Thursday, October 30, 2014

Only Mexicans allowed to celebrate Mexican festival

The words “dressing up is most definitely encouraged” are generally music to my ears. Except in the case of the Australian Museum's planned Day Of The Dead party on November 1st in Sydney.

The event, a one-off return of the Museum's popular after-hours party Jurassic Lounge, will see traditional Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) elements - including an ofrenda (altar) and Mariachi music - rub rather uncomfortably up against Day Of The Dead-themed burlesque routines, bodypainting, and a silent disco.

It's not a stretch to suggest that they are setting the stage for a whole mess of cultural appropriation as a bunch of white people turn up with their best “sugar skull” face-paint on, or worse, "Mexican" costumes.

Día de Muertos is a holiday that originated in Mexico but is celebrated throughout Latin America, which focuses on gathering family and friends together to pray for and remember loved ones who have passed away. Traditions connected with the holiday include honouring the deceased using sugar skulls and marigolds, and visiting the graves of the departed with their favorite foods and drinks.

This is lost on the growing number of people who throw "Day Of The Dead" parties with scant knowledge of the holiday's true meaning. And yet despite the fact that we now know that grabbing a Native American headdress as an accessory for a magazine cover shoot or cute festival outfit is not appropriate, apparently such cultural sensitivity has not yet filtered down to sugar-skull-crazy partygoers keen to smash a few Tecates.

An institution that you think would have a good handle on protecting the integrity of other cultures is the Australian Museum. But given the organisers’ suggestion that attendees (the event is sold out) dress up, chances are there’ll be plenty of “Mexican” costumes on show.

Increasingly, Día de los Muertos is treated as "Mexcian Halloween" by people who are less keen to understand the significance of the holiday than they are to smash tacos and party on. This is inevitably defended as "celebration" or "appreciation", as opposed to appropriation, but as This Is Not Our Día puts it, "When white people use a sacred tradition (that historically, was suppressed by whites) simply as an excuse to throw a party, it's disrespectful [...] It's obnoxious when white people are lauded and admired for appropriating a tradition that's still regarded as "savage" by some Anglo eyes."


This "culture appropriation" idea is weird.  My culture is North-Western European Protestant and most of the world appropriates at least part of that.  How am I harmed by that?  Should I be up in arms when a Chinese pianist gives a brilliant rendition of a Bach fugue? Hardly.  I just applaud.


Bird of Paradise said...

Then let them celebrate it in mexico screw this multi-culteral poppycock

Anonymous said...

I am surprised the Irish ambassador has not lodged a protest about the St Patrick's Day parade and the bacchanal that surrounds it!

Stan B said...

Cultural Appropriation is what happens when some politician, trying to win a minority community's vote, claims that some Great-Great-GrandUncle was actually a member of the minority, and therefore she is also a member, even though the historical record is unclear on the issue.

Partying like a drunken (Irishman, Mexican, Russian, Romanian, Chinaman, American, Australian, Sailor) is not appropriation, and donning such a culture's traditional dress for the occasion does NOT cast aspersions or perpetuate stereotypes, except in the smallest of minds. You know, the kind who would take offense at people having fun.

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to the American melting pot? Wasn't that considered the strength of America?

Anonymous said...

If that is the case than there is no place for Cinco de Mayo in the US.