Dear White People (or should I say Queridos Gringos/Gabachos),Let me respond to this by quoting my favorite advice to all human beings in all peaceful circumstances: stop worrying what other people do.
Let me begin by saying it is completely natural that you would find yourself attracted to The Day of The Dead. This indigenous holiday from Mexico celebrates the loving connection between the living and our departed loved ones that is so deeply missing in Western culture. Who wouldn’t feel moved by intricately and lovingly built altars, beautifully painted skull faces, waterfalls of marigold flowers, fragrant sweet breads and delicious meals for those whom we miss sharing our earthly lives. I understand. . . .
Like the Pilgrims, you have begun to take over, to gentrify and colonize this holiday for yourselves. I was shocked this year to find Day of the Dead events in my native Oakland Bay Area not only that were not organized by Chicanas or Mexicanas or Latinas, but events with zero Latina artists participating, involved, consulted, paid, recognized, acknowledged, prayed with.
Certain announcements of some of this year’s celebrations conjured visions of hipsters drinking special holiday microbrews and listening to live music by white bands and eating white food in calavera facepaint and broken trails of marigolds. Don’t bother to build an altar because your celebration is an altar of death, a ceremony of killing culture by appropriation. Do you really not know how to sit at the table? To say thank you? To be a gracious guest?
How can it possibly make any difference to you whether hipsters in Oakland want to celebrate the Day of the Dead by drinking microbrews in face paint? How does that hurt you? What could possibly be more harmless to anyone?
I find this sort of grousing intensely frustrating. The Day of the Dead does not belong to anyone, any more than harvest festivals or fireworks or sledding in the snow or bike riding or choral singing or tennis belong to anyone. Celebrate it however you like. Or don't. And forget about everyone else.