Tag Archives: Central America

Political Party! Celebrating UNDRIP and Indigenous Culture in Montreal

For more than two hours on a sunny summer morning in early August, hundreds of young men and women, wearing elaborate headdresses, intricately beaded, ribboned and appliquéd regalia and fancy footwear ornamented with shells and bells, danced and drummed their way along Montreal’s busiest downtown thoroughfare to the Place des Festivals, where children read the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to a cheering throng attending the 21st annual First Peoples Festival.

LO RES FEA Photo UND28550C 270x202 Political Party! Celebrating UNDRIP and Indigenous Culture in Montreal

Some members of the Peruvian delegation were showing—but not seeing—red.

This grand spectacle was the first international parade of friendship and solidarity in celebration of the passage of the U.N. declaration, which was adopted by Canada only last year. The Parade of Friendship of Our America with the People of Montreal and the First Nations included cultural groups—singers, dancers, musicians, storytellers and more—from Chile, Panama, Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Guatemala, Cuba, Colombia, Bolivia and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, upon whose aboriginal territory the festival takes place each year. “We are marching to the sound of the drum, in the tradition of brotherhood, sisterhood and friendship among the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, the people of Montreal and the First Nations,” said André Dudemaine, Innu, the cultural director of the festival. “The parade gives voice to the ideals of peace the First Peoples Festival has always stood for.”

The parade was one of the highlights of an annual weeklong festival (August 2 through August 9 this year)—the city’s signature celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ art, history and cultures, from Turtle Island and around the world. The activity-packed week included screenings of dozens of indigenous films and videos; exhibits of paintings, sculptures, photographs, baskets and pottery; demonstrations of traditional artisan skills; workshops, lectures, forums and storytelling; and performances by dozens of musicians, singers and dancers.

The festival always combines culture, art and political activism—a combination clearly on display in the UNDRIP parade. The UNDRIP was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in September 2007, but the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand—countries with similar colonial histories and populations of Indigenous Peoples with legitimate claims to huge areas of their aboriginal lands—voted against the international document that defines and supports indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. Those four countries worried that UNDRIP would undermine their sovereignty, particularly with regard to land disputes and natural resources, but they’ve since endorsed the declaration: Australia in April 2009, New Zealand in April 2010, Canada in November 2010, and the United States in December 2010.

The many cultural groups began to gather in Phillips Square around nine a.m. on the day of the parade, and the square quickly filled up with people drawn by the drumming and the colorfully dressed groups who happily posed for photos while event organizers rushed around making last-minute arrangements.

Dr. James Cockcroft, a group coordinator of the Citizens Committee of Quebec 2001, a grassroots social-justice organization, says the celebration was the culmination of 10 years of work in building cultural alliances. His committee organized the parade along with Land InSights, the festival’s main organizer, and Base de Paix (Peace Base), a peace group. “Ten years [after forming the committee], we were right [about seeking solidarity] and this huge coalition of social movements and prominent individuals like André Dudemaine, like Naomi Klein, like Noam Chomsky, has come together at the invitation of the First Nations on this famous annual week of cultural events.”

Cockcroft says the parade was a culmination of the visions of Latin American heroes such as Cuban national hero, poet and activist José Marti and Venezuelan resistance leader Gen. Simón Bolívar, who won independence from Spanish colonial rule for what would become Bolivia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. “Both men envisioned a coming together of the Americas and this parade is very important because it’s the first time this has happened in North America. So this is the historic first moment of a long coming together that the dreamers of the world have dreamed of for centuries—creating acts of human solidarity, human community, peace, love and the respect for Mother Earth.”

Before the parade began, representatives from the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Quebec Native Women, Amnesty International and the Montreal Central Council of the Confederation of National Trade Unions gave speeches supporting Indigenous Peoples and the declaration.

First Nations have solid support from Canada’s unions. The Central Council’s Statement of Principles includes an entire section respectful of aboriginal peoples’ rights, calling for “a genuine Aboriginal presence in Quebec society, because Aboriginal people are the first occupants of the territory.” The council supports aboriginal peoples’ demands for autonomous governments and recognizes their inalienable right to self-determination. “The construction of harmonious relations of cooperation in Quebec must be based on the fundamental and indispensable principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” the council’s statement says.

