Boarding Life Special Events

Surval News: El Día de los Muertos

01 November 2019

The poet Christina Rosetti, when writing a sonnet in which she reflects on how she should be remembered after her death, came to the conclusion that

     Better by far you should forget and smile
    Than that you should remember and be sad.

When it comes to the question of how to honour the dead, however, el Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead – brings an overwhelmingly more optimistic approach. The celebration is observed throughout Latin America, but is most powerfully associated with Mexico, where the tradition originated. 

Dia de los Muertos combines indigenous Aztec ritual with Catholicism, and honours the dead with festivals and vibrant celebrations. At its heart lies the belief that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness; thus, the day seeks to celebrate the lives of the deceased with the things that the dead enjoyed in life – food, drink, activities and parties!

Therefore, unlike the conflict expressed in Rosetti’s poem, on Dia de los Muertos, remembrance brings smiles; the dead are once again part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep on All Saints and All Souls Day to share in the celebrations with their loved ones.

It has been special, therefore, for us to observe our inaugural Dia de los Muertos here at Surval, thanks to the efforts of Vivi (FY, Mexico), who led an assembly on the day, and organised the creation of a Remembrance Wall, in which the students made personal cards commemorating a lost loved one.

“Many people think Dia de los Muertos is a scary day, but it isn’t,” Vivi explains. “It is a celebration; about bringing back happy memories of the people who aren’t with us any more.”

In one of the most touching moments of her assembly, Vivi shared with us that, during Dia de los Muertos, it is tradition to light one’s house with many candles, so that the dead are able to find their way back home again. 

Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become part of a community. However, perhaps the optimistic philosophy of Dia de los Muertos can be best encapsulated in a quotation that is attributed to the Colombian author, Gabriel García Márquez: “No llores porque ya se terminó; sonríe porque sucedió.”

Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened.

A few messages from our Dia de los Muertos Wall of Remembrance:

“I miss and remember your hugs and kindness…”

“You knew how to make the world smile.”

“Ich sende ganz viel Liebe.”

“Dr Sanders was my childhood doctor, and he was very kind and passionate about his job. When I was younger, I used to be afraid of many things. But it was doctor Sanders who helped me overcome them. To this day, Dr Sanders will always be remembered as he was also part of family.”

“Mariela was one of the nicest and kindest people I’ve ever met. She would always make everyone laugh. Even though she was an adult, she would always make jokes or act like a little kid. Few adults are like that nowadays. That’s what made her special. Even at the end of her days, she was a happy person and would never give up.”

What message are you sending to your lost loved ones today; how will you remember them?