SAN JUAN – Students and staff at PSJA Early College High School are dedicating their two-story Día de los Muertos altar to dozens of Bear alumni who have passed. Their school altar is one of over 20 that will be competing in PSJA ISD's 3rd annual Día de los Muertos Altar Competition.

The district-wide competition is possible thanks to a collaboration between the PSJA ISD Dual Language Enrichment Program and the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to continue this tradition among families in the Rio Grande Valley.

As part of the 2-day contest happening Nov. 1-2, individuals from the Center for Mexican American Studies will be judging the altars.

According to Alma Carrillo, the Modern Languages Department Head at PSJA ECHS and PSJA High School class of 1979 alumna, this is the third and largest altar the school has put on for the contest. Carrillo shared that hundreds of students, staff, and even parent volunteers took part in its creation.

“We took a lot of pride and put a lot of love into our altar this year to honor our Bear alumni,” said the alumni who has worked at PSJA ISD for more than 30 years. “Our theme ‘Once a bear, Always a Bear’ showcases our school pride and traditions. It was also a great way to connect it with our Homecoming, which this year also happens to fall on November 2.”

In addition to honoring their loved ones and learning about their heritage, the longtime PSJA educator emphasized that Día de los Muertos also allows students the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge such as learning to conduct research and write creatively.

“The best message one can take away from Día de Los Muertos is to never forget your roots, always remember where you came from, and honor your heritage and family history,” Carrillo said.