Aya de Leon

author – activist – faculty – mom

Dear White People/Queridos Gringos: You Want Our Culture But You Don’t Want Us – Stop Colonizing The Day Of The Dead

IMG_9297Dear White People (or should I say Queridos Gringos/Gabachos),

Let me begin by saying it is completely natural that you would find yourself attracted to The Day of The Dead. This indigenous holiday from Mexico celebrates the loving connection between the living and our departed loved ones that is so deeply missing in Western culture. Who wouldn’t feel moved by intricately and lovingly built altars, beautifully painted skull faces, waterfalls of marigold flowers, fragrant sweet breads and delicious meals for those whom we miss sharing our earthly lives. I understand. Many cultures from around the world celebrate these things, and many of them at this time of year. As a woman whose Latin@ heritage is Puerto Rican, I have grown up in California, seeing this ritual all my life and feeling the ancestral kinship to this reverent, prayerful honoring of the departed.

Let me continue by saying that it is completely natural that you would want to participate in celebrating The Day of The Dead. You, like all human beings, have lineage, ancestors, departed family members. You have skulls under the skin of your own faces, bones beneath your flesh. Like all mortals, you seek ways to understand death, to befriend it, and celebrate it in the context of celebrating life and love.

I understand.

And in the tradition of indigenous peoples, Chican@ and Mexican-American communities have not told you not to come, not to join, not to celebrate your dead alongside them. In the tradition of indigenous peoples and of ceremony, you, in your own grief and missing your loved ones have not been turned away. You arrived at the Dia De Los Muertos ceremony shipwrecked, a refugee from a culture that suppresses grief, hides death, banishes it, celebrates it only in the most morbid ways—horror movies, violent television—death is dehumanized, without loving connection, without ceremony. You arrived at El Dia De Los Muertos like a Pilgrim, starving, unequal to survival in the land of grief, and the indigenous ceremonies fed you and took you in and revived you and made a place for you at the table.

And what have you done?

Like the Pilgrims, you have begun to take over, to gentrify and colonize this holiday for yourselves. I was shocked this year to find Day of the Dead events in my native Oakland Bay Area not only that were not organized by Chican@s or Mexican@s or Latin@s, but events with zero Latin@ artists participating, involved, consulted, paid, recognized, acknowledged, prayed with.

Certain announcements of some of this year’s celebrations conjured visions of hipsters drinking special holiday microbrews and listening to live music by white bands and eating white food in calavera facepaint and broken trails of marigolds. Don’t bother to build an altar because your celebration is an altar of death, a ceremony of killing culture by appropriation. Do you really not know how to sit at the table? To say thank you? To be a gracious guest?

This year, as midterm elections near and “immigration reform” gets bandied about on the lips of politicians, urban young white voters will wear skull faces and watch puppets with dancing skeleton bones, and party and drink and celebrate. But those same revelers will not think for a single second of deaths of Latin@s trying to cross a militarized border to escape from the deaths caused by NAFTA and CAFTA and US foreign policy and drug policies and dirty wars in Mexico and Central America. Amidst the celebration, there will be no thought for femicide in Juarez, for murdered and missing Indigenous women in North America. As they drink and dance in white-organized and dominated Dia De Los Muertos celebrations without a thought for us, except perhaps the cleaning or custodial staff that will clean up after them, we Latin@s learn what we learned in 1492 about the invaders: you want the golden treasures of our culture, but you don’t want us. Since then, white people have shown that they don’t value indigenous life, but are fascinated by indigenous spirituality.

Not all white people feel this way. Thank you to those of you who speak up against this. Thank you to all who boycott these events, support Latin@/Chican@/Mexican@-led events, hire our community’s artists, and hold the tradition with reverence. For those of you who haven’t been doing so, it’s not too late to start. Challenge white people who attempt to appropriate. Boycott their events and be noisy about it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to participate in this deeply human holiday, there’s something wrong with wanting to colonize.