AFN Regional Chief of Quebec and Labrador Ghislain Picard, Innu, began his speech before the parade with a tribute to Chief William Commanda, the Anishinabek spiritual leader who died on August 3 at the age of 97. “We took him to his resting place yesterday. He was key not only in the adoption of the U.N. declaration, but in all the work leading up to it throughout the last 25 years,” Picard said while dedicating the parade to Commanda.

Picard reminded the crowd about the work that still needs to be done. “There’s a time to celebrate, which is today, but tomorrow we have to take on the battle again, because obviously we have difficulty with the Canadians,” meaning the federal government. The AFN pressured the Canadian government to endorse UNDRIP and it took three years for them to change their stance on UNDRIP, Picard said. “Now we need to make sure they’re responsible for upholding the principles of the declaration.” Both Canada and the U.S. referred to the declaration as “aspirational” and “not legally binding” in their statements of support.

“We can only remain optimistic,” said Picard. “We didn’t have a U.N. declaration 25 years ago; now we have one, but the challenge is still very important for Indigenous Peoples in Canada and the U.S. and the Americas as a whole…at some point the government will have to understand that fact. At the same time, it’s up to us to educate our own people and make sure there’s enough pressure on governments to abide by the declaration.”

When the speeches ended, the dancers, drummers and crowd left the square and paraded to the festival site, which had been blessed in ceremony by First Nations citizens. A group of children under the age of 10 took turns reading the declaration while the crowds that had followed the parade to the Place des Festivals cheered and applauded.

Video: UNDRIP Parade at the Montreal First People’s Festival

Click here to view the embedded video.

There was a whole lotta booty-shakin’ goin’ on at the Montreal First People’s Festival in early August during a parade celebrating the first year of Canada’s adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Here, a sampling of the dancing and music from Indian Country Today Media Network’s intrepid reporter, Gale Courey Toensing.

UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya Addresses the UN’s 16th Plenary Meeting

James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples addressed the 16th Plenary Meeting on September 20, 2011.

In his opening remarks Anaya thanked the numerous states and Indigenous Peoples for their support along with thanking the council for electing him to a second three-year term as Special Rapporteur.

Anaya used his time to provide a summary of the events he has been involved with and to address a preliminary assessment of the issue of natural resource extraction on indigenous lands which is part of an ongoing study he is working on.

Before getting started in speaking on reports he addressed for indigenous communities around the world he addressed the supports over the last year from Canada and the United States of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

“Since my last report I welcome the statements of support for the declaration by the governments of Canada and the United States of America which followed similar statements of endorsement by other states that had voted against the declaration or obstained  when the general assembly adopted it in 2007,” Anaya said.

To see Anaya’s full address click here.

Dalai Lama Interview on Tolerance

It was one of those few perfect sunshine days when you can smell the summer, flowers, trees and grass, and feel the warm touch of sunlight on your skin with temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius as you expect in India, when His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama met friends and Tibetans in the park of the Villa Goetzfried in Wiesbaden in Germany.

The introduction was a moving performance by a charming Tibetan woman named Dechen Shak-Dagsay, who is a famous mantra-vocalist from Tibet. Her songs and graceful appearance in original Tibetan dress moved the hearts of the visitors and transported their emotions from Germany to far away Tibet.

Afterwards he arrives. The Dalai Lama welcomes everybody and sits down on a small podium in front of us. There is no distance or aloofness between the Holy Man and the people. You feel his warmth and friendliness directly.

He starts his speech by underlining our own responsibility for our world: “We are the same human beings and share this small blue planet.” Therefore he demands that we forget all differences between religions and nations, find the roots of violence and also decrease the gulf between the poor and the rich. “There is no me and they,” the Dalai Lama said, “the whole world is me.”

