Cultural Appropriation and the Day of the Dead

Early in November, I was sitting next to Sofia, my countrymate, listening to a speaker presenting on the Day of the Dead, my favorite holiday. It was a long and polemical presentation from my point of view. I was not able to reconcile with any of the “facts” presented by this academic, but her concluding remarks were the straw that broke the camel’s back. She said that Americans were exhibiting cultural appropriation of this holiday. Now, let me ask, why is it cultural appropriation when Americans try to celebrate Day of the Dead, but just a friendly cultural exchange when Mexicans celebrate Halloween?

In the case of Day of the Dead, I believe that the term cultural appropriation is both unnecessary and detrimental to those who are curious about our culture. I think that Day of the Dead is an opportunity to learn more about the traditions that we inherited from indigenous people. Traditions that survived colonial times. Traditions that were forced to change during the colony. Traditions that were a platform to make fun of the aristocracy before the revolution. Traditions that have made it to Hollywood, but remain sacred in our local communities. The blame of “cultural appropriation”, however, evanesces the curiosity of those who could potentially learn a little more about our traditions and history.

The only one thing that I can certainly call cultural appropriation of Day of the Dead is the “cubanisto” beer, but that is an anecdote for another day.

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