We attended the Festival of the Dead parade in downtown Missoula as observers on Nov. 2, and were struck by the joy, creativity and artistic achievements of participants. The weather was cold and windy, yet everyone present took delight in the music, costumes and artwork.
It celebrated both the living and dead. There were families and children. It was fun. For those of us who have lived and worked in Mexico and Central America, it reminded us of our shared values.
We are saddened to hear that one of the parade’s key sponsors, the Zootown Arts Community Center, has decided to withdraw its support from this affirming event based on spurious claims of cultural appropriation.
We embrace our diversity and respect the traditions and customs of our nation’s closest and most important neighbor. At a time when our ideals are co-opted by corporations and vitriol based on racism is tolerated, we wish to defend a homegrown celebration that honors acceptance and those who have passed before us.
We have decided to put our energies behind next year’s Festival of the Dead Parade, helping any new organizers, especially those residents of Mexican descent, to keep this delightful, artistic event as part of the colorful tapestry of Missoula’s social fabric.