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.

2,006 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. Suzanne Hunter
    September 15, 2020

    Since there is so much death in our country right now, I wanted to turn to Dias de los Muertos themes to decorate for the season. For some comfort, since I have lost people this year.
    My sensitive daughter was vehemently against it. We have no Mexican or Latino heritage.
    It’s clear from your article that it would cause more harm than comfort. But I think your resentment of outsiders celebrating indecently, thoughtfully, respectfully misses an opportunity for learning and understanding.

    • caffeinejones
      September 15, 2020

      Talk to your Mexican friends and see what they have to say. You would probably find them quite accepting. A better source than a Puerto Rican woman with an axe to grind.

    • Alice Now
      September 26, 2020

      Suzanne you have every right to celebrate it. The author isn’t Mexican anyway. I celebrate it every year and I’m not Mexican either

    • Cat
      October 25, 2020

      This writer is a FULL OF SHIT Puerto Rican who has ZERO ownership over a holiday that is not hers. IGNORE HER

    • Alicenow
      November 3, 2020

      The author is Puerto Rican not Mexican. She doesn’t speak for Mexicans so if you want to celebrate, it’s your right. Halloween is celebrated by Mexicans too, btw

  2. Jotoro Cujo
    September 24, 2020

    It is not racism it is facts.

  3. Jotoro Cujo
    September 25, 2020

    Iam not an ignorant racist piece of trash you leftard antifatard .Iam aryan because my ancestors came from northern Europe ,central Europe on the northern Eurasian plains of central Europe and northern Europe anyone from Iran are Iranians ,Persians ,Medians ,Elamites middle easterners,near easterners from the Middle East ,the near East in west Asia west of Mesopotamia descendants of middle eastern ,near eastern,Anatolian farmers not Aryans of northern Europe ,central Europe on the northern Eurasian plains who came from Germanics ,Nordics ,and are Nordics,Germanics by blood ,by geneticas,biology,hereditary, by race,by racial group ,by ethnicity ,by ethnic group ,by phenotype , by genotype, by culture, DNA ,by chromosomes, by genotype,by culture,by cultural group ,by .haplogroup , by genetic, biological, hereditary, chromosomal ,racial ,ethnic,cultural, phenotypical, genotypical .bloodlines it is not cultural appropriation or racial appropriation it is my culture ,my biological,cultural,genetic,chromosomal race brethren, my genetic,biological,cultural,phenotypical ,genotypical ,hereditary kin not their culture or race in the first place to begin with. Iam not claiming so I have proof ,evidence Iam an Aryan by blood ,by biology, by DNA ,by genes ,by genetics,by chromosomes, by phenotype,by genotype,by hereditary,by heritage, by race ,by racial group ,by ethnicity,by ethnic group, by culture ,by cultural group ,by haplogroup ,by genetic ,hereditary, biological ,chromosomal ,cultural ,ethnic, racial ,by blood type ,genotypical ,phenotypical ,heritage bloodlines .my Celtic ancestors created Halloween in Ireland three millennia ago many centuries and millennia before Mayans ,Aztecs,Toltecs and other American Indian Indios tribes and civilization ,appeared,stole it and apportioned which is technically, actually Samhain created by my Celtic ancestors not the Roman Catholic Church ,itself not American Indians Indios including Aztecs Mayans ,Toltecs ,other American Indian Indios tribes and civilizations themselves that appeared from ashes of olmecs who were appropriating it on purpose when it is appropriation by them when other cultures donot have their own their holy days to honor the dead when Aryans just only do .it was not apportioned by the Roman Catholic church itself by the third Rome the Roman Catholic Church made by the whore ,the harlot of Babylon herself representing Freemasonry and the Illuminati on the beast representing Satan the devil ,Mephistopheles, Lucifer the morning star, Baphomet the goat of Mendes himself worshipped by knight templars in the fourteen century ,with ten heads ten Germanic barbarian tribes from Germany who settled across the former western Roman Empire , seven horns representing seven hills surrounding around Rome ,the Vatican ,Jerusalem, the head of a lion represents the United Kingdom ,the body of a leopard representing Italy , paws of a bear representing Russia which the feet of the statue of king Nebuchadnezzer descendant of Shem the second the king of Babylon now Iraq the son of King Nebuchadneezer the first descendant of Shem the king of Babylon now Iraq in the Old Testament in the Bible and the Torah during ancient classical antiquity in Daniel’s dream the head of the statue is gold representing Assyria,Babylon ,Chaldea ,Akkadia now Iraq ,arms and the chest are silver ,representing Persia and Media now Iran legs are iron representing Rome and Byzantium now Greece and Italy ,the feet are a mix of iron and clay representing the new third Rome the Roman Catholic Church in the Vatican in Italy and Italy .I can open mouth my if want to ..Iam not willfully ignorant of other cultures .I donot have to learn about other cultures before I open my mouth I know more about other cultures and history Iam not willfully ignorant of other cultures you are .donot tell me what to do you should learn real history not pseudo history propaganda before you open your pie hole and show how much of a whiny ,butt hurt ,butt sore cry baby ,ninny ,pussy, wussy ,pansy you are .I can say whatever I want whenever I want to ..you are a leftard, Antifatard domestic terrorist piece of white trash ,trailer trash ,far left militant leftard antifatard commie sellout shill, puppet ,muppet ,pawn , hack ,bozo ,clown, stooge ,slave ,servant domestic terrorist along the rest of them who votes for those far left radical fringe extremist demorat treasonous traitors into office when elections come around on election day .want to cry?,Iam not a Nazi Iam a national socialist there is a difference between national socialists and nazis .nazi is a slur ,a an epithet against us national socialists used by you antifatards, leftards ,demorats who are nazis not us national socialists .it is not disgusting it is factual.it is proven not a claim .gringo does not mean white gringos can any race or skin color gringo means foreigner regardless of race or skin color in Spanish in many Latin American countries not white .I donot any have gringo blood in me anywhere Iam an Aryan not a gringo.it is nazi propaganda it is facts ..gringo is a slur ,an epithet against us foreigners by willfully ignorant, racist ,xenophobic latrinos .

