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El Dia de los Muertos American-style: Communicating with the Living
Unformatted Document Text:  19 times quietly inviting the public to reflect on the reality of oppressed populations, while at other times actively urging concrete governmental action towards addressing socio-political causes of death. In both cases, participants strive to open the consciousness of the public and stir it to action on behalf of those members in society who are victimized, discarded and forgotten. Operating within a moral economy, these Day of the Dead activities employ what Thompson called “a plebeian discourse, almost beneath the level of articulacy, appealing to solidarities so deeply assumed that they [are] almost nameless.” 64 While traditions are modified in accordance with the historical conditions of participants, we can see that from the initial arrival of Europeans in Latin America to the more recent experiences of Latinos living in the United States, Day of the Dead has provided its practitioners with opportunities for solace and expression amidst the often unjust realities of a globalizing world. The holiday provides a useful case study on the political potential of cultural rituals which, along with grass roots community organizing and alternative media production, are valuable resources through which oppressed populations can construct narratives of self- affirmation, solidarity and resistance. [This paper will be presented with a Power Point photo presentation from my ongoing research, requiring the use of an LDC projector.] 63 Marcia Tanner, “Hispanic Art Risen From the Dead,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 11, 1992, Home p. 9 64 Thompson, op. cit, p. 350.

Authors: Marchi, Regina Miriam.
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19
times quietly inviting the public to reflect on the reality of oppressed populations, while at other
times actively urging concrete governmental action towards addressing socio-political causes of
death. In both cases, participants strive to open the consciousness of the public and stir it to
action on behalf of those members in society who are victimized, discarded and forgotten.
Operating within a moral economy, these Day of the Dead activities employ what Thompson
called “a plebeian discourse, almost beneath the level of articulacy, appealing to solidarities so
deeply assumed that they [are] almost nameless.”
64
While traditions are modified in accordance with the historical conditions of participants,
we can see that from the initial arrival of Europeans in Latin America to the more recent
experiences of Latinos living in the United States, Day of the Dead has provided its practitioners
with opportunities for solace and expression amidst the often unjust realities of a globalizing
world. The holiday provides a useful case study on the political potential of cultural rituals
which, along with grass roots community organizing and alternative media production, are
valuable resources through which oppressed populations can construct narratives of self-
affirmation, solidarity and resistance.
[This paper will be presented with a Power Point photo presentation from my ongoing
research, requiring the use of an LDC projector.]
63
Marcia Tanner, “Hispanic Art Risen From the Dead,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 11, 1992, Home p. 9
64
Thompson, op. cit, p. 350.


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