Cristy Franco, at Escuela Vista Grande, talks to student Conner Forsyth-Brownlee about items included in the Day of the Dead altar. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Day of the Dead is alive at a Red Deer school

Students learning about Mexican culture

A Day of the Dead collection that was once exhibited at the National Museum for the Popular Cultures in Mexico City is on display for students at Escuela Vista Grande this week.

Community liaison worker Cristy Franco said she couldn’t set up her entire collection of about 400 items – from sugar skulls to skeleton dolls — in her school office because there was not enough room.

She said her collection may be big, but other people have even more items.

“There are people that have five times more. They make it huge,” Franco said.

Franco, who started her collection when she was young, said a few items were handed down through the generations in her family. Some were purchased during her visits to different Mexican states.

The Day of the Dead is Nov. 2 and celebrates the lives of family members who have died. Long ago, people believed their ancestors would return to join in the ancient celebration.

“Nowadays, we know the person is not coming, but we know it’s a day to remember the people who are not with us anymore.”

She said in Mexico, the Day of the Dead is not a sad day.

“It’s so colourful. It’s joyful. There is music. It’s like a huge party.”

A few years ago, she attended a large Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City where people dressed up in elaborate costumes with skeleton face paint.

“When I was little, nobody did that. People never dressed up. But culture evolves.”


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Franco said Canada is a multicultural country, so she wanted to share this important Mexican cultural tradition with students, in addition to passing it on to her sons.

Next year, she plans to extend the celebration to more students in Red Deer.

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Escuela Vista Grande community liaison worker Cristy Franco, who is teaching students about the Day of the Dead, holds up a skeleton made of sugar. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

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