And the urge to colonization is born when your own land and resources have been taken over by the greedy and your cultures have been bankrupted. Halloween has a rich history as an indigenous European holiday that celebrated many of the same themes as Day of the Dead, but you have let it be taken over by Wal-Mart. Now it’s about plastic decorations and cheap polyester costumes and young women having permission to wear sexy clothes without being slut-shamed and kids bingeing on candy. November first finds piles of plastic and synthetic junk headed to the landfill to litter the earth. You have abandoned Halloween, left it laying in the street like a trampled fright wig from the dollar store. Take back your holiday. Take back your own indigenous culture. Fight to reclaim your own spirituality.

Please. Stop colonizing ours.


1,825 comments on “Dear White People/Queridos Gringos: You Want Our Culture But You Don’t Want Us – Stop Colonizing The Day Of The Dead

  1. Jotoro Cujo
    July 30, 2018

    We are not gringos you beaner,spick ,wetback,bitch,cunt,hoe,whore,sjw,social justice warrior,libtard ,antifa,commie ,idiot,latrino,illegal,demorat,hispancunt ,borderhopper .we created Halloween on October thirty first three thousand plus years ago in Ireland and northern Ireland by Druids …Celtic pagan priests ,whites created Halloween first in the first place to begin with not you latrinos who are last ethnicity on the planet earth to live o the planet earth five hundred years plus years ago ,whites never stole your culture ,your traditions or your customs from and used with your consent when were not yours to begin with in the first place.it is not cultural appropriation in the first place to begin with…there were no other holidays like Halloween before Halloween three thousand plus years ago and after three thousand plus years ago Halloween is not yours to begin with in the first place . We are Aryans ,we are not committing cultural appropriation you are ..you have culture,no tradition,no customs,no civilization,no society,no lands to call home other then you borderhopping and invading the United States and Mexican border like an invasive species and a parasite ..you are all parasites and an invasive species not human .making you are making over ten children and screwing each other without protection including condoms and …getting pregnant over ten times and living on welfare to suck and work the system dry .

    • 5
      September 2, 2018

      I find myself drawn to observe Dia de los Muertos here as I live here in Arizona. I’ve spent years trying to connect to my cultures from broken fragments my people have abandoned, trying to understand. I appreciate your article. I appreciate you speaking to my people, reminding them to recover their own culture. This fool who left this comment, he is a lot like a lot of us. We’re twisted and contorted by cultureless whiteness. We’re raised to believe we are the default. We believe we are a mass, we are one. We are not. And as we realize this, as we lose this footing, we lash out like a spoiled child. You don’t need my apology, I have no guilt. But as a neighbor, as an American cousin, you have my embarrassment on behalf of my kin, and my wish that your holidays do not become erased as ours nearly have.

      • Jotoro Cujo
        February 2, 2019

        Iam not a fool Iam a truther you demorat beaner liker no Iam not .we are one ,we are a mass ,no whites are not only sellout degenerates are .no us whites are not contorted and twisted by cultureless whiteness which whites have a culture not Latrinos who have culture,no traditions,no customs,no place on earth to call home other then mexihellhole .we is whites are the default ..we us whites bodies are clays of the earth only your you latrinos bodies are cockroaches and locusts of destruction we us whites are the clays of the earth only not you latrinos . latrinos are the youngest ethnicity in the world .

    • bigmamamojo
      September 4, 2018

      I think you need to adjust your medication. Whatever you’re taking isn’t really working for you.

      • Jotoro Cujo
        February 2, 2019

        No they donot ,Iam feeling fine and Iam fine .you need to go kill yourself ,you need to be put in a concentration camp in a gas chamber to be gassed to be exterminated.it is working for me .you need to stop snooping and nosing around where it doesnot belong .

    • HelloWorld
      October 26, 2018

      Actually, when you research the origins of both Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, it is in fact that Dia de los Muertos originated during the Aztec time, one thousand years before Halloween was created. Therefore, Dia de los Muertos was created first, however, both holidays have completely different cultural significances. Instead of making racial slurs behind a keyboard to mask your own insecurities and ignorance, why don’t you pick up a book once in a while and gain some knowledge?

