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Cade Middle School creates Dia de los Muertos altars

By Carolina Astrain
Nov. 9, 2013 at 5:09 a.m.


IF YOU GO

• WHAT: Dia de los Muertos exhibit

• WHEN: Through Dec. 15

• WHERE: Nave Museum, 306 W. Commercial St.

• COST: Free

Soda cans, faux flowers and picture frames covered boxes of cardboard resting on the Cade Middle School library shelves.

Mckynzie Bartee, 13, looked up at her deceased stepmother's photograph framed by candles and stuffed animals.

Mckynzie was one of several students who decorated and built their own Dia de los Muertos ofrendas this year.

Ofrendas are homemade altars made in honor of deceased loved ones, often adorned with the person's favorite food or photographs.

Spanish teacher Xochitl Comparan-Gonzalez began the altar-making tradition at the middle school four years ago.

And this year - for the first time - some of the altars created by the Cade students are being showcased as part of the Nave Museum's exhibit, Comparan-Gonzalez said.

Students were assigned to choose between writing a research paper or creating an altar in honor of a famous person or loved one for their unit on Dia de los Muertos.

"Out of all my kids, only one kid decided to write a research paper," Comparan-Gonzalez said.

Most of her students worked on the ofrendas with their parents at home, Comparan-Gonzalez said.

The Dia de los Muertos project aligns with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements for Spanish I, Comparan-Gonzalez said.

"I've gotten to know my students better through this project," the Spanish teacher said. "I've had a lot of parents tell us this is a healing process for them as well and that they plan on continuing the tradition on their own."

Mckynzie's stepmother, Mandi Bartee, was 36 years old when she died April 30, 2012, from choking at a restaurant.

"She meant a lot to me because she was the first person I got used to on my dad's side," Mckynzie said.

The eighth-grader said she's worried that her younger siblings may not remember their stepmother.

"I felt like we were close," Mckynzie said. "Somehow, we were friends from the beginning."

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