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El Dia de los Muertos American-style: Communicating with the Living
Unformatted Document Text:  3 research and each year since autumn of 1999, I have attended dozens of Day of the Dead processions, vigils, altar and art exhibits, film screenings, community altar-making ceremonies and other events in San Diego, Los Angeles and Tijuana, Mexico. In 2002, I also made a trip to San Francisco to observe numerous altar exhibits and revisit the Mission district’s annual Day of the Dead procession. I have read much of the scholarly literature available on Day of the Dead celebrations both in Latin America and the US, and reviewed newspaper articles and websites published over the past 5-10 years about Day of the Dead activities across the United States. My theoretical reflections for this paper are based on interdisciplinary readings from the fields of communication, cultural studies, anthropology, folklore and history; interviews I have conducted with Day of the Dead participants both in the US and Latin America 5 ; and my personal observations of Day of the Dead activities in the United States, Mexico and Central America. Differences Between Latin American and US Celebrations: In many Latin American countries, the “Days of the Dead” 6 are observed on November 1 st and 2 nd , the dates of the Roman Catholic celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. A syncretic mixture of Catholic beliefs and indigenous practices of honoring ancestors, the two days are considered as one holiday throughout Latin America. 7 Rituals are celebrated in diverse ways from country to country and from region to region within countries. Key practices of the holiday include such activities as preparing special foods and/or drink for the spirits traditionally 5 I have interviewed people from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Ecuador concerning the various ways in which Day of the Dead is observed in these countries. 6 Throughout Latin America, November 1 and November 2 are described by a variety of names including El Dia de Todos Santos (All Saints’); El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead); El Dia de los Difuntos (Day of the Departed); El Dia de los Fieles Difuntos, (Day of the Faithful Departed) and El Dia de las Animas Benditas (Day of the Blessed Souls). In this paper, I refer to this holiday by the most commonly used English expression for it. 7 J. Milne, Fiesta Time in Latin America, p. 162 and personal observation.

Authors: Marchi, Regina Miriam.
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3
research and each year since autumn of 1999, I have attended dozens of Day of the Dead
processions, vigils, altar and art exhibits, film screenings, community altar-making ceremonies
and other events in San Diego, Los Angeles and Tijuana, Mexico. In 2002, I also made a trip to
San Francisco to observe numerous altar exhibits and revisit the Mission district’s annual Day of
the Dead procession. I have read much of the scholarly literature available on Day of the Dead
celebrations both in Latin America and the US, and reviewed newspaper articles and websites
published over the past 5-10 years about Day of the Dead activities across the United States. My
theoretical reflections for this paper are based on interdisciplinary readings from the fields of
communication, cultural studies, anthropology, folklore and history; interviews I have conducted
with Day of the Dead participants both in the US and Latin America
5
;
and my personal
observations of Day of the Dead activities in the United States, Mexico and Central America.
Differences Between Latin American and US Celebrations:
In many Latin American countries, the “Days of the Dead”
6
are observed on November
1
st
and 2
nd
, the dates of the Roman Catholic celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. A
syncretic mixture of Catholic beliefs and indigenous practices of honoring ancestors, the two
days are considered as one holiday throughout Latin America.
7
Rituals are celebrated in diverse
ways from country to country and from region to region within countries. Key practices of the
holiday include such activities as preparing special foods and/or drink for the spirits traditionally
5
I have interviewed people from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Ecuador concerning the
various ways in which Day of the Dead is observed in these countries.
6
Throughout Latin America, November 1 and November 2 are described by a variety of names including El Dia de
Todos Santos (All Saints’); El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead); El Dia de los Difuntos (Day of the Departed);
El Dia de los Fieles Difuntos, (Day of the Faithful Departed) and El Dia de las Animas Benditas (Day of the Blessed
Souls). In this paper, I refer to this holiday by the most commonly used English expression for it.
7
J. Milne, Fiesta Time in Latin America, p. 162 and personal observation.


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