Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon

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Rutgers University Press, Jun 9, 2009 - Social Science - 216 pages
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Honoring relatives by tending graves, building altars, and cooking festive meals has been an honored tradition among Latin Americans for centuries. The tribute, "el Dia de los Muertos," has enjoyed renewed popularity since the 1970s when Latino activists and artists in the United States began expanding "Day of the Dead" north of the border with celebrations of performance art, Aztec danza, art exhibits, and other public expressions.

Focusing on the power of ritual to serve as a communication medium, Regina M. Marchi combines a mix of ethnography, historical research, oral history, and critical cultural analysis to explore the manifold and unexpected transformations that occur when the tradition is embraced by the mainstream. A testament to the complex nature of ethnic identity, Day of the Dead in the USA provides insight into the power of ritual to create community, transmit oppositional messages, and advance educational, political, and economic goals.

 

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Contents

Preface
ix
Acknowledgments
xi
A Transborder Communication Phenomenon
1
An Ancient and Modern Festival
9
Honoring the Dead
10
of the Dead in Europe and the Americas
11
Latin American Countries
15
Central America
16
Genocide and Repression
79
of Unity and Discord
81
Day of the Dead in the US Media
83
Widespread Media Attention
84
Reasons for Increased News Coverage
90
News Coverage as a Resource for
93
Publicity and Validation for
95
The Expanding Hybridity of an Already Hybrid Tradition
97

South America
17
Mexicos Special Relationship with Day of the Dead
21
Folk and Pop Culture Manifestations
22
Calavera Imagery
23
Day of the Dead and Mexican Nationalism
28
Government Campaigns and Tourism
29
Day of the Dead in the United States Mexican American All Saints Day and All Souls Day Rituals
34
A Chicano Tradition Is Born
37
Early Day of the Dead Exhibits and Events
47
California and Beyond Adopt the New Celebration
50
Negotiations over Ownership
52
Ritual Communication and Community Building
56
Imagined Community
58
Communitas
60
Claims for Public Recognition
64
US Day of the Dead as Political Communication A Moral Economy
70
Protesting Operation Gatekeeper
73
UFW and the Braceros
78
The American Way of Death
98
Filling an Emotional Void
101
New Participants New Directionsand Debates around Authenticity
106
The Commoditization of a Death Ritual
115
Marketplace Offerings
116
Exotic and Chic Cultural Capital
117
Day of the Dead as a TourismUrban Development Strategy
118
Longing for the Noncommercial Good Old Days of the Dead
120
A Long History Together
122
Commercialization versus Authenticity
131
What We Can Learn from US Day of the Dead Celebrations
137
Methodological Appendix
141
Notes
149
Glossary
167
References
171
Index
185
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About the author (2009)

Regina M. Marchi is an assistant professor of media studies and an affiliated professor of Latino studies at Rutgers University. A former journalist, Marchi is the author of numerous articles and a contributor to Religion, Media, and the Marketplace (Rutgers University Press).

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