As October comes to a close, the ghoulish skeletons and masks of Halloween once again compete with candy skulls and “bone-bread” of Day of the Dead for our students’ attention.
Even in the Mexican southeast, the cities of Chiapas will see a few Halloween trick-or-treaters taking to the streets on October 31. However, here the central focus remains Day of the Dead with visits to colorful graveyards, family gatherings, and heartfelt remembrances of loved ones on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.
Many teachers in U.S. public schools, particularly those with predominately Mexican students, include Day of the Dead imagery in the classrooms in addition to Halloween articles. Perhaps in addition to sharing a few marigolds and Pan de los Muertos with your students, you might consider teaching about the late Zapatista leader known as Ramona.
Ramona was a Tzotzil Mayan woman born in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, who is greatly respected around the world for her quiet dignity and steadfast commitment. Since her death in 2006, many people around the world include Ramona in their Day of the Dead celebrations.
Schools For Chiapas has translated Juan Machin’s storybook about Comandanta Ramona, ” the indigenous Tzotzil woman of corn, dark as the color of the earth, with a red huipil blouse and obsidian eyes hidden behind a black ski mask, small in stature but giant in dignity.”
This easy-to-read short book tells the almost magical story of the legendary Zapatista leader and is accompanied by a set of beautiful watercolor drawings by the author. This book is appropriate for classroom use at any time of the year. “Ramona: Rebel Dreamweaver” is available for printing or reading electronically here in English and in Spanish. Each book has accompanying lesson plans in English and Spanish.
For additional background materials about the Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico you might want to share one or more of the videos from the Teach Chiapas Video series available here.