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El Dia de los Muertos American-style: Communicating with the Living
Unformatted Document Text:  2 While the majority of academic research on this holiday has focused on its observance in Latin America, relatively little has been written about its celebration in the United States - and of this latter work, analyses have tended to concentrate more on issues of Latino identity than on political protest. Using insights from EP Thompson’s essay, “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” I will discuss how US Day of the Dead rituals frequently operate along a “moral economy” of social protest, encouraging moral reflection on issues of political importance and revealing dimensions of repression normally veiled by the dominant culture. Similar to the protests of the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina, politicized Day of the Dead rituals in the US allow what Michael Taussig calls “the tremendous moral and magical power of the unquiet dead to flow into the public sphere, empower individuals and challenge the would be guardians of the nation state.” 4 As we consider the theme of borderlands, the growth of Day of the Dead celebrations throughout the United States is a useful case study in how cultural practices communicate both within and across communities. Methodology After participating in Day of the Dead celebrations in San Francisco’s Mission district during the 1980s, I had the opportunity while living in Central America from 1990-1994 to see how the holiday was observed in urban and rural areas of Guatemala, El Salvador and the Chiapas and Oaxaca regions of Mexico. On returning to the US, I attended Day of the Dead events and exhibits in Washington DC, New York and Boston during the years 1995-1998. On moving to San Diego in 1999, I decided to make this celebration the subject of my dissertation 3 José Limón, “Western Marxism and Folklore,” Journal of American Folklore, vol. 96, no. 379, 1983, p. 42. 4 Michael Taussig, in Violence, Resistance and Survival in the Americas: Native Americans and the Legacy of Conquest, edited by William B. Taylor and Franklin Pease, p. 280.

Authors: Marchi, Regina Miriam.
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2
While the majority of academic research on this holiday has focused on its observance in Latin
America, relatively little has been written about its celebration in the United States - and of this
latter work, analyses have tended to concentrate more on issues of Latino identity than on
political protest. Using insights from EP Thompson’s essay, “The Moral Economy of the
English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” I will discuss how US Day of the Dead rituals
frequently operate along a “moral economy” of social protest, encouraging moral reflection on
issues of political importance and revealing dimensions of repression normally veiled by the
dominant culture. Similar to the protests of the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina,
politicized Day of the Dead rituals in the US allow what Michael Taussig calls “the tremendous
moral and magical power of the unquiet dead to flow into the public sphere, empower individuals
and challenge the would be guardians of the nation state.”
4
As we consider the theme of
borderlands, the growth of Day of the Dead celebrations throughout the United States is a useful
case study in how cultural practices communicate both within and across communities.
Methodology
After participating in Day of the Dead celebrations in San Francisco’s Mission district
during the 1980s, I had the opportunity while living in Central America from 1990-1994 to see
how the holiday was observed in urban and rural areas of Guatemala, El Salvador and the
Chiapas and Oaxaca regions of Mexico. On returning to the US, I attended Day of the Dead
events and exhibits in Washington DC, New York and Boston during the years 1995-1998. On
moving to San Diego in 1999, I decided to make this celebration the subject of my dissertation
3
José Limón, “Western Marxism and Folklore,” Journal of American Folklore, vol. 96, no. 379, 1983, p. 42.
4
Michael Taussig, in Violence, Resistance and Survival in the Americas: Native Americans and the Legacy of
Conquest, edited by William B. Taylor and Franklin Pease, p. 280.


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