In connection with his speech I got the chance for a unique interview with the Dalai Lama about his main ideas: to promote tolerance, learn from different religions and establish close contacts. As The Human Codes of Tolerance and Respect is the most important project of the World Security Network Foundation, I asked him about his experience and proposals.

How can we promote tolerance and respect towards other religions and ethnic minorities, Your Holiness?

I always mention that the concept of one single truth and one religion is itself a contradiction.

But on the level of the individual it is very relevant and can be very helpful. You should keep a single-pointed faith for yourself.

In the reality of different communities and religions with so many people the concept of only one religion is irrelevant.

In reality we have different religions and a concept of one truth seems irrelevant to me.

From the personal point of view everything is relative and one truth for a single person is relevant.

But when you have many people with different values and backgrounds this concept is not convincing as there are many truths and religions – and this is good so.

What can we all as simple human beings do?

We must develop close contacts with others and their traditions.

In India for over 1000 years – besides the home-grown religions – all major religions were established there as well and lived together. Generally they lived together in harmony and friendship for a long time.

One researcher found a Muslim village with a population of 2,000 with only three Hindu families there. But the Hindus had no fear and everybody was very friendly. That is India. Sometimes there are problems as in all populations. That can happen and is understandable.

Basically a spiritual sense of brothers and sisters existed. India kept 1,000 years of religious harmony – why not in other areas in the word?

What can we learn from others?

The more close contacts we have on the personal level the deeper is the understanding and mutual respect. You need close contacts to learn about the values of other religions from each other like Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindu or Buddhists.

The deep understanding of their values develops a basis of mutual respect.

We Buddhists are eager to learn more about mutual respect and the practice of tolerance and compassion.

Some Christian friends have implemented these things already in their religion.

Thus we develop a spiritual brother-and-sisterhood.

When will the situation in Tibet change for the better?

When Mahatma Gandhi and other great leaders started their work nobody gave them any guarantee of success. But they were very determined and full of will-power whatever the obstacles were.

When my Indian friends started their freedom-fight no one knew when freedom

would come – they were determined as well and advised me to follow it.

Nobody knows when things will change but you must keep your determination – that is important.

What impressed me most is that you cannot find intensive missionary thoughts in the Dalai Lama’s speech to conquer people for his Buddhist belief. He is a general missionary for humanity and the good cause of peaceful coexistence, integrating all major religions into global codes of tolerance. For him there is no right or wrong religion.

He stated: “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message: that is love, compassion and forgiveness; the important thing is that they should be part of our daily lives. We can’t say that all religions are the same, different religions have different views and fundamental differences. But it does not matter, as all religions are meant to help in bringing about a better world with better and happier human beings. On this level, I think that through different philosophical explanations and approaches, all religions have the same goal and the same potential.”

For him moral action means not to interfere in the people’s desire for happiness and joy. Everybody must also consider the interests of others. Sensitivity is needed to take care of other people.

He teaches that: “Good fortune arises from spiritual qualities like love or tolerance which make us more happy.”

Also, I like The Dalai Lama’s other ideas:

  • “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
  • “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”
  • “If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”
  • “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
  • “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”
  • “It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them.”
  • “It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.”
  • “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
  • “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness and my philosophy is kindness. This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple.”
  • “Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation-to-nation and human-to-human, but also human to other forms of life.”
  • “With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”

The Dalai Lama grounds humanity in all of us, in our kindness and responsibility as human beings.

Anne Stiens is Vice President Media of the independent global www.worldsecuritynetwork.com, the largest social media in foreign affairs.

Culinary Tour Explores Food, Culture and Health of Guam’s Indigenous Peoples

On October 1, renowned American Indian chefs Lois Ellen Frank and Walter Whitewater (Navajo) joined four of Guam’s premier chefs on the island in the Pacific Ocean to prepare a gala dinner, “Eat Your Heritage Tour.”

The five-course meal explored “the importance of environmental sustainability and its relationship to cultural preservation,” according to Kimberlee Kihleng, Ph.D., the executive director of the nonprofit Guam Humanities Council, the sponsor of the tour. The council provides resources and support for the indigenous people of Guam.

