Did you know that Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated at Circle Pines Center every year during a Spanish Language and Culture Weekend? You may have heard these weekends called Spanish Immersion, a former name that many people still use.  These intergenerational gatherings were started in 1996 by CPCers Kathy Siegenthaler and Margaret Aguilar and have been held twice a year since then, with a small break from in-person to Zoom due to the COVID pandemic. From October 21-23 this year, we came together at CPC to share food, art, language, music, and community.

Here’s some highlights:

  • Saturday morning, we participated in an introductory circle game. One at a time, participants stand in the center of the circle, introduce themselves in Spanish and say where they are from and something they like to do. Then everyone in the circle runs and switches places. The last one not in the circle goes in the center. We do this until everyone has had a turn.
  • After the circle, some went inside the Farmhouse for a Spanish class led by Stephanie Haikim while others headed outdoors for a Spanish and yoga lesson co-taught by Erika Tellez and Andra Gomberg. We enjoyed practicing yoga in the unseasonably warm weather while learning that guerrero is warrior, triangulo is triangle, and postura del cadáver is the corpse posture.
  • Saturday evening we held a gathering around a bonfire in the Rec Hall to share memories of our dear friends Derek and Ray Freridge There were laughs and tears as we processed our collective grief over their death less than six months ago in an automobile accident. We also spoke of how much we missed the beautiful energy and spirit of Iris, Henry, and DJ Freridge, who still continue to recover. We agreed to send a card from all of us.
  • Later Saturday evening, we ate s’mores and pan dulce, drank hot apple cider, and danced to Latin music. Kathy brought instruments for all who wanted them.
  • Throughout the weekend, we added offerings of photos, food, candles, and other objects to a Dia de los Muertos ofrenda (altar). On Saturday, Erika Tellez taught an afternoon Spanish class about the tradition. On Sunday, we had an opportunity to sing the ‘Dia de los Muertos” song by Jose Orozco and share memories of family and friends we had lost over the year or in the past.  As is the tradition, each memory was followed by “İPresente!” from the others, showing that we acknowledged and celebrated them and their loved ones who had contributed to the struggle for a better world.
  • Grand Rapids artist Alynn Guerra brought block printing materials up for the weekend. She brought an image of a calavera (a skull traditionally associated with Dia de los Muertos) that she designed in advance. She also patiently taught many of us how to design an image, carve it on a block, and print a tee shirt. It was amazing to have the opportunity to learn from her and bring home our own creations.
  • Throughout the weekend, many of us hiked in the woods and canoed on Stewart Lake, enjoying the beautiful changing colors of the leaves reflecting into the water. Several residents of CPC were joined by a number of those attending the weekend to complete an autumn rite of passage: bringing in the raft to the CPC beach at Stewart Lake. Gracias a todos who braved the cold water to successfully get this accomplished!
  • Food is always a highlight of Spanish Language and Culture weekends. Many thanks to Gerardo Reyes, Sandra Diaz, Carlos Aceves and all of the cocineras and volunteers in the kitchen. Highlights included chia cereal, tacos durados, chicken mole, jaimica (a Mexican drink made from hibiscus flowers), and Sunday morning pancakes (with CPC maple syrup of course).

The Spanish Language and Culture Weekend is one of the most diverse gatherings held at Circle Pines, generally attended by approximately half native Spanish speakers. If you have never been to one of these weekends, you should come whether you speak a lot of Spanish or no Spanish; you will find a welcoming environment to learn about and share culture. The next weekend is tentatively scheduled for May 19-21, 2023. Kudos to all who have helped this wonderful event continue for so many years.