It’s a tradition that dates back at least 3,000 years to ancient Mexico – the Day of the Dead — or El Día de los Muertos as it’s known to the Spanish speaking people of the world.
The Day of the Dead is a cultural celebration unique in the world. It incorporates ancient pre-Columbian religions with modern Christian believe systems. It is most associated with Mexico, but the two-day celebration has become a major event in the United States, especially in Arizona where so many people of Mexican ethnic association now live.
An organization called The Day of the Deal Cultural Coalition spearheads and organizes activities that are interactive, multi-generational and participatory in the city of Phoenix
The festival is colorful, exotic and wonderful – it features masked entertainers performing traditional music, dance and theater with themes to honor the ancestors of the race and culture. It’s a full-throated celebration of heritage and traditions. Art works of many forms are a significant part of the event, as are gathering of family and feasts. Many of the activities blend ancient Maya, Toltec, Aztec, Olmec and other Pre-Columbian cultures with those of modern American and Mexican culture. Read more: Michael Larcey | Crunchbase and Jim Larkin | Twitter
The organization recently drew the attention of the Lacey & Larkin Frontera Fund, an initiative dedicated to benefit the Hispanic communities of America, especially those that have borne the brunt of racial animosity, persecution and civil rights abuses.
The establishment of the Lacey & Larkin Frontera Fund came about through unusual circumstances. In fact, and ironically, its origins were precipitated by the kind of illegal persecution the organization now works to combat.
In 2007, Arizona journalists Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin were arrested in the middle of the night by deputies of the Maricopa County sheriff’s department, taken from their homes and hauled off to jail. Their only crime? They were doing their jobs as news reporters.
The pair were covering the aggressive – and often legally questionable – actions of the sheriff’s department then under the leadership of the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio had gained a national reputation for aggressive police tactics leveled against Hispanic immigrant and migrant peoples living in Arizona.
Lacey and Larkin were quickly released from incarceratoin, but they sued Maricopa County for false arrest and other charges. They received a settlement of $3.7 million – money which they now use to support causes that assist Latino, Hispanic, immigrant and migrant communities in Arizona, but also across the United States.
One of those is the ever-more-popular Day of the Dead. It’s a recognition that the cultural and artistic heritage of a community is as important as such necessities as legal defense, financial concerns, housing and health care – all challenges that immigrant communities grapple with daily in many parts of the United States.
But the depth and beauty of culture is vital, too. A people in touch with the richness and scope of their ancient origins is a group that gains strength from knowing a sense of place, being, origin and belonging.
Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: