What we can learn from the Day of the Dead

The video above is a montage from a vacation I took to Michoacán, Mexico during the holiday known as El Día De Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). My mother and I made the journey together a few years ago and had a fantastic time. Although a celebration to honor the dead may seem a bit macabre from a Western influenced point of view, for the indigenous populations of Mexico and Central America, it is a very commonplace tradition. What can this fatalist inspired holiday teach us about the attitudes and values held by many Latino communities?

Unlike its playful cousin Halloween, El Día De Los Muertos is a very serene holiday reserved for reflection and remembrance. Every year, towns throughout Michoacán come alive with vendors and artesanías as people prepare for the holiday. During our trip, we visited the island town of Janitzio and walked through the quiet cemetery decorated with flowers and candles. Families kept watch over their loved one’s grave sites, sitting among the various items to remember them by such as photos or their favorite foods and drink.

Despite its prevalence within many regions of Mexico, El Día De Los Muertos has not enjoyed as much popularity among Latinos in the U.S. This may change, however. A recent article in the Seattle P.I., suggests the holiday is experiencing a growth of relevance in the U.S., especially in certain regions like the Southwest. Even here in West Michigan, this year saw at least six different events dedicated to celebrating El Día De Los Muertos.

In his book Hispanic Marketing: Connecting with the New Latino Consumer, Dr. Felipe Korzenny explains how fatalism is a typical cultural insight when considering the perspectives of Latinos. Many Hispanics view their lives within the hands of fate or God and feel they have very little control over it. The holiday of El Día De Los Muertos has been recognized for many generations of Latinos by the indigenous peoples long before the arrival of Columbus and colonization. This rich history has fed into the Hispanic attitudes of fatalism and the beliefs that one lives for the moment, as tomorrow may be uncertain. It is with little surprise that a holiday to honor that of life’s most certain of elements, death, has continued to hold value for many Latinos.

I believe these insights hold some key implications for those seeking to market and connect with Latino communities, so here are some points to consider:

  • What are the challenges for communication considering the fatalist attitude of life being beyond control held by many Latinos versus the U.S. Western perspective of life being within control?
  • How does this fatalist attitude affect Hispanic perspectives toward brands and services such as health care, financial investments, and home improvement?
  • Should brands in the U.S., when seeking to connect with Latino communities, look to re-align their products and services to better resonate with fatalist inspired beliefs?

I hope you enjoyed viewing the brief moments from the video. These are just a few of the many experiences we took in during our trip. I encourage others to travel and experience new perspectives like we did. Placing yourself within a new environment only increases your level of empathy, which in turn develops a higher understanding of different points of view. ¡Buen viaje!

Leave a Reply