      • Jotoro Cujo
        February 2, 2019

        No I know about Halloween more then do .I donot have ignorance or insecurities like you .halloween was created two years before dia los did murte not one thousand years earlier Aztecs did not create dia los de murte before Halloween celts did three thousand years ago and two thousand years before Aztecs every existed .iam not masking anything you are .halloween was created first not dia los de murte which was created last .no I donot have to I know it .donot tell me what to do jewboy or dirty filthy Jew ,kike .I read more then you do then don’t you stop being a dirty filthy Jew ,Jewboy ,kike then ?,celts were first not Aztecs were last .I can do whatever I want when ever I want you dirty filthy Jew ,kike,Jewboy . You have proof or evidence to prove it.you should be in a concentration camp in the gas chamber to be gassed to be exterminated.why don’t go kill yourself ?,Aryans are superior then you dirty filthy Jews ,kikes ,Jewboys .why don’t stop snooping or nosing around with your big Jew nose where it doesnot belong ?,you donot tell me what to .

      • Jotoro Cujo
        February 2, 2019

        Iam not behind a keyboard you dirty filthy Jew,kike ,Jewboy stop nosing around with your big Jew nose and your antifa ,commie ,demorat ,SJW social justice idiocy warrior vile Jew sorcery and vile Jewry where it doesnot belong and shove it up your dirty filthy Jew ,kike ,Jewboy ass ,nice try dirty filthy Jew ,kike ,Jewboy ass.

      • Jotoro Cujo
        February 2, 2019

        Iam not using racial slurs Iam telling the truth which dirty,filthy Jews,kikes ,Jewboys cannot tell properly without being forced to .no I donot have to you I read everyday .you are a beaner lover .

  2. Drew Michaud
    September 16, 2018

    I’m in no way trying to offend anyone or disrespect the Holliday or the Mexican community and their culture.
    I have always admired the celebrations of day of the dead. I am white, but I am wondering if there’s anyway to respectfully celebrate this Holliday. I don’t want to “colonize” it or make it white. I just was wondering if there’s anyway I can respectfully celebrate Dia De Los Muertos.
    I’m sorry if I offended anyone.

  3. Mari
    October 26, 2018

    Thank you for your beautifully written post. Being white, but having grown up in and around Latin cultures (Panama, and south Texas), seeing the traction that the Day of the Dead has gained in predominantly white communities has unsettled me. The connection to honoring deceased loved ones does not exist in these displays, and they just feel wrong…because they are wrong.

    • alicenow
      October 26, 2018

      Mari, have you gone into all those people’s houses to check if they honor relatives or not? No, the displays are not wrong anymore than atheists celebrating Christmas is wrong. Do you despise Japanese who celebrate the trappings of Christmas without being Christian?

  4. Sierra
    October 27, 2018

    We can’t celebrate “your” holiday because we’re white? I live in San Diego. It’s impossible to avoid these events. What am I supposed to do, stay home for a week after Halloween? Or should I get out there and learn something about my neighbors and friends? I think the people you need to be angry at are the white people who DON’T want this celebrated in the U.S., and who want hispanics to “go back where you came from,” NOT the people who are accepting and open to learn more about another culture. Does this mean I have to stay home during Chinese New Year, too? I wouldn’t want to accidentally appropriate their culture by buying a pork bun at the park that day. Get off your high horse. There are bigger issues in this country for brown folks than the people who are actually trying to be on your side. It is absolutely racist to say that people of any color can’t participate in something due to their color. These events you are complaining about are attempts at support and solidarity for a group who make up an enormous part of our own American culture. If you want to see more events organized by Mexican-Americans, then be the change you want to see in the world. Until then, stop antagonizing the people who are enthusiastic about learning about your culture. The point of all cultural events celebrated in the U.S., is to gain acceptance by bringing people together through celebration and education. Dia de los Muertos is now just another ingredient in the melting pot, just like many holidays before it.

    • alicenow
      October 27, 2018

      Thank you, Sierra

    • Laura B.
      October 30, 2018

      She did NOT say we couldn’t celebrate because we’re white.

      She asked us IF we are white and intending on participating not to forget the history of the holiday, the people it came from, or the indigenous family we have tragically lost due to racism, persecution, and colonizalization, and especially not to forget the people who are still struggling because of those things.

      • alicenow
        September 14, 2019

        Really? Cuz it sure sounds like it. How can anyone in public know someone’s own private dealings? I have a skull purse like Dia de los Muertos and people have given me the eye. I don’t care. I like it AND I have a huge table set up in my dining room near the 31st with half Halloween and half Dia. I don’t just take one day and that is it. Anyway, St. Patrick’s Day was never a big holiday in Ireland, only religious. Now Dublin has a huge parade. Does it bother my Irish genes? No. You are free to partake or not.

