Gary Francisco Keller Ph.D.

‘Day of the Dead’ represents a cultural rebirth

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Scholars note the tenacity of Latina/o culture in the United States. Our language, our families and neighborhoods, and our popular culture are strong when compared to other immigrants such as Irish, Italian, or Polish Americans.

Some claim this is because our numbers are replenished by new arrivals from México, Puerto Rico, Cuba, or Central America. This explanation relies on the proximity of Latino homelands to the U.S., but it neglects historical facts such as the annexation in 1848 from México of Aztlán and in 1898 of Puerto Rico, and the profound disturbios caused by American tactics in Central America.

Many of us come from stock that resided here before the Mayflower and who have survived occupation and oppression with grim determination. Our artists, writers and pensadores know this and have created a cultural calendar around our history and holidays.

That our culture is part of the national calendar is heartily apparent each fall: las fiestas patrias del 15-16 de septiembre, el Día de la Raza, los Días de los Muertos, the nine days of las posadas with their luminarias to guide the Three Wise Kings, our distinctive Navidad celebrations.

For artists and art organizations, The Day(s) of the Dead have assumed an importance that is unequaled even in Mexico. Art organizations have created annual talleres and ateliers around it and confidently count on media-attentive exhibitions that are culturally and economically successful. The annual Day of the Dead celebrations are a dependable boost to U.S. Latino artists and organizations, the likes of which does not really apply in México.

¡Qué viva el Día de los Muertos!

Gary Keller is Regents’ professor and director of the Hispanic Research Center at Arizona State University.

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