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El Dia de los Muertos American-style: Communicating with the Living
Unformatted Document Text:  4 believed to visit earth on these dates; adorning family grave sites; creating home altars in honor of the departed; holding candlelit cemetery vigils and attending mass. 8 According to American folklorists, the earliest Day of the Dead observances in the United States can be traced to Texas and other parts of the American Southwest where, since long before these areas were annexed by the United States, residents of Mexican heritage have faithfully visited local cemeteries on November 1 st and 2 nd to clean and decorate family gravesites. 9 In the 1970s, when Day of the Dead in Mexico experienced heightened popularity as a tourist attraction and symbol of Mexican national identity, 10 Chicano activists in California began to organize public Day of the Dead processions and altar exhibits in the US as a way to celebrate Mexican-American heritage. 11 Until the early 1990s, the holiday was rarely celebrated in the US outside of California and the Southwest, yet due to the large-scale migration of Latin Americans both to and within the United States over the past 15-20 years, Day of the Dead has increasingly been celebrated across the country - not only in major urban areas such as Chicago, New York or Washington DC, but in areas with historically little or no Latino presence such as Omaha, Nebraska; Columbus, Ohio; Boulder, Colorado; Kansas City; Milwaukee, and Atlanta. 12 8 Although the holiday is most elaborately celebrated in regions of Latin America with large indigenous populations such as Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador or the Oaxaca and Chiapas states of Mexico, it is also observed in countries with relatively little indigenous presence such as Argentina and El Salvador. 9 See John O. West, Mexican-American Folklore, p. 152; Kay Turner and Pat Jasper, “Day of the Dead: The Tex- Mex Tradition” in Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life, ed. Jack Santino, p. 133; Lynn Gosnell and Suzanne Gott, “San Fernando Cemetery: Decorations of Love and Loss in a Mexican-American Community,” in Cemeteries and Gravemarkers, ed. Richard E. Meyer, p. 220. 10 Stanley Brandes, Power and Persuasion, p. 88; Turner and Jasper, Ibid., p. 133. 11 Suzanne Shumate Morrison, Mexico’s ‘Day of the Dead’ in San Francisco, California: A Study of Continuity and Change in a Popular Religious Festival, unpublished doctoral thesis, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California, 1992 pp. 33; 222; 344; and personal discussions I have had with early event organizers. 12 According to newspapers articles I have collected about Day of the Dead activities in these and many other areas.

Authors: Marchi, Regina Miriam.
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4
believed to visit earth on these dates; adorning family grave sites; creating home altars in honor
of the departed; holding candlelit cemetery vigils and attending mass.
8
According to American
folklorists, the earliest Day of the Dead observances in the United States can be traced to Texas
and other parts of the American Southwest where, since long before these areas were annexed by
the United States, residents of Mexican heritage have faithfully visited local cemeteries on
November 1
st
and 2
nd
to clean and decorate family gravesites.
9
In the 1970s, when Day of the
Dead in Mexico experienced heightened popularity as a tourist attraction and symbol of Mexican
national identity,
10
Chicano activists in California began to organize public Day of the Dead
processions and altar exhibits in the US as a way to celebrate Mexican-American heritage.
11
Until the early 1990s, the holiday was rarely celebrated in the US outside of California and the
Southwest, yet due to the large-scale migration of Latin Americans both to and within the United
States over the past 15-20 years, Day of the Dead has increasingly been celebrated across the
country - not only in major urban areas such as Chicago, New York or Washington DC, but in
areas with historically little or no Latino presence such as Omaha, Nebraska; Columbus, Ohio;
Boulder, Colorado; Kansas City; Milwaukee, and Atlanta.
12
8
Although the holiday is most elaborately celebrated in regions of Latin America with large indigenous populations
such as Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador or the Oaxaca and Chiapas states of Mexico, it is also observed in
countries with relatively little indigenous presence such as Argentina and El Salvador.
9
See John O. West, Mexican-American Folklore, p. 152; Kay Turner and Pat Jasper, “Day of the Dead: The Tex-
Mex Tradition” in Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life, ed. Jack Santino, p. 133; Lynn Gosnell and
Suzanne Gott, “San Fernando Cemetery: Decorations of Love and Loss in a Mexican-American Community,” in
Cemeteries and Gravemarkers, ed. Richard E. Meyer, p. 220.
10
Stanley Brandes, Power and Persuasion, p. 88; Turner and Jasper, Ibid., p. 133.
11
Suzanne Shumate Morrison, Mexico’s ‘Day of the Dead’ in San Francisco, California: A Study of Continuity and
Change in a Popular Religious Festival, unpublished doctoral thesis, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley,
California, 1992 pp. 33; 222; 344; and personal discussions I have had with early event organizers.
12
According to newspapers articles I have collected about Day of the Dead activities in these and many other areas.


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