and are famous in the Oaxaca region. It is believed that alebrijes guide those who have passed to the land of the living every year on November 1, as long as they are remembered and there is a picture of you on an altar.

Carreira's Spanish students learned about the traditional Mexican Folk art of alebrijes and created descriptions (in both Spanish and English) to represent the alebrije of famous people who have passed on. They also wrote short stories about the alebrijes and presented them orally to the class.

Butler’s students also learned about the alebrije folk art tradition and used the essential question, "How do Artists Transform and Repurpose?" to guide them in the creation of the alebrije based on the descriptions, sketches, and notes provided from the Spanish classes. Students used paper mache, paint, and other recycled materials to craft these beautiful spirit guides.

The collaborative exhibit opened on Día de Los Muertos and will be up for the month of November. All are welcome to visit.