    • Steve Tucker
      October 12, 2020

      Nazi is the shortened name of National Socialist in Germany. So, you are wrong to say Nazis are not the same as National Socialists…They are exactly the same thing.

      • Jotoro Cujo
        October 27, 2020

        nazi is not short for national socialist it is a slur , an epithet against us national socialists in Germany and aboard by antifatards and leftards .Iam right not wrong you are wrong to say that nazis and national socialists are the same when national socialists and nazis are the not same group or political party

    • CAT
      October 25, 2020

      You actually are a full blown white supremecist POS worse than the author.

      • Jotoro Cujo
        October 27, 2020

        Iam not a full blown white supremacist piece of shit Iam a decent individual and a white nationalist you are a piece of shit not and a carpet-munching Karen cunt ,bitch ,whore,slut,skank ,harlot, hoe who cannot dick and eats vagina because you are a member of the Ku Klux Karen .Iam not worse then the author you are

  4. Jotoro Cujo
    September 25, 2020

    go suck a dick for your gay lovers Tyrone ,big bubba ,Jose for money .

  5. Jotoro Cujo
    September 25, 2020

    Iam literate not barely literate you are Iam not barely literate and not an idiot you are .I know that you donot know that I can process it easily in a shorter time period what you written you are just as barely literate as those newly arrived fresh off the boat immigrants that just immigrated here recently and individuals with an IQ below eighty with a cognitive functioning of a little underage minor child that can take a long time to process what you written .

    • Alice Now
      September 26, 2020

      So laughable

  6. Jotoro Cujo
    September 26, 2020

    Iam not racist you are anti-white .

  7. Jotoro Cujo
    September 26, 2020

    I Donot wear a hood or a robe or have a good or a robe you demorats wear a hood and a robe because your political party started the Ku Klux Klan because you are a racist ,anti-white who hates blacks and them back on plantations for slavery while we saved ,freed, emancipated ,liberated blacks from plantations and slave masters because you lost the civil war in the mid eighteen sixties in the mid nineteenth century not us Republicans,conservatives we were a left winged anti-racist ,progressive political party until it changed for us who came more conservative and right-winged and demorats who came more left winged and anti-white your political party were a right winged racist political party cult in the nineteenth century and want .Iam not apart of the Ku Klux Klan or a member apart of ,affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan you are apart of and affiliated with the Ku Klux Karen with your man-hating typical neurotypical man-hating feminazi Karen, “I want to speak with your manger” haircut because you cannot get dick from a man because of your inadequacy and your typical neurotypical man-hating Karen feminazi attitude you are because your political party started because you lost the civil war in the mid eighteen sixties in the mid nineteen century .my English does not suck my English is perfect it is not troglodyte ,cavemen ,neanderthal,Homo Heidelbergensis it is perfect English who are not earliest of my ancestors who never came out of Africa who were not earliest of my ancestors or my ancestors at all who only just came from Mount Olympus on Altantis from only just Altanteans they are your just only ancestors who were apes and fish .my life is not sad yours is because you cannot get dick from a man because you are a Karen with your Karen feminazi ,”I want to speak to your manger haircut”and typical neurotypical Karen man-hating feminazi attitude and inadequacy .we are the people’s party ,the party of the people ,by the people and of the people we are still more progressive, anti-racist then your and party ever were .it is an Aryan technology you are using technically, actually us Aryans invented ,created you should be using it because your ethnicity did invent it or create it .

