Editor's Note 

Cultural Work

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Absolutes have never existed in our border region. We are a colonized mass of desert that exists with an aching heart most of the time. We sooth that heart in many different ways, and yes, I'd count the All Souls Procession as one of those ways.

But remember, being that we are not in the land of absolutes, the Procession (or mostly many of the thousands and thousands of people who participate in it each year) faces its share of criticism every year from our Chican@ community and others charging cultural misappropriation. Dressing up as a calavera, the decorative skulls that are part of Dias de Los Muertos tradition, is not about protestant All Souls or even Halloween. As a writing mentor of mine reminded folks on Facebook recently, that Dia de Los Muertos is a religious holiday and dressing up in calvera make-up should be done out of respect—respect of the holiday and the culture. I know many people who don't participate in the All Souls Procession because they feel that any form of cultural misappropriation is wrong and takes place during the procession. I understand where they are coming from. I also know many people who participate in the Procession—some in calavera make-up and others just wearing their normal clothes. What's at heart this weekend is loss and how our community comes together to recognize the heartache that comes with loss. Sure, we should ask everyone who lives here whose family is not fifth generation or who hasn't studied Chican@ or border history to understand the implications of cultural misappropriation.

However, because we are a border region—a mixed up cultural petri dish—what we can do is ask for respect and at the same time step back and recognize the All Souls Procession for what its current organizers and volunteers believe: an event for everyone and for every culture, created to help us express loss and grief. Next time someone talks to you about cultural misappropriation, don't dismiss it. Understand that where we live, we happen to be a bit more sensitive on these subjects than most.

But I also don't advocate boycotting All Souls for those same reasons. We're a community and we come together in many different ways and in Tucson sometimes we get caught up in the blender of those differences. It isn't always a smooth ride, but it's our city. Obviously, there's cultural work that remains to be done, but all around us, no matter what culture, we are hurting and grieving and All Souls has created a place for everyone to express that hurt and grief. I'd say we're lucky.

— Mari Herreras, mherreras@tucsonweekly.com

More by Mari Herreras

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