“The goal of the project is to encourage the locals to explore the important connections between food, health, culture and the environment,” said Monaeka Flores, marketing and programs coordinator for the Guam Humanities Council. “It is sadly true that diabetes and other diseases are typically higher among native communities,” she continued in an interview with guampdn.com.

The grand occasion attracted some 200 supporters at the Hyatt Regency Guam in Tumon. The tour also aimed to “help with the training of a new generation of chefs,” Dr. Kihleng told the Marianas Variety.

The prominent Guam chefs who collaborated in the kitchen with Frank and Whitewater to prepare a dinner with techniques and ingredients from the desert southwest and the island of Guam included: Josef Budde from the Hyatt Regency, Peter Duenas from Meskla Chamorro Fusion, Paul Kerner from Guam Community College, and Geoffrey Perez from Proa Restaurant.

“Guests can expect to navigate through a culinary voyage of sustainable foods that were available to early Chamorros and still remain to all of us today,” said Perez before the event to guampdn.com. Perez has been cooking professionally for 19 years.

“Food is sustenance. It has such cultural significance. It’s also about the environment, the land. It all comes together around food,” said Frank, an award-winning author (she published the James Beard Award-winning book Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, in August 2002), Native foods historian and a photographer who has spent more than 18 years documenting foods and lifestyles of American Indian tribes from the Southwest. Frank and Whitewater own and operate the Santa Fe, New Mexico-based Red Mesa Cuisine, a catering company dedicated to keeping traditional American Indian cuisine and culinary techniques alive.

Murkowski Supports Free Trade Agreements With South Korea, Panama and Colombia

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) showed her support for free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia on October 12. In voting for the agreements, Murkowski addressed how the move could benefit Alaska’s businesses.

She released the following statement in showing her support:

“Building financial relationships with the international community and supplying American goods to the world are the soundest stimulus plan we’ve seen this week – and a long-time coming.

“These three free trade agreements are good news for Alaska. In 2010, Alaska’s exports hit $4.2 billion, a 27 percent increase from the previous year. Four hundred and seventy-seven million dollars of those exports went to South Korea, Alaska’s third largest export partner.

“The Panama Free Trade Agreement will support American jobs and expand markets for businesses like those in Palmer and Kenai that export products to the country.

“Alaska has seen first-hand the benefits from free trade agreements in the past. Since the U.S. entered into a trade agreement with Chile in 2004, Alaska’s exports to that country have grown by 397 percent. The Colombia Free Trade Agreement can be similarly beneficial to my home state.”

A Historic Victory in Costa Rica

For the first time in Costa Rican history an indigenous community has successfully sued to recover territory that had been theirs according to earlier rulings.

Along with the fact that this marks the first such victory for any Indigenous Peoples in Costa Rica, the community’s leader stated that it opens the door for similar suits from any of the indigenous groups in the nation.

“It is a very important achievement,” asserted Demetrio Mayorga, president of the Kekoldi reservation’s ruling body, the Integral Development Association (ADI), “because for the first time the law is on our side.

“This opens the possibility for the other 24 aboriginal territories to recover their lands, because without them we are not complete,” Mayorga added.

On September 12, the Administrative Tribunal of Contention ordered the relevant federal agencies – the Institute of Agrarian Development (IDA) and the National Commission of Indigenous Affairs (CONAI) – to expropriate more than 11,000 acres of land to be returned to the Bribri community of the Kekoldi reservation—this part of Bribri territory is currently occupied by non-indigenous people.

According to the ruling the IDA and CONAI will have one month to identify the non-indigenous people affected by the ruling, then six months to determine the monetary values of the properties and then one year to effect the moves and transfer of ownership.

Even though the formal transfer is not completed, the community’s attorney is pleased with this development.

“This ruling is historic,” stated Danilo Chaverri Barrantes, attorney for the Bribri community, “because it’s the fist time that they order these institutions to remove non-Indigenous Peoples from these lands, but the most important thing is that they have established that it shall take one year to do so.”

