Cultural programming is one of my favorite tasks, not only do I get to learn more about other cultures but I also get to share that knowledge with the teens at my branch. It’s an opportunity for my teens to learn about the world around them and often themselves and their own backgrounds. I serve a large population of Hispanic teens and families and have found that, while teens have heard of celebrations or customs, they often only recognize them and know very little about why they are celebrated.’  While we host Hispanic cultural programs all year long, the months of September and October are typically jam packed. We use this time to talk about cultural traditions and to prepare for one of our favorite traditional celebrations, Dia De Los Muertos.

Our events kicked off this year with a children’s program on decorating sugar skulls. With the help of our teen volunteers, children briefly learned about the sugar skulls and were able to decorate and take home a skull of their own. This served as an introduction to Dia De Los Muertos for our teens, who will spend each week in October preparing items and decorations to use in our Dia De Los Muertos display. I use each week to discuss the items we are making and how they are used in the celebrations. This year will be the first year I ask for the teen volunteers to help present what they learned for public teen programs. During the week leading up to Dia De Los Muertos, we will use everything we’ve made to put together an altar display for the branch allowing patrons to contribute all week long.

In addition to all the preparations, I’ll also host cultural crafts celebrating various indigenous traditions open to all teens. Our first craft this year will be Ojos De Dios, used by the Huichol Indians and placed on altars as protection for those praying. They are also often used as symbols of prayers for those they are gifted to. They serve as a representation of “God’s Eye” watching over that person. The craft can be made by using different colored yarns and craft sticks or thin popsicle sticks. The designs vary and can easily be made by any age group. If there are a large amount of older teens, I usually challenge them to make a more intricate pattern.

We will also be making Papel Picado, which is used as a decorative piece for many different celebrations. Traditionally colorful tissue paper is used to make these hanging decorations and the color will vary depending on the celebrations, for example, during independence day celebrations the papel picado decorations are made in red, white, and green.

Our papel picado will be made of’ a variety of brighter colors to use during our Dia De Los Muertos celebrations. The decorations are made by drawing or tracing images onto the tissue paper, cutting them out and then glueing them on a string to hang.


Celia Avila is’ the Young Adult Librarian for the Junipero Serra Branch of the Los Angeles Public library. She received her’ MLIS in 2012 from San Jose State University. She is’ active in ALA, CLA, and REFORMA and currently serving on the REFORMA Los Angeles executive board and REFORMA national PR committee.

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