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El Dia de los Muertos American-style: Communicating with the Living
Unformatted Document Text:  18 Aside from large-scale public protest events such as those mentioned above, individual Day of the Dead altars on display at museums, schools, libraries and other community-based spaces frequently draw attention to social justice issues. For example, since 1996, the World Languages and Culture Department at California State University at Monterey Bay has erected an annual Day of the Dead altar dedicated to historical figures who have worked for social justice. 61 In 2000, students created an altar dedicated to “Yanga,” a slave from Nigeria who lived in Vera Cruz, Mexico in the 1600s. The narrative surrounding the altar explained that Yanga fought against slavery and negotiated the founding of a slave-free town in Vera Cruz. Similar altars focusing on justice leaders from Martin Luther King to Cesar Chavez 62 have been erected across the country, in cities as disparate as Fort Worth, Kansas City and Atlanta. Altars have also been created for the anonymous victims of global political problems such as the Holocaust, the 100 million female babies lost to infanticide around the world and the “slow death” of homelessness. 63 Conclusion: Day of the Dead is observed in a variety of ways throughout the United States, and this paper has focused on one significant subset of these celebrations – those with overtly political messages. In a country as culturally diverse as the United States, ethnic rituals are important but often overlooked spaces in which subaltern groups may criticize and respond to hegemonic norms and values. Through personalizing public issues and infusing traditional rites with modern meanings, US Day of the Dead events function at both the micro- and macro-political level – at 61 California State University, Monterey Bay website http://csumb.edu/events/dead/. Also see Professor Maria Zielina’s research at http://faculty.csumb.edu/zielinamaria/yanga/yanga.html. 62 “Live Events for Day of the Dead,” The Arizona Republic, November 2, 2000, p. 39.

Authors: Marchi, Regina Miriam.
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18
Aside from large-scale public protest events such as those mentioned above, individual
Day of the Dead altars on display at museums, schools, libraries and other community-based
spaces frequently draw attention to social justice issues. For example, since 1996, the World
Languages and Culture Department at California State University at Monterey Bay has erected an
annual Day of the Dead altar dedicated to historical figures who have worked for social justice.
61
In 2000, students created an altar dedicated to “Yanga,” a slave from Nigeria who lived in Vera
Cruz, Mexico in the 1600s. The narrative surrounding the altar explained that Yanga fought
against slavery and negotiated the founding of a slave-free town in Vera Cruz. Similar altars
focusing on justice leaders from Martin Luther King to Cesar Chavez
62
have been erected across
the country, in cities as disparate as Fort Worth, Kansas City and Atlanta. Altars have also been
created for the anonymous victims of global political problems such as the Holocaust, the 100
million female babies lost to infanticide around the world and the “slow death” of
homelessness.
63
Conclusion:
Day of the Dead is observed in a variety of ways throughout the United States, and this
paper has focused on one significant subset of these celebrations – those with overtly political
messages. In a country as culturally diverse as the United States, ethnic rituals are important but
often overlooked spaces in which subaltern groups may criticize and respond to hegemonic
norms and values. Through personalizing public issues and infusing traditional rites with modern
meanings, US Day of the Dead events function at both the micro- and macro-political level – at
61
California State University, Monterey Bay website http://csumb.edu/events/dead/. Also see Professor Maria
Zielina’s research at http://faculty.csumb.edu/zielinamaria/yanga/yanga.html.
62
“Live Events for Day of the Dead,” The Arizona Republic, November 2, 2000, p. 39.


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