After ten days here, we hardly felt ready for the the Day of the Dead holiday last Friday, November 2. Banks, most offices and many stores were closed except for those serving last minute shoppers. The adornment of graves, and the creation of home and work place altars makes for big business here; one local newspaper, there are at least four, estimated the average family in San Luis Potosi spends around $30 to honor their deceased. We learned that “El Dia de los Muertos” is the leading Mexican holiday. Other Latin cultures mark All Saints Day November 1 but none with the zeal of the Mexican people.
Mexico celebrates its Independence Day September 16, and the huge public fireworks display, folklorico dancing and partying make for an appropriate celebration of the “grito” (the cry) for independence from Spain. The Day of the Dead involves the Mexican on more levels, the spiritual and intellectual included, as well as Church, State and cultural institutions.
So why has the Protestant community in Mexico rejected celebration of the Day of the Dead? I asked several leaders of Mexican Disciples of Christ churches that question last week. It may take our term of two years and more to understand the answers I heard or thought I heard.
The Mexican “evangelical” community’s non-participation in the Day of the Dead tradition is a distinctly counter-cultural position. Their resistance to the rituals certainly has something to do with the Roman Catholic Church’s historical dominance and overall influence on Mexican culture. But there are also theological reasons for opposition to this cultural rite. If you know a Protestant of Mexican background, asking them about the Day of the Dead tradition will likely result in a theological conversation. And that conversation may help sort out your own ideas about death – and life.