    • thegeekygaeilgeoir
      September 26, 2020

      Has anybody thought about maybe blocking this whack job? Or at least moderating posts?

      • Alice Now
        September 26, 2020

        That’s a very good idea

      • Jotoro Cujo
        September 26, 2020

        Iam not a wack job you are .we should block you morons or moderate posts from you morons

  8. Jotoro Cujo
    September 26, 2020

    we are not pathetic losers ,incels, MAGAts you are all pathetic losers ,incels ,demorats not us Republicans, conservatives ,patriots .Iam not a troll you are a man-hating ,carpet-munching bitch, I donot come from under a rock or live under a rock go live in your parents’s basement.no I donot have to shut up you should your man-hating ,carpet-munching lesbo ,dyke bitch ,Karen pie hole donot tell me what to go back to your shit-hole mexihell .Iam not ignorant you are Iam not a troglodyte you are a subhuman ,genetically inferior cockroach ,shit-skinned ,beaner ,spick ,wetback ,illegal .Iam not a massive waste of oxygen you are on this planet and this country with no purpose existing, immigrating to this country and this planet .I speak for anyone and everyone including Republicans,conservatives,patriots you donot speak for everyone except pathetic, incel anti-white demorats .donot tell me I donot speak for everyone and anyone when I you donot .

  9. Jotoro Cujo
    September 26, 2020

    My comments are not horrible my comments are actual observation, facts that deserve thoughtful consideration and reflect while her’s were hate not fact not actual observations that donot deserve thoughtful reflection and consideration but .my comments donot shame or discredit Aryans which Aryans are not caucasians not inhabitants of the caucas mountains in the trans caucas mountains in caucasia in west Asia not Aryans of Europe of European descent which we technically, actually are .

  10. Julie Fabio
    October 1, 2020

    Here is a bit a different twist…….we are a full white family. My father has owned the most successful banquet hall in Compton, CA for almost 40 years. He also lived on the property and has only employed Hispanics since the beginning. Helped many gain citizenship. He even ended up marrying one of his matrons 4 months before he passed away. They are all quite literally my extended family. When I got pregnant with my first child, the minute we found out we were having a girl my dad and his staff began planning her quince. His head caterer is her Godmother. They all used to joke that she was going to be the first white girl in the history of Compton to have one LOL! Well, 2 years ago he passed away and willed the company to 3 of his most beloved employees. My daughter is blonde blue eyed and as white as they come but guess what? She just turned 14 and they are planning her quince!!! My father was loved by many in the community and we have over 400 people that will be attending (almost all hispaic). And everyone is SUPER excited about it. They are going all out for her to honor my father (and her). There are a few traditions we will be skipping but for the most part, we are going full force. Mariachi and all! I realize our situation is a little different but just thought I would throw it out there. Much love!

  11. Theresa
    October 7, 2020

    Yess. I wondered how the indigenous people of Mexico would feel about this. Thankful to read your view and agree with you 100%

    • Theresa
      October 7, 2020

      *Indigenous

    • Alice Now
      October 7, 2020

      Wow Theresa. Sad for you. The author isn’t even Mexican. How do you possibly defend such a racist article??

    • Cat
      October 25, 2020

      Please do not listen to this woman, this is NOT how indigenous Mexicans feel. Only how one American Puerto Rican from LA feels, she DOES NOT speak for Mexicans. NOT AT ALL.

