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November 10, 2022 2:44 pm |   comments
Jemtegaard Middle School students celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Nov. 2, 2021. (Contributed photo by Rene Carroll, courtesy of the Washougal School District)
Jemtegaard Middle School students and staff members celebrated Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Wednesday, Nov. 2. 
Dia de los Muertos is a prominent Mexican holiday in which people remember and pay their respects to friends and family members who have died.
About 100 students had their faces painted in the style of a calavera (a skull that represents their ancestors who have passed away and celebrates the beauty and necessity of death), according to Jemtegaard history teacher Scott Rainey. 
“Sandra Renner, our district’s bilingual education specialist, gathered together several moms who came to the band room and began painting faces,”  said Rainey, who organized the event. “The response was overwhelming.”
Rainey interviewed several Mexican-American students about the holiday and put together a short film that was shared with the student body on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
“As I told my core group of students who participated in the creation of the video, our Mexican-American population is a key part of our community and has a lot to offer, though being relatively small in comparison to other parts of the country, they can often get overlooked,” Rainey said. “I want to see Day of the Dead join in the melting pot of celebrations that come from abroad. By introducing Dia de Muertos to the Jemtegaard community, we are able to break down some of the barriers that exist to accepting people of different backgrounds.  
“In my lesson on the Salem witch trials, I pointed out that much of what drove the hysteria was fear, the same way that most bigotry and prejudice is also driven by fear.  By normalizing a very fun, accessible (and decidedly foreign to American thinking) part of Mexican culture, I believe we are able to do a small part towards driving away that fear and creating an environment of acceptance. And, as (one of the students) says in the video, there’s lots of good food, too.”
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