Late Tempe High Teacher Honored as Dia de Los Muertos Tradition Continues

The Tempe High Buffaloes have a unique school tradition that resides in the library around this time every year. The beautiful display is known as an altar de ofrendas, or an altar of offerings, which is a rich tradition in Hispanic culture and is utilized to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This year’s altar de ofrendas carries an extra, bittersweet weight as the center of the altar is the late Sam Robinson, a forever THS teacher, Track coach and MEChA Club sponsor. 

Library Media Technician Brenda Flores offered some insight to this unique Buffalo tradition and its history, as it was implemented by Robinson himself; “The Dia de los Muertos Ofrenda was created by the MEChA Club, led by our Beloved Sam Robinson (Coach Rob and Rodrigo Palacios). I believe the Tradition of the Ofrendas started at Tempe High School was back in 2016. He had the MEChA Club students make lots of little flowers made out of colorful tissue paper. These little flowers are still being used, as I used them this year. I was always happy to help him and his students out by creating the layout for the Altar.” 

The holiday of Dia de los Muertos is honored as a day of celebration and remembrance, as it aims to highlight that our loved ones' souls are always with us even if they are not physically present. Flores went on to comment about the importance of celebrating this Hispanic tradition by stating “Many Hispanic families make similar Ofrendas in their homes. Dia de los Muertos, is honoring, remembering and respecting their loved ones that are in Heaven.” 

Flores also shared about the inclusivity of the altar de ofrendas as a common space for their community to celebrate, honor, and remember; “The Ofrenda Altar is decorated with many flowers and pictures of loved ones. Our staff are always welcome to bring pictures of their loved ones and be placed on the Altar. Every morning Sam would walk in with a cup of coffee and Mexican pastries and would carefully place it on the Altar. And this year, I’ve been getting coffee and the Mexican Pastries every morning for the Ofrenda”.

Sam Robinson Flores also touched on this feeling of physical loss associated with the holiday and sadly, now, the THS ofrenda tradition. The gloominess of this holiday and was also overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic making the Buffalo community feel even more empty than it already did; “This year sadly, we are honoring and remembering the man that started this Tradition in 2016 at Tempe High School...This year was very sad and emotional for me, as I remembered Sam and his students setting up the display. This year no Sam and no students, it was very, very sad.”  

However, Flores knew that in the spirit of this holiday and the spirit of Robinson, she had a duty to fulfill; “I was truly honored when I was asked by some of his very close friends, if I would keep the tradition going. So, this year I did my best to create this beautiful display of Our Altar de Ofrendas at Tempe High School. I made it in Honoring our Coach Rob, Rest In Peace Sam Robinson, your Tradition will live on.”

If you have a chance, be sure to stop by the Tempe High Library to see the amazing dedication to Robinson’s life and legacy. Once a Buffalo, always a Buffalo!