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Heartbreaking Ofrendas Honor 21 Uvalde Victims at Día de Muertos Celebration in San Antonio

San Antonio’s Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts organization, which is in charge of staging the city’s yearly Día de Muertos celebration, opted to honor the victims of the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde with a collection of ofrendas remembering the 19 children and two teachers who were killed.

During a day dedicated to death and remembrance, MECA did not want to pass up an opportunity to take the traditions of Día de Muertos and use them as a source of healing for Texans who refuse to forget the children who were murdered in cold blood earlier this year.

One of the exhibit’s curators, Luis Gavito, said in an interview with KHOU, “It’s very difficult, but at the same time, we’re glad we’re doing it,” adding, “We’re greatly moved by what happened at Robb Elementary in Uvalde so it would be remiss of us to not remember the children and teachers of Uvalde.”

In the spirit of remembrance, it’s important to Gavito that the memories of the 21 Uvalde victims are kept alive by displays like the one that can be seen at this year’s Día de Muertos celebration in San Antonio. “We say peoples’ names over and over again so they will not be forgotten,” he said. “It’s our way of telling the Uvalde community we’re all in this together.”

The ofrendas can be seen clearly in a recent TikTok video that’s garnered over 900,000 likes and thousands of comments. Each one of the 21 victims is honored with a personalized ofrenda, but what really sends this display over the edge is the fact that each of the ofrendas is propped up on a classroom desk to remind passersby that this horrible tragedy occurred in a place where children are supposed to be safe.

This year’s festival, known as Muertosfest, features more than 80 altars all through Hemisfair, a popular downtown location that was also home to the 1968 World’s Fair, according to Texas Public Radio. “This year we have altars coming from as far away as Harlingen,” said Davila. “We have a group that are coming from Midland. We have a group coming from Austin. And then, for the most part, everyone from here in San Antonio.”

Every year, Lanier High School in San Antonio creates an altar for Muertosfest that is, according to Davila, “somehow poignant and heartfelt.” This year, the students decided to honor the Uvalde students and teachers with 20 individual ofrendas: one for each student and one for the two teachers killed in the shooting.

Jennifer Arce, a teacher at Lanier High who was responsible for organizing this year’s student-created altar, explained how she and her students wanted to focus on each victim individually, their interests, and who they were before they died.

A student named Lexie Mieto, for instance, was in charge of designing an ofrenda dedicated to Jacklyn Casares. “She wanted to be a veterinarian,” Mieto said. “I really focused on that by putting a paw print and then including the four dogs she had.”

Mieto added, “This could have happened easily to us or any one of our relatives as well. For me personally, I would want someone to do this for my siblings if they lost their lives or even for me, possibly. Everyone should be remembered.”

While designing the ofrendas with her students, Arce couldn’t help but acknowledge the fact that it just as easily could have been her and her students, especially as school shootings have become more commonplace across the country. “That’s something that always weighs heavy in the back of my mind, because it could happen at my school one day, and I would do the same thing that those teachers did,” she said.

The Ofrendas Exhibition will be available to the public until November 20, at which point the families of the deceased will have the option to take their child’s desk home with them if they choose.

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