“It is also important,” Chaverri Barrantes noted, “as it is the first time that indigenous people sued the state and … they have never had a hearing before in that sense.”

These recovered lands had been included in a presidential decree of 1977 that had created the Kekoldi reservation, a territory that extends across 14,820 acres. The Bribri people were only able to settle on 1,500 acres of the territory at first, due in part to lawsuits against the executive order. Those lawsuits were then overturned in 1997 and 2001, which technically gave the Bribri the right to those disputed territories but no formal actions were taken to affect the transfers.

In an August press statement prior to the ruling Chaverri Barrantes explained that, “In those 34 years the indigenous people have fought against invasions with few positive results. They are in possession of 3,705 acres but their territory is 14,820 acres. That is to say that there are 11,115 acres of their territory of which they do not currently occupy, and this must be a subject of study.”

Chaverri Barrantes also explained that there are other legal challenges to the original executive order that have not been resolved, and that the transfer process will be delayed until these challenges are settled.

Better Test Scores for Indigenous Students in Mexico

Indigenous elementary school students in Mexico have improved their test scores in Math and Spanish again this year according to results from a national comprehensive exam, and these advances mark the sixth consecutive year of better grades for indigenous children.

According to the 2011 National Evaluation of Academic Achievement (Enlace), indigenous girls and boys at the elementary levels registered an advance of six percentage points in the categories of Excellent and Good in mathematics since 2010. From 2006 to 2011, the total increase was 16.9 percentage points in the higher categories, along with a decrease of 19.4 percentage points of indigenous students in the categories of Basic and Insufficient.

These elementary school age children also scored higher in Spanish in 2011 with an increase of 3.7 percentage points from 2010 in the Excellent and Good categories. Similar to the overall advances in math, the students increased their total scores by 13.6 percentage points between 2006 and 2011, with a decrease of 18.7 percentage points in the Basic and Insufficient levels in that same time period.

These improvements, according to Rosalinda Morales Garza, the Director of Indigenous Education in Mexico (DGEI), are directly linked to a change in national education policy and a strategy involving the professionalization of teachers who work with indigenous students.

In a press statement issued on October 10, Morales Garza asserted that the improved scores come from a “public policy oriented towards results with a strengthening of teaching methods, of an integral strategy of professionalization of indigenous educators, that has brought an academic mobilization connected to the Indigenous Education Professionals Network (IEPN), that also reasserted the culture of responsibility for improving their performance in the classroom, with innovative practices…”

The statement also noted that “…the efforts at professionalization and formation continue, coordinated by the DGEI’s technical teams at more than 100 events annually.”

Part of the professionalization effort, according to DGEI publications, involves participatory seminars for educators, and courses designed by specialists in indigenous education that are offered to teachers of indigenous children and adolescents. Close to 20,000 teachers have taken these courses yearly since 2008.

According to information provided by Beatriz Martinez, an Education Media Consultant for the DGEI, the teachers who participate in the seminars and other programs, learn about the customs, practices and experiences of the Indigenous Peoples in Mexico. The DGEI team has also designed a series of Indigenous Language courses, where students in 120 schools can learn the Maya, Totonaco, Nahuatl or Nahnu language that includes a variety of textbooks in the respective language.

Following these efforts is a bilingual, Spanish as a second language program for very young children, where the students begin to learn to read and write in their native language as well as learning Spanish as a second language as part of the same program. So far, the DGEI data shows that there are now 59,000 indigenous bilingual teachers working in schools in Mexico.

These indigenous programs are aimed at the 1.3 million elementary school age indigenous children and the 850,000 adolescents who are presently enrolled in any of the 23,000 indigenous schools in Mexico. One of the recent projects of the DGEI is also to include the indigenous children of migrant farm workers in the country, where it is estimated that 40 percent of all migrant farm workers are indigenous.

Day of the Dead, Part II: Re-Made in America

The Day of the Dead, primarily a Mexican holiday, has seen its influence spread across the globe. Its origins can be traced back to the indigenous cultures of Mexico as far back as 3,000 years ago.

