Nov. 2 is the Mexican Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertes), which has generated its own tradition at Vintage High School in north Napa.
The annual Vintage event, a collaboration of students and teachers in Spanish literature and arts/graphics classes, features lavishly decorated altars, or "ofrendas," honoring the dead.
This year's ofrendas included tributes to Ramon Ramirez, a Vintage soccer player whose violent death more than a year ago has not yet been solved, and to Julian Szmidt a Vintage teacher and swim coach who died unexpectedly around the same time.
There were also ofrendas for labor leader Cesar Chavez, children who died of cancer and famous artists including Salvador Dali and John Lennon.
The ofrendas lined one wall of a corridor in the school's Industrial Arts building, while the other wall and an exit hallway were festooned with students' Day of the Dead-themed art.
There were larger-than-life skeletons, assembled from styrofoam computer packing or created with papier maché; there were neon-bright iguanas and skulls; there were small prints and images of "La Calavera Catrina," the "Elegant Skull."
"La Catrina," based on a 100-year-old Mexican print that has become an iconic Day of the Dead image, was also portrayed by real-life Vintage senior Yesenia Montes in a flowered hat and black and white makeup.
Like a silent opera in miniature, a series of intricate dioramas traced the adventures of Don Juan, right up until he is dragged into the flames of Hell.
The Vintage Day of the Dead also included contemporary images, including two towers of photographs honoring 9-11 victims.
On the wall, a quotation from poet Octavio Paz provided an epigraph for the day:
"To the people of New York, Paris, or London, "death" is a word that is never pronounced because it burns the lips.
The Mexican, however, frequents it, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and most steadfast love."
For more about Dia de los Muertes in the Napa Valley, please see , a photo gallery of an exhibition held at the Napa Valley Museum.
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