Hilltop Views

Mexican holidays deserve respect rather than appropriation


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With Halloween coming to an end, a new holiday emerges to welcome the beginning of November. The colorful altar in Ragsdale might have thrown some signs that Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is coming up, which is an important holiday in Mexican culture.

Just to clear up any misconceptions, Dia De Los Muertos isn’t about mourning over passed loved ones and face painting. Yes, these aspects are part of the tradition and are part of what make it so well known, but it’s a lot more than that.

The famous Mexican tradition recognizes the circle of life and honors the dead by laying out their favorite foods, making altars, lighting candles, performing dances and dressing up as the dead themselves. For members of the Latino community, the tradition has meaning.

However, for others outside of the community, Dia De Los Muertos suddenly becomes an inspiration for a costume at a Halloween party. Perhaps, it becomes an excuse to throw a party. You might think a night of fun dressed as a pretty skeleton or dead mariachi member is contributing to the Mexican holiday, maybe even appreciating it.

Well, it isn’t.

There’s a name for situations like these; where cultural holidays or aspects become an excuse for costumes or parties, and it’s called cultural appropriation. Dressing up the way someone would at a Dia De Los Muertos celebration for a party that isn’t exercising the meaning of the tradition is appropriating, not appreciating. The same goes for a party that’s Dia De Los Muertos themed. It’s isn’t celebrating – it’s simply an excuse to get wasted.

For those who don’t identify with the Mexican community, keep in mind that holidays like Dia De Los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo belong to the Mexican culture. Members who celebrate these days might find certain costumes or unrelated festivities offensive, even if you aren’t trying to be. The point is that you’re mocking a culture for your own fun without considering the value that holiday has for the people who celebrate it.

There are ways to take part in these celebrations without being offensive. For instance, attending a Dia De Los Muertos festival is a great way to understand the culture and see what the day consists of.  As long as you don’t go dressed in a costume, then you’re fully appreciating, not appropriating. Surround yourself with people who know the tradition and celebrate with them. This doesn’t mean to grab your Mexican friends and party. It simply means to know that the people around you are part of the community and celebrating in a correct fashion.

In general, don’t be that person at a party who, one isn’t Mexican and two dresses like a sugar skull. It’s very easy for this holiday to become appropriated since it’s so close to Halloween, which is why we need to be aware of what makes it appropriation. If you don’t identify as Hispanic or any other nationality, for that matter then you shouldn’t be using holidays or aspects (like a sombrero, for instance) as an excuse for parties, fashion statements or costumes. It’s as simple as that.

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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University
Mexican holidays deserve respect rather than appropriation