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In our study of California history, we study Dia de los Muertos.  We have generated lots of writing about the holiday and lots of art work.  We brought in pictures of our deceased loved ones and shared good memories of them.  We read books about Day of the Dead and we watched videos that talked about the holidays and showed real celebrations in Mexico.

But nothing showed us the true importance of this holiday until we went to visit a nearby Mission — Mission San Juan Bautista. The mission is both a Catholic church and a California State Historic Park. When we visit the mission, we tour the State Park buildings and we go through the Mission Museum and the actual church. When we went into the Church, we saw their Dia de los Muertos altar. We were all so moved by it.

Day of the Dead altar inside the Mission Church

When you look closely, you can see the amazingly joyful Calacas skeletons.

Calacas on Dia de los Muertos altar

Calacas  on Dia de los Muertos altar

I know that when we write next week about our field trip, there will be mention about the real altar they saw in the Mission.  But whatever they write about, I know that we have shared an amazing experience that built our understanding of California history and that will help us all understand our place in the state.