The Spaniards forced the Aztecs to move their month-long celebration that had been held during what corresponds to August according to their calendar. But although the conquerors put the holiday in line with the Catholic observances of All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2), the indigenous are having the last laugh, as their supposedly pagan ceremonies continue to be celebrated almost exactly as they’d been doing for time immemorial.

As Mexican influence—and Mexicans themselves—have traveled and emigrated, particularly to the United States, they have brought their traditions with them. Moreover, it’s catching on of its own accord.

The U.S. celebrations, too, carry the typical private altars adorned with sugar skulls, marigolds and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. Graves are cleaned and decorated, toys are brought for dead children, and alcohol is often offered to the deceased adults, such as tequila, mescal or pulque.

Celebrations are often humorous, with celebrants recounting funny events and anecdotes about their lost loved ones. People also write short poems, called calaveras (skulls) and mocking epitaphs of friends. The traditions and activities of a Day of the Dead festival can vary dramatically from town to town, state to state, or country to country.

In the United States, Day of the Dead celebrations can be found in areas with Mexican residents, such as Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The All Souls Procession has been going in Tucson since 1990, combining traditional Day of the Dead celebrations with pagan harvest festival traditions. Americans celebrate Day of the Dead in different forms and for different reasons, from Los Angeles to San Francisco, from Missoula to New York City. News organizations from the Associated Press to the Huffington Post to Fox News are picking up on the growing trend of Day of the Dead celebrations in the United States.

In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain, parades and festivals abound, with people gather at cemeteries to pray for their dearly departed at day’s end. Day of the Dead celebrations have spread to Europe and many Asian cultures.

What they all have in common is they all have that original, indigenous root.  Let’s take a look at some of these celebrations:

New Mexico

 Day of the Dead, Part II: Re Made in America

New Mexico has several Day of the Dead events. In Sante Fe, El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe features altars, installations and flat work that honors the dead and provide offerings to the living. It went on display during the Railyard Art Walk this past Friday, October 28th, and will stay on display there until November 2nd. Every October and November in Albuquerque, the National Hispanic Cultural Center joins the New Mexican community in order to celebrate "Día de los Muertos". This year, the Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque will join them with a photograph exhibition in order to preserve this tradition. This sample will show how different Hispanic-American countries live experience such a special day. Several altars will be installed to celebrate "Día de los Muertos". Then on Sunday, November 6, the Marigold Parade & Celebration takes place in Albuquerque.


Port Isabel, Texas

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The Museums of Port Isabel,which is a small town of about 5,000 souls located in the very southern tip of Texas, hosts an annual Day of the Dead Festival. This year it landed on Saturday, October 29, and was held at the Port Isabel Museum, in collaboration with the City of Port Isabel, the Laguna Madre Museum Foundation, the Port Isabel Economic Development Corporation, and the Laguna Madre Art League. There was music, sugar skull candy workshops, altar making, street dancing, and lots of Day of the Dead Altars and artwork on display.

Tucson, Arizona

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The All Souls Procession had its beginnings in 1990 with a ritualistic performance piece created by local artist Susan Johnson, who was grieving the passing of her father. Inspired by Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos holiday, Johnson felt she should honor her father in celebration and creativity. Today, the All Souls Procession includes 20,000 participants who traverse a two-mile long procession in downtown Tucson that ends in the finalizing action of “burning a large urn filled with the hopes, offerings and wishes of the public for those who have passed. Inside the event are myriads of installation art, altars, performers, and creatives of all kinds collaborating for almost half the year to prepare their offerings to this amazing event,” their website states. The All Souls Procession is a celebration and mourning of the lives of loved ones who have passed.

Los Angeles, California

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Taking place this past October 22, Dia de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever cemetery was created to provide an authentic venue in which this ancient tradition could be observed, celebrated and preserved. The Day of the Dead in Hollywood was conceived of as a platform which would "synthesize creativity for the means of remembering the departed spirits of our lives," states their website, LadyOftheDead.com.


