Buena’s Dia de los Muertos brilliantly honors the departed

Members of Buena’s football and baseball teams made an altar in honor of late teammate Patrick Graham.

by Amy Brown

It’s 7:00pm, on October 23 at Buena High, and a young girl with skeleton and flowered face paint runs through the crowd with her parents. They race past a giant tree—vivid with colored paper flowers from root to branch and dramatic up-lights—on their way to the Aztec dancing performance. It’s the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration at the school, a huge community event for this popular cultural celebration of life. The Day of the Dead is a truly vibrant festival honoring those who have passed away, celebrating their time on the planet with ornate and beautiful multi-level altars. Hosted by Buena’s Spanish teachers and students, it featured student artwork and projects, food, music and dancing with participants from Oxnard High, De Anza, Anacapa, Cabrillo and many other schools and local organizations.

“My number one favorite thing about the event is the students’ enthusiasm,” said Emily Bradvica, a Buena Spanish teacher and Buena alum who has participated in each event since its inception seven years ago. “They blow me out of the water with their altars and creativity, and everything they come up with, it’s remarkable.” Bradvica shared that some students created traditional altars, while others created an interactive activity or game based on research that would teach participants about Dia de los Muertos.

“It’s such a fun event, “said Lexy Almora, a junior. “And the people are really interested in the altars, especially, it’s so meaningful—when you’ve lost someone you cared about and can honor them.” In fact, in March of this year, Buena lost one of its beloved students to Burkett’s Lymphoma. Patrick Graham was just 16, and passed away after an eight month fight. His fellow baseball and football teammates worked together to create a huge and elaborate altar commemorating him. “This year, our season in baseball and football, it’s all for him. We’re playing for Patrick,” said Kaiden Brunkan, a 10th grader on Buena’s JV football team. “He made us a family. Our teachers let us all be a group and do this special thing because we loved him so much.”

Nathan Silva, a sophomore on Buena’s varsity baseball team, reflected that despite Graham’s illness, he always looked out for his teammates. “He put a smile on everyone’s face, and made sure everyone else was happy and ok, even when he was sick in the hospital and in pain.” Graham’s altar was surrounded by huge groups of students the entire night.

While many of the altars were for family members and friends, 10th grader Everett Luna and his classmates created an intricate altar honoring the late Dr. Seuss, which even included a bowl with two live goldfish in it—on homage to the famed book ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish’. “He made a really big impact on us with his books, and we wanted to honor his contributions,” said Luna.

Dr. Roger Rice, VUSD Superintendent was seen walking through the displays with a big smile on his face, and greeting families. His take? “The community here, and the art, creativity, music, families, and the culture—this is all just amazing.”

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