Día de los Muertos at SFWS: Impressions from a First Grade parent

This year I attended my first “Día de los Muertos” assembly at the SFWS Grade School Campus. I must admit that even though I was raised in Argentina, I had never been to such a celebration before. So when Sra Febe left me a voicemail asking if I wanted to be a part of the parent team that supported the logistics of the event, I immediately signed up with enthusiasm. I had no idea what to expect.

Día de los Muertos is a unique festival that resulted from the merging of Aztec rituals and Spanish religion that occurred in the 16th century. As a part of this tradition that celebrates our ancestors, the “Día de los Muertos” ritual promotes a sense of community by sharing a meal that usually consists of “pan de muerto” – a special bread that is supposed to have the shape of a person – and some sweets. Our job as parents was to help setup the room and to figure out how to carry and serve over two hundred cups of warm chocolate within five minutes past the end of the presentation. When a few of us told Sra Febe that the timing seemed a little bit tight – aka “impossible” – she looked at us with a smile and said “Oh don’t worry, you parents will figure it out,” in a way reminding us that we did indeed live in Silicon Valley where everything is possible and serving some chocolate shouldn’t represent such a challenge! But the sweetest part of the day wasn’t the chocolate; it was what preceded the chocolate.

   

The main act featured a presentation put together by the 8th grade class. The play directed by Sra Forrer included excerpts from Don Quixote de la Mancha, a novel written by Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes in 1605. It is the story of a country gentleman called Alonso Quijano who reads too many books of chivalry and becomes a character in his own fictitious world, under the new name of Don Quixote.  The students from 8th grade showed great mastery on stage acting five different scenes taken from the novel, reciting the story and the dialogue in perfect Spanish. The production of the play showed great attention to details and kept alternating Spanish language with short segments in English, keeping the crowd engaged with the story at all times. I guess SFWS knows something about storytelling! Don Quixote’s lady love – Dulcinea – was first featured in a “teatro de sombras” (shadow theatre) and then through a beautiful song and a magnificent Flamenco dance. The choreography that Sra Forrer put together for the acting and dancing performances was flawless. There was magic in the air when, directed as a choir by Sra Febe, the 6 and 7th graders sang “The Impossible Dream” from the musical “Man of la Mancha.” When the song ended, all of us adults in the hall had the “Oh that’s beautiful! I didn’t want it to end!” look in our faces. The entire event was a true masterpiece of teamwork and collaboration between students, teachers and parents.

What followed was pure flow. Within four minutes the entire hall magically had a cup of warm chocolate in one hand and a piece of “pan de muerto” in the other. Two minutes after that the first graders were asking for seconds…

It was interesting for me to get there that day thinking of the dead, then worrying about chocolate and finally leaving with a sense of beauty in my mind. A meaningful experience, indeed.

Fernando Ruarte
SFWS Grade 1 father