Mexican holiday Día De Los Muertos ended on November 1st with celebrations across Latin America and the U.S. Here’s Ayanna Martinez with the story of how the holiday has evolved and spread in mainstream media
Día de los Muertos concluded its celebrations this past Tuesday, but its impact lasts well beyond its traditional three days. With growing prominence in mainstream media, the Mexican holiday has crossed cultural barriers here in the U.S.
But how has the holiday evolved in recent years, and what does it mean to younger generations of Mexican-Americans today?
USC alumna and Afro-Mexicana dr. Natalie Hart remembers celebrating Dia de Muertos with her grandparents and mother. She says that the holiday serves as an important bridge between generations past, present and future.
HART: As long as your ancestors’ names are spoken, they are never forgotten. You never forget where you come from, and you never forget who opened the door and laid the foundation for you to be where you are today. That will be passed down to my future children and their future children. I think being introduced to the history hopefully will spark that innovation light in folks’ minds and the curiosity to want to learn more.
One way that people are being introduced to Dia de Los Muertos is through mainstream media. For recent Cal state Fullerton graduate Daniela “Dani” Paz, the 2017 Disney Pixar movie ‘Coco’ does a great job in teaching about the holiday beyond the decorations.
PAZ: It’s so colorful, and it looks, so festive, but at the same time, there’s a lot of meaning behind it that a lot of people don’t know about, and I think that with movies like ‘Coco,’ they did a really good job of just actually describing and narrating what is the meaning behind Dia de Muertos, and I think that it’s nice that other people that maybe may not have been interested in learning about it, are learning about it because of these movies and mainstream media.
‘Coco’ is not the only film that has left an impact. Dr. David Zarazua, a professor of Spanish at USC, recalls seeing how the celebrations of Dia de Los Muertos have changed in Mexico following the 2015 James Bond film ‘Spectre’.
Dr. Zarazua: The main character goes to Mexico city, and in the middle of a Dia de los Muertos parade, he chases the bad guy. I have never recall in Mexico seeing a parade like that, and I started doing a little bit of research on that, and that was the case. The whole parade in the movie was made up. It was part of the fictional world in the James Bond movie. What’s interesting to me is the impact that movie had because a couple of years after the movie was released, the city of Mexico, Mexico City started to have a parade similar to the one that was shown in the movie.
For Abelardo De La Peña Jr.,the director of marketing and communications at the La Plaza de Cultura Y Artes in l.A., the growing popularity of Dia De Los Muertos in mainstream media has been subjected to appropriation in recent years, but he is hopeful that its prominence would open doors for conversation and connection.
DE LA PENA: There are some organizations that might just take advantage of the fact that they can connect with the celebrations to push product. But at the same time, if it just causes a person who might not be familiar with Dia de los Muertos to actually look into the culture, they might get something from it and start respecting it more, and maybe change their attitude about Mexican culture and even their own mortality and the fact that as Mexicanos, we don’t see death as a finality, but as another passageway.
While Dia De Los Muertos may be over for the year, two things that remain evergreen are the value of culture and the power of tradition.
For Annenberg media, I’m Ayanna Martinez