Day of the Dead, which started Tuesday and ends Thursday, is a Mexican holiday for which family and friends gather to pray for, remember and support the spiritual journeys of their deceased loved ones. The day is a public holiday in Mexico, and some celebrate by building altars to honor the deceased, enjoying the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting their graves with gifts.
“Dia de Los Muertos for me is part of my culture that I was denied as a result of my family being forced to assimilate into the broader culture of the United States,” said Angela Mock, a junior political science major.
Daniel Cairo, the director of student diversity and inclusion, said he feels the holiday is often culturally appropriated in the United States.
“We’re living in a moment where we see the Day of the Dead plastered everywhere,” he said. “It’s been commercialized to the point where I think we’re missing the meaning.”
Destina Bermejo, a junior custom major from Mexico, agreed.
“One thing that bothers me in the United States is there is a lot of appropriation on [Day of the Dead] commercialization just because it’s really cool and unique,” she said.
To combat this, people looking to celebrate the holiday should recognize its origins and purpose, Cairo said.
“Mexicans don’t own loving the dead, but we do it in a way that’s really culturally specific to us,” Cairo said. “I think it’s okay if people celebrate the Day of the Dead if they are remembering their loved ones, if they do it in the spirit of the holiday.”
Most at Westminster’s celebration said they thought the event was a good way for people who are part of the culture to celebrate and for others to learn more about Day of the Dead.
“Creating a space for Latinx students particularly is really important because it’s not very often on this campus in particular that stuff like this happens for us,” Mock said.
Though many of those students said they feel Day of the Dead has been appropriated and commercialized, they still try to remember the purpose of the holiday.
“So we don’t forget them,” Bermejo said. “That’s what this holiday’s about — to just acknowledge our loved ones.”