San Francisco, California

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San Francisco's Annual Day of the Dead celebration! Wednesday, November 2, 2011 in Garfield Park. San Francisco’s Dia de los Muertos is based on the traditional Meso-American holiday dedicated to the ancestors; it honors both death and the cycle of life. In San Francisco, Day of the Dead has been celebrated in the Mission district, where the largest percentage of the city’s Mexican-American residents reside, since the early 1970s. There’s art, music, performances and a walking procession, all done in an effort for participants to contemplate their existence and mortality -- a moment to remember deceased friends and family, and our connections beyond our immediate concerns.

Missoula, Montana

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This past Oct 27 2011, The Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos) Steamroller Print Project continued for its 11th straight year. Started in 2001, the project began as a means to get students, artists, and community to come together in a cooperative event. The project started with students enrolled in printmaking courses at The University of Montana under the direction of professors James Bailey and Elizabeth Dove.

New York City

 Day of the Dead, Part II: Re Made in America

Day of the Dead at Saint Marks Church in the Bowery in the East Village from this past Saturday, October 29 to Wednesday, November 2. The celebration includes recreating a Mexican village churchyard and offers events to honor those who have passed. There are also workshops for all ages, such as altar-building, paper flower making, poetry writing and bread baking. Visitors are encouraged to bring photographs, candles and flowers to adorn the altar in honor of their deceased loved ones, or just drop by and enjoy the experience of this five-day celebration, which also includes musical performances and a traditional dance procession. At the Day of the Dead celebration at the Queens Museum of Art, located in Flushing Meadows’ Corona Park this past Sunday, the Queens Museum of Art celebrated Dia de los Muertos with a drop-in family altar building workshop led by local artist Raul Hurtado. The resulting collaborative piece was displayed in the museum’s lobby throughout the celebration. At 3pm, there was a special dance recital by the Mexican Folkloric Ballet troupe, which will included indigenous folk dances from various regions of the country. Families aslo sampled delicioso pan de muerto (Day of the Dead bread) and Mexican hot chocolate.


Washington, D.C.

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Starting on Sunday, October 30th, and going through to November 23, the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C., will showcase its traditional Day of the Dead Altar, a quintessentially Mexican tradition and one of our most colorful displays of the year. In this photo, Benjamin, 6, walks near an altar assembled for an exhibition of Day of the Dead celebrations in honor of the people who participated in the Mexican Revolution at Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington last year on Halloween. The Day of the Dead is the result of the fusion of indigenous and Spanish cultures and is one of the most important traditional holidays, underscoring the deeply held belief in Mexico that death is strongly tied to life as the fundamental duality of human existence.

Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

Day of the Dead or Dia de Los Muertos began as a Mexican holiday—a mixture of indigenous and Catholic religious beliefs—as a way to honor family members who are no longer among the living. The celebrations are recognized on November 2 following All Saints Day on November 1 and have seen similar celebrations appear around the world. Day of the Dead festivities can be found throughout Central and Latin America, along with areas of Europe and North America.

As with many traditions expanding and mixing with cultures the Day of the Dead festivities vary depending on the country and the groups. Some are more colorful than others, or offer more of a celebration of the life’s that once were, while others use it as a chance to reconnect, to catch up with the deceased loved ones.

Below are images of Day of the Dead celebrations from around the world:

Bolivia

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Some families in Bolivia hire bands or take other forms of music, sing, recite prayers or hire singers to perform during these celebrations. Pictured, women stand around a Ferris wheel during Day of the Dead celebrations at the Villa Ingenio cemetery in El Alto, Bolivia, on November 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

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Though Bolivia’s Day of the Dead isn’t as colorful as celebrations in Mexico, Brazil, and other countries around the world they still celebrate the day. However, Bolivia also has its own special celebration that happens November 8 called Natitas. Every year on November 8 in the city of La Paz, Bolivia people gather at the main cemetery cradling skulls in their arms. These skulls are the natitas, spirits that are seen as members of the family, whose health, good fortune and homes they protect. Their public celebration is a growing tradition in the Aymara Indian and mixed race community of La Paz. (Sara Shahriari)

