The Rev. Francisco J. García, Jr. received his Master of Divinity degree from the Bloy House/CST joint program in May of 2013. He is the Director of Peace and Justice at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California and was ordained as a transitional deacon in the Episcopal Church in June of 2013.
While celebration of the Day of the Dead goes back several hundred years in Mexico, its arrival in the United States is much more recent, a late twentieth century phenomenon with increased cultural and economic globalization and contact. Whereas in Mexico, the traditional Day of the Dead ceremonies align closely with Catholic observation of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, and had explicit spiritual and religious meaning, in the U.S., the Day of the Dead celebrations have emerged largely through the Chicana/o artistic movement—out of a cultural, ethnic and political identification with the celebrations. Nonetheless, both forms of the tradition are deeply embedded rituals and have sacred meaning for those who take part in the traditions. There is power in both forms, and I would argue that an even greater potentiality for trans-formation can be achieved if the artistic, cultural, and religious rituals are more closely integrated. This paper will examine the Day of the Dead in both of its Mexican and Mexican-American forms, seeing them as different but related forms of Latino/a popular Catholicism—a Catholicism rooted in the experiences and faith practices of the Latino/a people. After examining the historical roots of the Day of the Dead in Mexico in the context of Latino popular Catholicism, and its arrival and expression in the United States, I will conclude with thoughts for application in a parish and community context. Continue reading