HISTORY OF DDLM
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday where families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drink and celebration. “In Mexico, death rites date from pre-Hispanic rituals represented in murals, painted pottery, monuments, and artifacts, which shows how the Day of the Dead has its origins in the rituals practiced by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Its precedents date to more than 3000 years ago when the Olmecs and subsequent Toltecs, Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Maya, and Aztecs honored death.
Those who passed are alive in our memories. A continuous echo that at certain occasions becomes louder. As the only answer to many of our questions, death is an integral part of life, and the living and the dead meet on this day to emphasize the importance of death in the cycle of life.
Día de los Muertos acknowledges the symbiotic relationship between life and death. El día de Los Muertos is celebrated on November 1st and November 2nd, in which the spirits of the dead are believed to return home and spend time with their relatives on these two days. To welcome them, the family build altars in their honor. These altars have a series of different components that vary from one culture to another that mostly include yellow marigolds, candles, photos of the deceased ones, papel picado or cut tissue-paper designs, as well as food and beverages offerings for the dead.
It is common to see skulls or calaveras as decorations. These can be made of papier-mâché, clay, wood, metal, cut-out tissue paper, and often, they are made of sugar decorated with colored icing, flowers, or metallic colored foils.”(DIA DE LOS MUERTOS | The Mexican Museum)
How is Dia de los Muertos Celebrated
Contrary to some belief, Dia de los Muertos is not the same as Halloween or a Mexican version of it. Halloween and Dia de los Muertos do share some similarities but in the end, cultural traditions make the latter much different. On Dia de los Muertos “it’s believed that the border between the spirit world and the real-world dissolve. During this brief period, the souls of the dead awaken and return to the living world to feast, drink, dance and play music with their loved ones. In turn, the living family members treat the deceased as honored guests in their celebrations and leave the deceased’s favorite foods and other offerings at gravesites or on the ofrendas built in their homes. Ofrendas can be decorated with candles, bright marigolds called cempasuchil and red cock’s combs alongside food like stacks of tortillas and fruit.”[i]
YWCA Greater Austin’s Call to Action and Festivities
This year, during Dia de los Muertos, YWCA Greater Austin is calling for solidarity in the fight against the patriarchy and all systems of oppression. Instead of struggling apart, we believe that we can all achieve more and harness more power id we work together in a feminist solidarity. “Feminists have written for decades about the ways of addressing unequal power distribution and privilege that impact collaborative and collective mobilization, calling for inequalities to be addressed. Women’s groups are not homogenous; neither are their methods of activism.
Social activist and feminist bell hooks [ii]emphasizes that standing in opposition to all forms of oppression reflects in our work, regardless of its focus. hooks also emphasizes the importance of political solidarity in creating a diverse, strong, and united feminist movement to extinguish sexist oppression. She rejects the white feminist model of solidarity as bourgeois, drawing solely from the shared victimization of women; she emphasizes that solidarity must draw on shared strengths, resources, and goals of diverse women. hooks rejects the suspicion, competition, and exclusion fundamental to patriarchy, and advocates critical self-reflection in recognizing that systems of sexism, racism and classism create division among women. The work of feminists is to dismantle these oppressive structures.”[iii]
Utilizing the frameworks of Feminist Intersectional Solidarity is incredibly useful and needed. This will allow us to create and grow meaningful, equitable, and supportive networks. We must remember we are all diverse, each having our own voices and challenges/barriers. “Working in solidarity as feminists means uniting to collaborate to realize more specific, or autonomous aims within the larger movement for gender justice. Feminist Intersectional Solidarity encourages fulsome examination of the root causes of inequality, marginalization, and exclusion.”[iv]Below I will discuss the 2 main priorities needed for building such solidarity.
When creating such solidarity, we, as feminists, must challenge and redistribute power. Feminists work to understand and analyze unequal power structures, and to expose the compounded impacts of sexist, racist, heterosexist, and class-based domination systems. “Conditions of inequality can be reproduced within women’s rights movements and organizations when priority is given to amplifying the voices, ideas, and experiences of white, wealthy, cis-gender, straight, able-bodied women, effectively silencing the voices, ideas and experiences of marginalized women. The creation of strong and resilient Feminist Intersectional Solidarity (FIS) is necessary for challenging and transforming dysfunctional power structures within the women’s movement. A divide is created when newcomer, Indigenous, Black and/or racialized feminist women’s groups are excluded from predominantly white feminist organizations, advocacy groups, and campaigns.”[v] It is necessary to analyze ourselves and movements we partake in to make sure that no one voice is heightened above the rest. The voices of those on the margins must no longer be silenced.
Furthermore, collaboration is needed to be successful in solidarity endeavors. “Feminist collaboration means working together to develop new ideas and strategies for advocating and realizing equality for all women. Working collaboratively to examine unequal power relations, and develop new and transformative strategies allows feminists to effectively advocate for and achieve their goals. Developing collaborative campaigns, pooling and co-creating resources, co-planning events, meeting regularly to strategize and support each another, all create solidarity and impact, even if individual group mandates differ. Feminists and their organizations need to guard against competition and instead try to develop practices that reflect a commitment to solidarity and collaboration.”[vi] Even though we are calling for solidarity it is important to note that one can focus on autonomous organizational priorities at the same time as collaborating with others on a common issue. “Building Feminist Intersectional Solidarity can be done by sharing best practices, applying intersectionality, and supporting each other in our advocacy work with a sustained commitment that strengthens collaboration across diverse fields and mandates.”[vii]
To amplify our voices and causes, we must learn to work together. We must realize that there are sometimes much bigger fights to be had and working together we can take them down. The patriarchal system is so big and diverse we must come together to fight. Our individual voices all have meaning and with brining these voices together we are a force to be reckoned with.
To highlight, celebrate, and push for intersectional intergenerational solidarity, YWCA Greater Austin is holding 3 community mural unveiling events. The murals will hold a key theme of Dia de los Muertos while also pushing for us, as feminists to fight alongside each other against systems of oppression.
Join us at a Community Mural unveiling event!
Monday, October 31 from 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Garza Independent High School, 1600 Chicon St.
Tuesday, November 1 from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Austin Pets Alive Resell Thrift Store, 5102 Clarkson
Wednesday, November 2 from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Planned Parenthood, 1823 E. 7th St.
[ii] Name intentionally lowercased as feminist icon uses it as so
[iii] A Guide to Building Feminist Intersection Solidarity, https://www.criaw icref.ca/images/userfiles/files/IntFemSol(1).pdf
[iv] A Guide to Building Feminist Intersection Solidarity, https://www.criaw icref.ca/images/userfiles/files/IntFemSol(1).pdf
[v] A Guide to Building Feminist Intersection Solidarity, https://www.criaw icref.ca/images/userfiles/files/IntFemSol(1).pdf
[vi] A Guide to Building Feminist Intersection Solidarity, https://www.criaw icref.ca/images/userfiles/files/IntFemSol(1).pdf
[vii] A Guide to Building Feminist Intersection Solidarity, https://www.criaw icref.ca/images/userfiles/files/IntFemSol(1).pdf