Reflections from Abroad: Day of the Dead in Mexico

Date posted: Tuesday 06 November 2018

Hello! Amelia Schurke here, writing you from a small mountain village, San Miguel, located in the north of the state of Puebla, Mexico! The first language of my host family and most of the community is Nahuat, an indigenous language, but most everyone is bilingual in Spanish as well, so I am able to communicate in Spanish as I begin to gain a small vocabulary bank of Nahuat words!


My Life in San Miguel

I work as an English teacher at Tetsijtsilin, a secondary school in the area. Tetsijtsilin is an incredible school that aims to preserve the Nahuat language and culture. Alongside math, science, Spanish, history, English and civic formation classes, students take Nahuat classes, where they learn the Nahuat language and the history of the Nahuat culture. The students spend part of their school day working in an orchid garden, a compost, a vegetable garden and a butterfly garden! They are also partly responsible for the maintenance of the school campus, sweeping, mopping, raking as well as cleaning their classrooms.


At school, Tuesday afternoons are reserved for talleres, or “workshops”. Students choose which taller they want to participate in at the beginning of the year, the options include: sports, wood-working, candle making, a radio station, theater, kitchen, recycled paper, embroidery, weaving, bamboo crafts and a marching band! There is a palpable sense of anticipation and electric energy throughout the day on Tuesdays as the students count down the hours before the talleres begin!


I live with a loving, goofy and hardworking family – my host mom Concha, my host siblings Eru and Sury and my host cousin, Marcy. My family runs a small convenience store in the front of their house. There are always community members coming and going, buying cellphone minutes, popsicles, coffee, sugar, candy or milk. Lately, I’ve spent lots of time playing Spanish banana grams with my host sister or embroidering with my host cousin.


Day of the Dead

A globos launching on Day of the Dead

We celebrated Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) recently, which was an incredible experience to be a part of! At school we had a day of celebration before 4 days off to celebrate with our families. There was music, dancing and the exposition of the globos! The students worked on constructing globos (large spheres made of tissue paper) for weeks and sent them off into the air. Some of them caught fire right away, while others flew so high into the sky we lost track of where they were!


At the markets, there were 6 foot high stacks of marigolds being sold, bright orange and deep purple and popping pink. Families decorate ofrendas with marigolds, and line a trail of marigolds from the front of the house leading to the ofrenda. Ofrendas are a way to preserve and honor the lives of lost loved ones. They are tables adorned with flowers, photos and favorite foods – pan dulce, tamales, tequila, atole, tacos, oranges, bananas, apples… The church bells rang all night the evening of Día De Los Muertos to usher the spirits back into the homes. We made tamales every day, which I absolutely loved!


I am learning so much and loving my time here in Mexico as a YAGM! Adios!


Amelia Schurke


Amelia Schurke is serving in the Mexico through Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) on behalf of the Saint Paul Area Synod & her home congregation St. Andrew's Lutheran in Mahtomedi. Learn more about Sarah & other missionaries here.