TYLER, Texas — El Día de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead is more than just a celebration - it's a tradition where family and friends gather to pay respects and to remember deceased loved ones.
For Caldwell Arts Academy student Jackson Sims, this holiday is personal.
Sims said, “My grandpa and grandma both passed away a few years ago."
He remembers them with his art. He drew a portrait of his grandparents and a monarch butterfly.
He explained the butterflies sentiment, “These amazing creatures, these monarch butterflies, make the journey down to Mexico and they represent the dead coming back to see their families.”
Monarch butterflies are believed to hold the spirits of the departed. This belief stems from the fact that the first monarchs arrive in Mexico for the winter each fall on Nov. 1, which coincides with el Día de los Muertos.
Student Chali Campbell celebrated her grandpa as well.
The 6-year-old giggled, “We get on stage and we have so much fun.”
Participants got on stage, ate conchas and also sang their hearts out.
Organizer Julianna Wynn said about 300 people came through Caldwell Auditorium.
The holiday is amplified this year, because it's taking place as COVID-19 deaths skyrocket.
"COVID has devastated the Latino community in Texas," said Celia Garcia, member of with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
The CDC reports Latino Americans are more than twice as likely to die from covid-19 than white Americans.
Instead of focusing on death, el Día de los Muertos represents optimism for the future.
Caldwell's celebration also included an "ofrenda" or offering with pictures of lost loved ones from the community. Sims encourages others not to mourn these lives lost.
He said, "This whole celebration is really a celebration of life."