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Natitas is a celebration where Bolivians fete skulls that guard their homes. It’s a custom deeply rooted in pre-colonial Andean religious practice. Ines Ugarte’s natita is named Choco. Ugarte says Choco was given to her as a gift, and that if no one in her family can take care of him as she ages he will be buried with her. “It’s someone who accompanies me and takes care of me – it’s like having another person in the house,” she says. “I talk with him. He doesn’t answer, but we talk.” (Sara Shahriari)

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The Natitas are given cigarettes, alcohol and beautiful flower crowns each year on November 8, to create a day that pleases these household spirits. Anthropologists say that the ritual use of human remains has been part of indigenous Andean cultures for thousands of years. (Sara Shahriari)

Brazil

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In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday celebrated by many Brazilians who visit cemeteries and churches. People pay their respects at a cemetery in Sao Jose dos Campos, southeastern Brazil, during "Day of the Dead" celebrations. (Agencia Estado via AP Images)

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People light candles at a cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, southeastern Brazil, during "Day of the Dead" celebrations. (Agencia Estado via AP Images)

Ecuador

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The Day of the Dead celebration may have started in Mexico but it has spread throughout Central and Latin America as a combination of indigenous and Catholic religion. In Ecuador the day is seen as a time to “catch up” with the ones who are no longer with us but have a life in a different world. In this picture women share "colada morada and guaguas de pan" at the Calderon cemetery, on the outskirts of Quito during Day of the Dead celebrations, November 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

El Salvador

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In El Salvador it is customary to place flowers on the tombs of deceased loved ones, along with wreaths of natural or paper flowers, or cypress leaf wreaths for the aroma. Food generally consumed on this day is tamales and sliced pumpkin cooked with brown sugar. A reveler, wearing a mask, attends celebrations of the Day of the Dead in Tonacatepeque, El Salvador, November 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Luis Romero)

Guatemala

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All indigenous communities in Guatemala have incorporated the Day of the Dead ceremonies into their own traditions, and each adds it’s own color and pageantry to make it their own. A man arrives with flowers to visit a relative's grave during Day of the Dead in Sumpango, Guatemala in 2010. A typical Guatemalan meal on this day is fiambre, a Spanish dish that is a stew made of meat or fish, vegetables, olives and capers. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Haiti

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On November 1 Haiti's Protestants, Catholics and Voodooists celebrate the Day of the Dead. Voodoo traditions mix with other observances as people honor Gede and Baron Samdi, two voodoo deities. (Sipa via AP Images)

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Typical celebrations consist of placing offerings of flowers and food at the base of large crosses decorated and dedicated to the two deities, Gede and Baron Samdi. (Sipa via AP Images)

Nicaragua

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Extended families convene at cemeteries throughout Nicaragua on the Day of the Dead, a National holiday. Faithful carry a sculpture of Jesus after a mass during celebration of the Day of Dead in the Oriental cemetery in Managua, Nicaragua, November 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

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Graves are decorated with colorful floral arrangements to honor those family members no longer among the living. People inflate balloon's before a mass during Day of Dead celebrations at the Oriental cemetery in Managua, November 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Peru

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In Peru, family members prepare the deceased’s favorite meal, and may leave a cigarette out for smokers as part of the indigenous honoring for Day of the Dead. People pose for pictures in front of a grave during celebrations of the Day of the Dead at the Nueva Esperanza cemetery in Villa Maria, Lima, on November 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)

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The meal and items left, for Day of the Dead, often are more valuable than what family members are able to afford. A boy plays in front of a grave during celebrations of the Day of the Dead at the Nueva Esperanza cemetery in Villa Maria, Lima, on November 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)

Spain

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A man in a wheelchair stops to look at a grave of a family member during the Day of the Dead at a cemetery in Pamplona, northern Spain, on November 1, 2004. Spaniards celebrate the Day of the Dead every year on this day by visiting and placing flowers on the graves of their loved ones. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)