OPINION: Cultural appropriation hits Dia De Los Muertos

By Maria Marroquin

While strolling through downtown Los Angeles on Halloween night, I realized the hypocrisy of people toward Latin American culture; They want our traditions but not us.

People dress like charros, a traditional horseman from Mexico, and paint their faces like sugar skulls based on the Latin American tradition Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), yet they want closed borders because we are “criminals.”

Walter Romero, a Mexican American living in downtown Los Angeles, shared an experience he had during the HARD Day of the Dead rave last year. “I was wearing a sombrero de charro and my wife was wearing the typical flower crown of Dia de los Muertos and, out of nowhere, a couple asked me to lose the sombrero.”

Romero said he felt offended because these people, who were white, were wearing the typical Day of the Dead “costume” but they were offended by his attire, attire that he felt proud to wear because it’s part of his culture.

“They asked me to take it off and the guy even offered to fight me after insulting my wife and I, calling us all kinds of racial slurs. It was crazy, but that’s how it is in America, I guess,” said Romero.

Dia de los Muertos is a historical tradition from countries like Peru, Costa Rica and Guatemala, but it is more known and celebrated in Mexico.

It is a day in which we remember and honor the loved ones who are no longer here, a respected holiday. But during Halloween time in America, it is simply used as a means of entertainment.

Dressing up as La Muerte is about getting compliments and awards given out for best costume, even though it is not a costume. It is part of a tradition.

One can compare this to a white person wearing a Native American headdress when that person is not of Native American descent.

Racism is systemic, and using costumes from other cultures simply for amusement is offensive.

In our current political climate, it is interesting to have movies like “The Book of Life” and “Coco” be so popular and loved by the public.

Even the California lottery used Dia de los Muertos for its seasonal scratch-off tickets.

At the same time, however, a lot of conservative Americans do not want “their country” to be filled with more undocumented immigrants and even discriminate against people born here simply because they look different than what, in their mind, an American is.

An example of a good representation of the Mexican holiday is the show “Grey’s Anatomy,” that dedicated an entire episode to Dia de los Muertos.

The episode, called “Flowers Grow Out of My Grave,” is about all the doctors coming together and embracing the day for a little girl named Flor who needed surgery.

Despite this being considered an “American” show, they were able to actually grasp what the celebration is about and not make it into a super commercialized episode.

Dia de los Muertos is not Halloween. If people are going to “celebrate” it, they should do so in a respectful manner.

Our Latin American heritage, culture and traditions should be defended and respected, just like any other.

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