Religion, Media, and the Marketplace

By Lynn Schofield Clark | Go to book overview

11

Day of the Dead as a
New U.S. Holiday:
Ritual, Media, and Material Culture
in the Quest for Connection

REGINA M. MARCHI

The final chapter in this section, and, indeed, in this volume, brings us full circle
in the exploration of religion as a global, commercial, ideological, lived, and
ever-changing phenomenon. Originally a family ritual celebrated in cemeteries
in Mexico and other communities in Latin America and the American
Southwest, Day of the Dead became a new U.S. holiday when Chicano activists
saw in it a way to celebrate Latino culture and, thus, circulated its practices in
art galleries, community centers, and other locations where Latinos lived and
congregated. It has gained popularity beyond the Latino community in part,
Regina Marchi argues, because there are few such opportunities in Western cul-
ture in which individuals can publicly contemplate death and commemorate
those who have come and gone before us.

Because of Chicano activists' desire to create a politically and ethnically
positive communal event, most Day of the Dead organizers welcomed media
coverage and the further expansion of celebration activities into schools, cul-
tural centers, and other activist locations. Media publicity spurred an increased
interest in the celebration, fueling heightened production of Day of the Dead-
related products and a commodification of the tradition in ways that could not
have been anticipated. Subsequently, participation in Day of the Dead activities
has, for some, become a chic activity that may be a way to participate in a form
of religious or cultural lifestyle branding. For others, however, participation

-280-

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