Students honor dead with Hispanic celebration

Published 12:01 am Friday, November 2, 2007

NATCHEZ — In the spirit of exploring the ideas and practices of other cultures, students in a Natchez High School Spanish class celebrated Day of the Dead Thursday.

Spanish teacher Leslie Hurst said the Day of the Dead is a Hispanic tradition that celebrates the life of lost loved ones.

“It is a very important event in Hispanic culture,” Hurst said.

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In Latin America, said Hurst, it’s common for relatives of the dead to spend the night in a cemetery sleeping on the grave a loved one.

Hurst said family members will usually bring the favorite food of their dead relative and dine at the grave.

While this may seem odd to many, Hurst said the celebration is meant to remember the dead lovingly.

“It’s about the good times,” she said.

Students in Hurst’s class did not sleep in cemeteries or dine on graves, but instead made small altars to remember friends and family.

Jivanna Smith made an altar to honor the memory of her grandfather.

“We were close,” she said.

Smith decorated her altar with photographs, candles and macaroni, one of her grandfather’s favorite foods.

“It was something fun for the class to do,” she said.

But not all of Hurst’s students thought the project would be a good idea.

Hurst said some of the students were a bit hesitant to delve into the lives of the dead.

Cortez Ford was one of those students.

Ford said he originally thought it was odd to start honoring the dead.

“It’s not about mourning,” he said.

Instead Cortez said the celebration was a way to the honor dead in a happy way.

And this year’s Day of the Dead celebration really hit home at Natchez High School.

On Tuesday, Natchez High School student Mary Ann Ford died.

Hurst’s class decided to make an altar to honor her life.

“She never had a frown on her face,” Ford, her cousin, said. “She was a good person.”

Principal James Loftin said he was touched by the student’s sensitivity and caring.

“To see that type of compassion is great,” he said.