Virtual events for seniors offer cultural insight, how-to lessons celebrating Dia de Muertos

The sessions come as many seniors are still isolating because of the pandemic

Senior Planet launches series of virtual Day of the Dead events
Senior Planet launches series of virtual Day of the Dead events

SAN ANTONIO – Whether it’s how to create ofrendas, papel picado or making pan de muerto, seniors from across the country are learning about Day of the Dead in a series of free virtual events through Senior Planet.

The events were organized by Senior Planet, a nonprofit that helps older adults bridge the digital divide, and the Latino Collection and Resource Center at the San Antonio Public Library.

DeAnne Cuellar, state director of Older Adults Technology Services, said since the information was posted on the Senior Planet website, the response has been overwhelming.

“Lots of curiosity from people outside of San Antonio,” Cuellar said. “We’ve got people who are logging in from seven different cities -- all the way from New York City and California.”

Emma Hernandez, the program manager of the library’s Latino Collection, said the goal of the events is to have participants understand the meaning behind the traditions.

“We really want to make sure that they understand the significance and why these cultures celebrate this tradition in the way that they do," Hernandez said.

Hernandez said the holiday is not a “Mexican Halloween” that some may believe. Instead, it serves as a time when the spirits of cherished loved ones, in a sense, are welcomed back.

“It’s a happy celebration because your family members are coming to visit you during these two days,” Hernandez said.

The virtual sessions come during a time when many seniors are still isolating because of the pandemic.

Cuellar said the holiday acts as a bridge between generations and community members.

“It’s a wonderful moment, I think, for us as technology trainers working on closing the digital divide, and also bringing our community together at the same time,” Cuellar said.

Lawrence Lucido, a member of Senior Planet, said he’s among many others who are excited about the program.

It’s given us a chance to just keep in touch with one another, communicate and learn as much as we can about the various cultures in San Antonio,” Lucido said.

Hernandez said this year, Dia de Muertos holds special significance because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is really important for people as they’re staying at home more and maybe have been experiencing loss in their own family,” Hernandez said. “We as the whole country are experiencing a collective loss right now.”

Cuellar said the free sessions can be viewed by anyone on the Senior Planet website and on its Facebook page.

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Bill Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.