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El Dia de los Muertos American-style: Communicating with the Living
Unformatted Document Text:  14 involved youth. Such altars have appeared across the country, dedicated to victims of social problems such as domestic violence, drug abuse or drive-by shootings. 47 Because of their public nature, these altars and processions not only honor the dead, but also challenge the American- style privatization of mourning by publicly expressing the pain and anger of populations disproportionately affected by an unnecessary loss of life. A recurrent theme of US Day of the Dead celebrations is migration across the US/Mexican border. In San Diego, the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights has held vigils on the US/Mexico border to protest the controversial border patrol program, Operation Gatekeeper. 48 Each November 1, a religious service is held and wooden crosses are placed along the border wall listing the names, ages and places of origin of many of the 1,800 migrants 49 who have died while attempting to cross “the line” since Gatekeeper’s inception in 1994. Also erected along the border are traditional Day of the Dead altars heaped with fruits, candles, flowers and pan de muerto 50 in memory of the dead migrants. Mixing the religious, the cultural and the political, these rituals force the public to remember the desperate living conditions of millions of people South of the border and to reflect on the US government’s role in maintaining a “favorable investment climate” that ensures poverty wages for the majority of people living in Latin America. By honoring migrants who die while attempting to cross the border in search of a better life, these activities emphasize the great contradictions between the rights of Latin Americans and North Americans to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” 47 Allen R. Meyerson, “Caressing Life on the Day of the Dead,” New York Times, November 4, 1995, p. 9. 48 This program has greatly intensified Border Patrol surveillance along heavily-trafficked, urban areas of the border, resulting in a drastic increase in migrant crossings (and deaths) in the less patrolled but more dangerous desert areas. 49 According to the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, November 2001. Statistics derived from immigrant deaths recorded by the Mexican Foreign Relations Office, the Mexican consulates in San Diego and Calexico, and the INS. 50 Traditional Mexican “bread for the dead.”

Authors: Marchi, Regina Miriam.
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14
involved youth. Such altars have appeared across the country, dedicated to victims of social
problems such as domestic violence, drug abuse or drive-by shootings.
47
Because of their public
nature, these altars and processions not only honor the dead, but also challenge the American-
style privatization of mourning by publicly expressing the pain and anger of populations
disproportionately affected by an unnecessary loss of life.
A recurrent theme of US Day of the Dead celebrations is migration across the
US/Mexican border. In San Diego, the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights has held vigils
on the US/Mexico border to protest the controversial border patrol program, Operation
Gatekeeper.
48
Each November 1, a religious service is held and wooden crosses are placed along
the border wall listing the names, ages and places of origin of many of the 1,800 migrants
49
who
have died while attempting to cross “the line” since Gatekeeper’s inception in 1994. Also
erected along the border are traditional Day of the Dead altars heaped with fruits, candles,
flowers and pan de muerto
50
in memory of the dead migrants. Mixing the religious, the cultural
and the political, these rituals force the public to remember the desperate living conditions of
millions of people South of the border and to reflect on the US government’s role in maintaining
a “favorable investment climate” that ensures poverty wages for the majority of people living in
Latin America. By honoring migrants who die while attempting to cross the border in search of a
better life, these activities emphasize the great contradictions between the rights of Latin
Americans and North Americans to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
47
Allen R. Meyerson, “Caressing Life on the Day of the Dead,” New York Times, November 4, 1995, p. 9.
48
This program has greatly intensified Border Patrol surveillance along heavily-trafficked, urban areas of the border,
resulting in a drastic increase in migrant crossings (and deaths) in the less patrolled but more dangerous desert areas.
49
According to the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, November 2001. Statistics derived from
immigrant deaths recorded by the Mexican Foreign Relations Office, the Mexican consulates in San Diego and
Calexico, and the INS.
50
Traditional Mexican “bread for the dead.”


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