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El Dia de los Muertos American-style: Communicating with the Living
Unformatted Document Text:  10 living audience rather than to the dead. Advertised in newspapers, radio and the Internet, US celebrations are generally viewed by many spectators and can be effective means of promoting “life and death” issues that receive only lip service from mainstream media and government. Through community vigils, vibrant public altars and dramatic processions (that often include spectacular elements such as dance, music, masks and puppetry), marginalized people who lack access to formal channels of political participation (such as media representation, literacy, voting rights or a familiarity with the US political system), can put their issues on the table (or the altar, so to speak). An important part of expressing Latino identity involves acknowledging the discrimination and exploitation faced by Latinos in their lives as cultural minorities in the United States. In doing so, the deaths of local people are often used to invoke political discourses around national and global issues. In his discussion of the moral economy, E.P. Thompson argued that the popular food riots of 18 th century England were not merely compulsive responses to economic stimuli, but “self-conscious behavior modified by custom, culture and reason” 32 in which people used moral indignation to defend community rights and challenge official descriptions of reality. The grievances expressed by the common people, he explained, were grounded in traditional views of norms and obligations that “operated within a popular consensus as to what were legitimate and what were illegitimate practices” 33 among various sectors of society (such as workers, consumers, business and government). For Thompson, the moral economy was a “group, community or class response to crisis” that expressed resistance to exploitation and challenged the authorities, on moral grounds, to attend to the common weal. 31 “Chile Victims Remembered,” The Toronto Star, November 2, 1998, p. A12. 32 EP Thompson, “The Moral Economy of the Crowd in 18 th Century England,” in Customs in Common, p. 187. 33 Thompson, Ibid. p. 188.

Authors: Marchi, Regina Miriam.
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10
living audience rather than to the dead. Advertised in newspapers, radio and the Internet, US
celebrations are generally viewed by many spectators and can be effective means of promoting
“life and death” issues that receive only lip service from mainstream media and government.
Through community vigils, vibrant public altars and dramatic processions (that often include
spectacular elements such as dance, music, masks and puppetry), marginalized people who lack
access to formal channels of political participation (such as media representation, literacy, voting
rights or a familiarity with the US political system), can put their issues on the table (or the altar,
so to speak).
An important part of expressing Latino identity involves acknowledging the
discrimination and exploitation faced by Latinos in their lives as cultural minorities in the United
States. In doing so, the deaths of local people are often used to invoke political discourses
around national and global issues. In his discussion of the moral economy, E.P. Thompson
argued that the popular food riots of 18
th
century England were not merely compulsive responses
to economic stimuli, but “self-conscious behavior modified by custom, culture and reason”
32
in
which people used moral indignation to defend community rights and challenge official
descriptions of reality. The grievances expressed by the common people, he explained, were
grounded in traditional views of norms and obligations that “operated within a popular consensus
as to what were legitimate and what were illegitimate practices”
33
among various sectors of
society (such as workers, consumers, business and government). For Thompson, the moral
economy was a “group, community or class response to crisis” that expressed resistance to
exploitation and challenged the authorities, on moral grounds, to attend to the common weal.
31
“Chile Victims Remembered,” The Toronto Star, November 2, 1998, p. A12.
32
EP Thompson, “The Moral Economy of the Crowd in 18
th
Century England,” in Customs in Common, p. 187.
33
Thompson, Ibid. p. 188.


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