LEMOORE - By using food, displays and poems, students at West Hills College Lemoore got a feel of what it’s like to celebrate Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, Monday on campus.

Spanish as well as Chicano studies students participated in festivities for their classes during the Hispanic holiday that traditionally begins to be celebrated Oct. 31 and goes to Nov. 2 to remember and honor deceased loved ones.

Anna Moreno, who is a Spanish instructor at West Hills Lemoore, said students were put into groups and given a different country. Each group then made country-specific altars, food and poems for their countries that showed how that country would celebrate the holiday.

Moreno was pleased the altars the students created included decorations such as candles, skulls and flowers.

“Some were very personal,” Moreno said. “Others did a good job of showing what an altar in their country would be like. Every year, someone does something that surprises me.”

While some groups made traditional altars, Heather Mills' and Guadalupe Fernandez’s group picked to do an altar honoring a cause – pregnancy and infant loss awareness.

Every member of the group has either had a miscarriage or is close to someone who had lost a child due to miscarriage, still birth, birth defects or other causes.

Their altar had statistics, including information that one out of every four pregnancies doesn’t reach full term.

“We wanted to show it’s something that’s very real,” Fernandez said. “And most people don’t know about it. We wanted to shed some light on it to people.”

Frank Celli's and Arturo Mejia’s group had Argentina and one of the displays was a calaveras, which translates to “skulls” and is a satirical poem about someone.

The group found its calaveras online and decided to use it.

“It was a love poem that was genuine,” Celli said. “The music was well written and sensitive.”

Daniel Sanchez’s group made an altar depicting Venezuela.

While the country usually doesn’t celebrate Day of the Dead as much as other countries, Sanchez said the group tried to make its altar depict it as if the country did.

Going into the project, he didn’t know much about the holiday.

“I learned a lot,” he said. “It’s about respecting the dead and honoring them.”

Moreno said she’s seen more students know what Day of the Dead is in recent years. The school has done the assignment for at least the past seven years.

“Year after year we get more students into it,” Moreno said. “They always seem to come away with a good feeling of how different countries celebrate it.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2431 or jbutters@HanfordSentinel.com. Follow him on twitter @jsbutters.

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