Thursday's Child: Cultural Appropriation?

For those of you who follow my blog regularly, you may remember I started a series called "Thursday's Child" based on the Mother Goose poem (see below). I wanted to explore what it means to "go far" or be a success, as I was born on a Thursday. Now, I want to change up the theme of this, as I prefer to have at least one day where I'm just personally blogging about whatever it is that comes to mind. It'll definitely be eclectic. 

This week, I'm interested in exploring an article I read which, on the surface, seems to be addressing cultural appropriation. I shared it, and my first reaction was, "brava!"

Now that I've had an opportunity to think about it, I'm more interested in delving a little deeper into this subject, as it also applies to others who use the phrase "cultural appropriation" a lot.

Here is the article from 2014:

Dear White People/Queridos Gringos: You Want Our Culture But You Don’t Want Us – Stop Colonizing The Day Of The Dead

As I said, at first blush, this is about standing up against those who see take these cultural celebrations lightly, and particularly, white Americans who seem to want the "fun stuff" but not the people themselves. I have a deep love and respect for my Latino brothers and sisters in the world. I want everyone to have an opportunity to live wherever they want to live, and to pursue their happiness as they see fit (as long as it isn't harming others). But, her article is myopic in nature, and therein lies the rub.

Day of the Dead
Many cultures around the world have celebrated and continue to celebrate their dead/ancestors. You can find this type of commemoration on every continent. For those of us with Northern European ancestry (particularly those of the Celts), we have Samhain, originating at least 2,500 years' ago. The Day of the Dead is a Mexican tradition that goes back at least 3,000 years. Coincidentally, they both happen approximately at the same time of the year- the end of the harvest. Other cultures celebrate their dead at varying times through the calendar.

It behooves me to address the fact that the author specifically states  her roots are in Puerto Rico, which means that she, herself, is taking on a culture that really isn't hers. Her indigenous ancestors would most likely be Taino, and there is no historical evidence of Day of the Dead celebrations there. That's okay. I get it. She wants to identify with her Latin heritage. But, her Latin heritage is a combination of European (Spanish conquest) and indigenous cultures  of an island that is approximately 2,300 miles away from Mexico.

The languages of Puerto Rico and Mexico (Spanish) originate in Latin- a European language. The same people who conquered my ancestors (The Romans) also conquered Spain, which in turn, conquered the Caribbean and what is now known as Latin America.

She brings up the point that Halloween has been taken over by Walmart with plastic, candy, costumes, etc...  and, to a degree, I can agree with that. However, those who celebrate Halloween versus Samhain would say that it's a secular holiday. In reality, it is the remnants of the Catholic Church's attempt to eradicate this celebration and make it a Christian holy day instead; and, this is something my Irish ancestors share in common with the people of Mexico.

For those of us who celebrate Samhain, it is not about candy and costumes. It is separate, holy, and revered. Some of us participate in Halloween as well. But, so do many in the Latin American community. Things like carving pumpkins come directly from my Celtic heritage where my ancestors carved turnips to light the way for the spirits crossing through the veil, or that costumes are remnants of dressing up to fool the god of the wild hunt. I'm not complaining that anyone who isn't of Celtic origin stole the culture of my ancestors. You can't really talk about separation of culture, and then lump my Irish ancestors, who were slaves in both the Caribbean and the Americas, with the conquistadors.

Here in America, we speak of a melting pot of culture, art, music, food, and holiday celebrations.  If we're going to start separating these out to only those who can prove ancestry in this fashion, well, the author then has to let go of her Dia de Los Muertos celebrations as well, because Puerto Ricans and Mexicans share only their conqueror's ancestry in common.

I have a suggestion for all of us. Try focusing on your own spirituality and honoring your ancestors in whatever way you see fit. Given that so many of us have mixed ancestry, I don't think our loving dead really care that much. Somehow, I think they'd just like to be remembered.

Sláinte! (to your good health)

"Monday's child is fair of face..."
by Mother Goose
Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace;
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go;
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for its living;
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.


  1. Great points! Thanks for talking about this.

  2. I had noticed that she was Puerto Rican and a bit hypocritical in her article when you posted it yesterday.

    There's not a celebration that hasn't borrowed something from a previous culture or several cultures. I am sure we just notice it more as the world appears smaller with the abundance of electronic information we now have access to.

    I can agree with the point in the article being made that people of other cultures turn it into a party, which is devoid of the spiritual background. While disappointing to many that *do celebrate the deeper meaning, isn't it better that they participate to the best of their ability as opposed to interferring with another's cultural celebration? It seems that there is at least an attempt to understand another's culture, even though that attempt may be misguided...

    But who am I to judge? I'm just an Irish, German, English, Dutch American Mutt, that in my attempt to understand all my roots, probably butchers them all. But that's the great thing about being in America, I have the right to celebrate, believe and do as I please as long as it doesn't harm others.


Witches are your best friends- we worship the ground you walk upon! Be patient when posting; comments are moderated, so it may take some time for your comment to appear :)