  5. Victorya
    November 1, 2018

    The Spanish under rule of the Catholic church brought the tradition we celebrate today, to Mexico. All Hallows Eve, All Saints day, All souls day. Mexico took on what was forced onto them by Catholic rule and created a new beautiful tradition. It became a combination of what the Aztecs started 3000 years ago and the church’s saint and soul celebrations. The Aztecs actually celebrated in summer originally. It was the Spaniard invasion that birthed the version we have today. Culture and tradition should always be honored but it is up to us to do so. Nothing belongs only to one person or tribe, seperation is an illusion, a lie. We are all of one source. Many shades of brown are we. Our bodies are the clay of the earth only. The Source that powers your temple is the very same Source that powers theirs. Unless they are soulless ones. The best way to remove a problem is to be the solution. Don’t focus on the problem instead create, live, be, and teach, the solution. Only feed your energy towards things you wish to bring to life. Bless you my sister. And may your ancestors and loved ones surround you and lovingly accept your blessed ofrendas. 💧🍃 🌎 🔥

  6. Jack
    November 2, 2018

    Eh, it’s no big deal. People’s misunderstandings usually lead to more misunderstandings. I guess one has to hold onto whatever one can. My Mai and her grandmother were both born on this day. But to be honest the day doesn’t mean much to me, except perhaps a little curiosity is all. Her grandmother was supposedly a white witch. But really I wouldn’t take it too personally, because these supposed thoughts and arguments will really lead nowhere except to more arguments. If that’s what you really want. Pretty much everything is BS. But really isn’t every single day the day of the dead, in terms of Jesus Christ?

    • Normandie Kent
      September 14, 2019

      Jesus Christ has nothing to do with this. Christianity was forced onto the indigenous people in the Americas. Judaeism, Christianity and Islam was never meant for everyone, lest of all Indigenous people from other continents , Judaism was very localized and the origin story was only for a small group of Middle Eastern goat herders, and it spawned the worlds organized religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and most Native American people do not celebrate this foreign religion. DITD is an Indigenous spiritual and cultural tradition that practice ancestor worship!! This is a sacred spiritual practice, that will be commercialized, bastardized, sullied and it will be turned into a commodified and commercialized drinking party day like Cinco de Mayo or Saint Patricks Day. Ultimately destined to be made into a bland White American day that has been stripped of its origins, its Culture and spirituality for the culture-less “White American” appropriators and consumers. Anything that the colonizers can make a quick buck on! Even their own “Religious” holidays meant to be sacred have been prostituted into something perverted and disgustingly commercialized. In fact, noting is sacred to these European colonizers!!

      • Alex Andre
        September 14, 2019

        Welcome to the uSA madafaka

      • alicenow
        September 14, 2019

        Lol Normandie. it isn’t THAT bad. Actually many NAs are evangelical Christians or other type of Christian. I am sure you realize exchange of cultures happens everywhere, including Mexico where Halloween is popular. Guess you didn’t know most cultures had celebratory fests for death and ancestors. The Druids did and it became Halloween. Druids were British and Celtic, and there are many more Druids now in the US. Do be sure to check your hatred cuz you are oozing. How dare you use hateful words against “white Americans”. btw, I have no idea why you put that in quotes. Really, get help. You are obsessed with colonizers.

    • Alex Andre
      September 14, 2019

      Agreed. That’s American culture. Deal with it. Don’t even know why this chick is upset, she’s Boricua, we don’t even celebrate that holiday.

  7. depreciated
    November 15, 2018

    It’s a Mexican holiday, not a Hispanic holiday nor Latino holiday.

    I’m a white male born in the United States and you are a Puerto Rican also born in the United States.

    Neither one of us is Mexican, so using your logic, neither one of us should be celebrating this particular holiday.

