Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon
REGINA M MARCHI
“Regina Marchi has written the most historically and geographically comprehensive documentation of Día de los muertos. The second edition centers the voices of the Chicana/o/x artists and advocates who made this celebration into an international phenomenon and subsequently gained the attention of markets, museums, and the media.”
—Karen Mary Davalos, author of Chicana/o Remix: Art and Errata Since the Sixties Honoring relatives by tending graves, building altars, and cooking festive meals has been a major tradition among Latin Americans for centuries. The tribute, "El Día de los Muertos," has enjoyed renewed popularity since the 1970s when Latinx activists and artists in the United States began expanding "Day of the Dead" north of the border with celebrations of performance art, Aztec danza, art exhibits, and other public expressions.
Focusing on the power of public ritual to serve as a communication medium, this revised and updated edition combines a mix of ethnography, historical research, oral history, and critical cultural analysis to explore the manifold and unexpected transformations that occur when the tradition is embraced by the mainstream. A testament to the complex role of media and commercial forces in constructions of ethnic identity, Day of the Dead in the USA provides insight into the power of art and ritual to create community, transmit oppositional messages, and advance educational, political, and economic goals.
Today Chicano-style Day of the Dead events take place in all fifty states. This revised edition provides new information about:
• The increase in events across the US, incorporating media coverage and financial aspects,
• Recent political movements expressed in contemporary Day of the Dead celebrations, including #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo
• Greater media coverage and online presence of the celebration in blogs, websites, and streaming video
• Día de los Muertos themes and iconography in video games and films
• The proliferation of commercialized merchandise such as home goods, apparel, face paints and jewelry at big box and web retailers, and the widespread proliferation of calavera-themed decorations and costumes for Halloween
• 24 new full color illustrations.
REGINA MARCHI is a professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University—New Brunswick in New Jersey. She co-authored, with Lynn Schofield Clark, Young People and the Future of News, which won the 2018 Nancy Baym top book award from the Association of Internet Researchers and the 2018 James W. Carey Media Research Award.
Latinidad: Transnational Cultures in the United States
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Note on the Text
1. An Ancient and Modern Festival
2. Mexico’s Special Relationship with Day of the Dead
3. Day of the Dead in the United States
4. Ritual Communication and Community Building
5. US Day of the Dead as Political Communication: A Moral Economy
6. Day of the Dead in the US Media: The Celebration Goes Mainstream
7. Appeal, Influence and Ownership
8. The Commodification of Day of the Dead
Conclusion: What We Can Learn from US Day of the Dead Celebrations
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