Once again, I’m side-eyeing all you white people.
I really don’t think most outside the Latino culture understand what this day is about. It’s not a holiday like 4th of July or Christmas (and even that’s problematic, but the message has surely been change by many hands stirring the pot over the years, but for the sake of this argument, I’m talking about it in a purely Western manner of celebrating it). You don’t get to play around and get drunk and be overly self-indulgent.
I understand the fascination and that’s not the problem. I can even sort of see why some believe it to be a blowout celebration. Sugar skulls are fun. Eating pan de muerto is fun. The colorful flowers are fun. The art is fun. It all looks very fun, and don’t get me wrong, it surely is! But this is also a very important, serious day.
Let me get to my point. Some of my friends made a joke altar today. This make me furious for several reasons. The first being is what the tradition represents for Mexico as a country. This holiday is a relic from the Aztec days and is one of the many the very clever, yet conquered, native people of Latin America managed to preserve long after the European invasion. The Aztecs dolled up the idea to those trying to impose Catholicism on them, making their conquerers believe they were so infatuated with this new religion that they were creating their own ways to celebrate it. Much of these celebrations shape what Mexican culture is today. It’s not a day to be drunk and silly.
The second is that this two-day event takes place in remembrance of actual death, not the image of death. Altars are meant to honor real people who have died, particularly family members. The sugar skulls and portraits symbolize the new journey of a person’s soul after death. These are not Halloween skeletons. So I and much of my people are using this day to mourn, celebrate and contemplate the various stages of life of all those who have died. It is a day of reflection. Making an altar with silly Internet memes and pornographic images is not only in poor taste, but it’s highly disrespectful to me and those being honored.
See, THIS is my problem with cultural appropriation. It’s not that people enjoy certain aspects of a culture. If you like sugar skulls, great. I get it. And I might have to bite my tongue very hard when you get tattoos of them if you’re not Mexican or if you have clothes with those images on them, but I understand. My culture is beautiful. I get why you like it. The thing that bothers me is when people not only steal from my culture but manhandle it to fit their lifestyle. It’s when people see something amazing and use it as a way to have fun without understanding the implications of what they are doing. It’s taking it at face value and prancing around however you please, even mocking it because you want to have a good time.
If you’re going to appropriate my culture, at least have a little decency. Our heritage is not a joke and it’s certainly not your playground.
Thanks. Feliz día de los muertos.
All you “MUAs” who do Sugar Skull faces for funsies should read this.