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Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead An important contributor to social cohesion and cultural diversity

By Alejandra Guzmán

Click aqui para español- > Celebración del Día de los Muertos

There is growing interest and recognition for the importance of cultural and creative industries that drive sustainable development and inclusive job opportunities.

At an international level, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published guidelines and research to support the economic contribution of cultural industries.

The UNESCO reports demonstrate that knowledge-based economies are supported in creativity and talent and emphasize cultural industries as a conceptual framework for growth generators. A clear example of this is how software design and technology blend creativity to thrive.

Authors like Richard Florida, through his book The Rise of The Creative Class, make the connection between thriving economies (some based on tech) and distinctive creative elements present in a given city, such as a booming music scene.

In addition, the industries bolstered by cultural and creative economies are potentially an important contributor to social cohesion and nation-building through the promotion of intercultural dialogue, education, and collaboration.

My favorite example of this is the Mexican holiday known as the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). During this holiday, families pay homage to their deceased friends and relatives. They welcome their souls with a reunion through a celebration including the favorite food, drinks and memories of the deceased. This holiday is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, and the belief is that a portal between the spiritual world and the physical world opens at this time. The souls of the dead return to the living world to feast, drink, dance and play music with their loved ones.

To honor this tradition, different communities in the United States organize festivities and invite the community at large to celebrate. In New Orleans, there are various organizations that are honoring the tradition. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana has organized the Día de Los Muertos Festival on November 3rd, a day where New Orleans families will be able to enjoy local music, food, crafts, a costume competition, and the opportunity to bring offerings to an altar.

This celebration brings me back to my upbringing in Mexico. Every November, I contributed to my school’s altar and honored my ancestors by bringing pictures of my deceased family members and decorating with papel picado (pinched paper). The papel picado refers to decorative cut paper used throughout Mexico for all holidays and fiestas. During Día de los Muertos celebrations, this decorative paper is placed around the altar’s edges to add color.

We also enjoy the traditional pan de muertos (bread of the dead), which is one of the holiday’s most popular foods. The bread is often placed on the altar, but it can be enjoyed at any time with coffee or hot chocolate!

There are many other holiday symbols such as sugar skulls, the cempasúchil flower, and the literary version of calaveritas (little skulls). The calaveritas are traditional verse compositions written for the holiday in Mexico, and it is one of my favorite rituals. They are a compilation of satirical stories that poke fun at people in a way that suggests they are dead even though they are still alive. It is common to find calaveritas in the Mexican newspapers and magazines making fun of celebrities and political figures.

It is great to be able to enjoy the tradition of other cultures in the United States and to have these types of festivals that promote cultural diversity, inspiration for creativity, an educational opportunity for all, and social cohesion through healthy dialogue and family fun. I believe these elements are necessary for communities to thrive.

I am so proud of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana for organizing the Day of the Death Festival! 

Find more about this and other events via www.hccl.biz.

Until next time!

“During Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, families pay homage to their deceased friends and relatives”

Photo Casa Borrega

Dia De los Muertos Painting by Marcella Escarfuller

Alejandra Guzman

Writer/Escritora 

Economic Development/Desarrollo Economico

@aleguzman

Mexico

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