On any given day at Community Housing of Wyandotte County (CHWC), you may find aspiring homeowners originating from a wide variety of countries visiting our office. The rich tapestry of our diverse Kansas City, Kan., population makes our community a place of delicious food and fun cultural traditions. Recently, CHWC participated in the Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos, a holiday in which families remember and honor their deceased loved ones.
On October 19 in preparation for the upcoming holiday, we hosted a showing of Coco, an animated movie featuring the holiday celebration, and invited families who call our rental properties home to join us in learning about the holiday and enjoy traditional dishes often served as part of the festivities, some for the first time, including tamales and pan de muerto. After the movie, the children made their own “guitar” out of pizza boxes and cardboard and adorned them with colorful decorations with the help of parents and volunteers, including five youth who live in the community. All attendees--children, youth and adults--learned there are differences between Halloween and Día de los Muertos, a common mistake made in our pop culture.
CHWC also works with the local business community to help fill the need for high-quality housing for their employees. One valuable partnership we continue to cultivate is with the Central Avenue Betterment Association (CABA). CABA supports small businesses located on the main street of Central Avenue, which is located just one block away from our office. CHWC staff had a great time participating in CABA’s previous parade in September and jumped at the chance to be included in their Second Annual Día de los Muertos Parade on November 3. Three staff members signed up to serve as Catrinas, an icon of the holiday, and offered our space for the other Catrinas to prepare for their role, as well. Our community room was bustling with activity as they put on makeup and fancy dresses and staff and two youth volunteers helped to decorate our float.
One of the traditional float decorations is paper marigolds. We adorned our float with dozens of these beautiful flowers made by teachers and students in an exceptional education program at Wyandot Academy and CHWC staff as well as lights and the traditional ofrenda, an altar that honors loved ones who have passed on. With the assistance of our two youth volunteers, we passed out candy, and CHWC Catrinas entertained parade goers with dancing and fun selfie opportunities.
The celebration was a huge success thanks in part to the efforts of our staff and volunteers who participated the day of. Now, we are able to better serve our community by having worked together to gain a deeper understanding of Mexican culture and traditions. We look forward to next year’s parade!
See more photos on our Facebook page and listen to a story about the parade featuring two CHWC staff members, Nathalie Martinez-Vowels and Megan Painter, from NPR member station KCUR.
Learn more about: CHWC Volunteer Opportunities, Sign-up to Volunteer, How to Get Involved