  8. Virginia Powers
    December 13, 2018

    I am white and I want to first say thank you for this post..that is 100% sincere.
    What brought me to your post was that my husband and I have friends from El Salvador they are a beautiful couple. We have known Ricardo for a couple of years. His girlfriend came into the picture about six months ago. She is learning English and we have been basically teaching each other our languages. Okay promise I have a point just wanted to give a bit of the why behind my reason for reaching out.
    So, we have a decorative skull on our bookshelve and I didnt think much about it until today when we had them over. After they left I was for whatever reason thinking we dont know what it represents and then I was thinking that could be bad if it represents something that is offensive towards our friends or anyone at all. So I started to search and that is how Ianded on your post.
    I dont want to be offensive or disrespectful and would love to hear your input. And please I am not so sensitive that I cant handle a straightforward answer. Which after reading your post I feel confident this is where I will get a straightforward answer.
    Thank you so much for speaking up and speaking out. Our entire country has become a mess and lack sensitivity or better put sensitivity is misplaced and lack the need to understand anything anymore.
    Again thank you and Iook forward to being educated.

    • alicenow
      December 15, 2018

      Lol what a ridiculous post. Our “entire” country is a mess?? That is such an erroneous statement. But of course you yourself are part of the mess, since it’s the entire country, yes?

  9. Eric Johnson
    December 26, 2018

    First off, I don’t hate mexicans and I don’t celebrate day of the dead. What I truly dislike is the blatant disrespect and racism some mexicans have towards people that aren’t like them. It’s become the “norm” for mexicans to blatantly spew racist comments directly to other races in everyday non-confrontational situations.They think it’s a joke and usually do it when other mexicans are around. The fact is, the USA is still very “clicky” and people hang out in groups based on their race, identity or cultural status. My good friend is Mexican and he often conveys how he dislikes some mexicans because they throw fast food trash out the window or because they trash talk him because he’s more Americanized that some in his neighborhood. This blatant disrespect and bullying mainly in the US is not helping us win the battle against racism. Either you are a part of the solution or you are a part of the problem. Together we are strong, divided we are weak. One Love in Unity.

  10. Eric Johnson
    December 26, 2018

    Anyone in this thread that insults, someone or a certain race straight out, is the problem.

    • alicenow
      December 27, 2018

      Like the author of the article

  11. Stephanie P
    January 5, 2019

    Greetings Aya,
    Just adding my two cents…
    I’m a 56 year old white antique Jersey girl researching Dia de los Muertos. I’m now an Arizona resident, and it’s everywhere, so I thought I should at least understand it. Like most white East Coasters, at first I thought it was kinda creepy. Then a Mexican acquaintance told me you are honoring your dead ancestors with love and happiness, with bright colors, flowers, and families praying together. How beautiful! Wow, was I wrong! What a wonderful way to deal with death and grief. Of course I want to do that – but I don’t really know how. I need to learn more, and what better way to learn than from people from your culture? So some of us old white folk do want you and need you, tbh. I’m quite aware Dia de los Muertos is not my custom – no, so far from it – but I would like to participate. It is my sincere hope that that is not cultural appropriation. It’s cultural admiration. And lol, you are so right about Halloween being a Wal-Mart holiday! Now that’s creepy!

    • alicenow
      January 6, 2019

      Stephanie, you know what I think is creepy? A white person putting down their own culture. I know Hispanic folks who don’t like Dia de los Muertos cuz they think it’s creepy. If you regard Halloween as a Walmart holiday, you are remiss in your research. It is a very old Druid festival, despite its present trappings. Will you also put down Day of the Dead since it is readily being commercialized? So, quit sucking up, it’s ugly.

  12. Pingback: Le boom du paganisme – Pagan Boom – pourquoi les jeunes se tournent vers des religions non traditionnelles – OWDIN

  13. Concerned Citizen
    April 1, 2019

    Just found this article. It’s interesting. Now this cultural appropriation, does this take in to account, how the whole latino culture has appropriated Scottish Tartan and plaids with denim jeans as an official outfit. As a descendant of Scottish people I find this highly offensive and continue to ponder why no one of hispanic lineage, that seems so immersed in the defense of cultures, are not shouting from the mountains that their people need to stop this.

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This entry was posted on October 31, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

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Aya wins first place Independent Publisher Awards for UPTOWN THIEF, THE BOSS, THE ACCIDENTAL MISTRESS

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