  12. kate
    October 12, 2020

    Dear Aya de Leon,
    I am so grateful for this letter and for the sentiments you have shared. I am a middle school art teacher and have been doing a day of the dead altar for a few years where I have students do a portrait of someone they love and then put it in a cigar box. I was so grateful to your letter because it helped me to see how I have been appropriating this Mexican spiritual practice. I was so focused on not appropriating the art style the I overlooked the core point. While I introduce Mexican folk art I always have a conversation about appropriation vs appreciation. This year I had a very different conversation where I Taught about Dia de los Muertos, and then about appropriation. We then took apart how the project we has started was appropriation and which elements were universal. Furthermore we talked about the implications of living in a country where we co-opt a celebration but then deny entry and access to these same people. Lastly we ended with asking ourselves why as a culture we would be drawn to a celebration like Day of the Dead, and how our culture approaches death.

    Thank you. I am printing out your letter to invite students to read it. I am having more meaningful conversations about how we make meaning as art makers and how we use other traditions to inform us about our own culture and the degenerative themes that are found there.

    I actually started writing this to respond to all the vile responses you have received. Fuck that, and fuck the underlying racism and colonial self importance. Thank you for what you have written here. Thank you for spending time to explain something that I should have known, that we all should have understood in the first place.

    • Alice Now
      October 12, 2020

      Lol. It isn’t appropriation. If you think so, you better stop Halloween being celebrated by Mexicans and Mexican Americans and all other non Celtic immigrants and citizens. Her column was SO offensive that it generated the responses you are referencing. No one has the right to speak the way the author did. Don’t EVER apologize for celebrating a festival.

    • Alice Now
      October 12, 2020

      By the way, it was Samhaim before it was co-opted by the Church and turned into Halloween. So if you are going to say that Halloween isn’t religious or isn’t about ancestors but a commercialized event, look back to the original Celtic celebration.

  13. Jotoro Cujo
    October 19, 2020

    I know that already donot rub in my face .Iam in the position to do so you are not .Iam not discriminating anyone you are towards you are anti-white you hate whites .we are not trying to get nonwhites out of the United States you are trying to inport nonwhites into the United .we are not trying to take their holidays either you trying to take our holidays and ruin them with your leftism .I donot have vulgarity towards Hispancunts you have vulgarity towards whites .no I donot have learn you should learn before you speak about whites when Iam not discriminating against Hispancunts .this post is wrong not right .I have the right to name and Iam in the position to name call .

    • Naugfly
      November 3, 2020

      I don’t agree with her 100% but you are vile. Seriously, read your own filthy, evil words before you say “this post is wrong not right.” If you don’t like what she writes, move on you obsessive, eunuch, antisocial, low IQ, disturbed piece of racist shit.

      • Jotoro Cujo
        November 3, 2020

        my words are not vile or evil they awesome and good words before what no I donot have you should I can say whatever I want whenever I want you should shut your Ku Klux Karen pie hole you bitch saying this post is right not wrong Iam right you are wrong,I donot have to move if I donot like what she writes you should move on if donot like what write Iam not a eunuch Iam a chad who gets pussy every night you are a carpet-munching queer homo far leftard SJW communist Marxist Ku Klux Karen Antifatard low IQ obsessive millennial Socialistard Demorat Libtard Globalist shill bitchy PMSing fat white hating dyke you cannot dick Iam not obsessive you are Iam fact oriented donot like facts or care about facts that facts donot matter to you because white lives matter ,I have a high IQ of Einstein you have a low IQ of a negroid Iam not antisocial Iam social Iam not disturbed you are you have Trump derangement syndrome Iam not a racist piece of shit you are a leftard domestic terrorist extremist Iam a good individual you are not apart of G-d’s chosen elect of the one hundred forty four thousand includes christians,Jews,the right ,Zoroastrians.

  14. Cat
    October 25, 2020

    Good God, not this appropriating holier-than-thou bitch again. DEAR WHITE PEOPLE: this heffer DOES NOT speak for Latinos. She speaks only for her own RACIST AF self. Feel free to celebrate Dias and tell racists like this one to go F themselves.

  15. Jotoro Cujo
    October 27, 2020

    nazi is not short for national socialist it is a slur , an epithet against us national socialists in Germany and aboard by antifatards and leftards .Iam right not wrong you are wrong to say that nazis and national socialists are the same when national socialists and nazis are the not same group or political party

  16. Jotoro Cujo
    October 27, 2020

    It is not racism vomit or is facts .I donot have to learn before I type I know facts .

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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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