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Letters to the Editor

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Appreciating the dead

I read with interest the recent feature article on our Day of the Dead activities and conflicts (“Dead ahead: With the Festival of the Dead approaching, Missoula takes an uncomfortable look in the mirror,” Oct. 26). My late husband was born Nov. 2, and we enjoyed watching the parade and then going out to dinner. After he died, our related activities helped my family in its healing process.

In 2004, the fall after his death, our community was offered the chance to create offendras that were displayed in businesses downtown. Offendras are shrine-like displays to honor a loved one. Mine was displayed near the front window at the Dana Gallery. Mel was an artist, so that was very fitting. Creating mine and being able to share it was very important to me.

Another fall, my daughter created one of the large steamroller prints based on a piece of Mel’s art that she and my son carried in the parade. That touched my heart deeply. I appreciate all who support our community activities and hope they will continue.

Susan Flanagin



Hola amigos. My name is Martin Herrera, and I was born and raised here in Torreon, Mexico. I have seen the news about the controversy surrounding the Festival of the Dead in Missoula. I do not feel that the voices of actual Mexicans are being considered in this dialogue.

As a Mexican citizen, I think this parade is absolutely beautiful and respectful to our culture. I am also connected directly with members of the OAO Temple who host annual sugar skull workshops in Missoula. I do not believe this Missoula festival is appropriating our culture. I do not find it offensive in any aspect. On the contrary, I think your city has adapted in a very special way a personal culture toward death, one that honors the dead and celebrates life, love and community. Here in Mexico we traditionally make offerings to remember our deceased. In Missoula, you have created a beautiful festival and a series of events that help open doors culturally.

In moments like this, I marvel and rejoice to think that there are people beyond Mexico who love our culture. I also see that the most affected are people who organize these events from the depth of their hearts and souls. I see that there are also people who believe that we Mexicans feel oppressed by “white people” who appropriate our traditions. Pardon me? I do not know by which power these people feel entitled to fight for our “rights”—maybe only when it is convenient for them? I see people who know very little about our traditions stand up as our “cultural defenders.” This is offensive. It is sad to see how many Americans fight against their fellow American in an emotionally violent manner over something that is actually a non-issue as far as we are concerned.

Myself, my family and my friends do not feel oppressed by this Missoula festival whatsoever. On the contrary, we feel proud. I love what you all do in Missoula. Your unique way of honoring the dead and helping our culture through art, workshops, parades and sugar skulls is truly amazing. This is adaptation, not appropriation. This festival clearly unites families and community. Please preserve this important festival. It would be very sad to see these activities come to an end due to a few Americans worried about offending us. Trust me: You’re not.

Martin Herrera

Torreon, Mexico


Honestly, I think it is the parade. It used to be a somber, respectful procession that was centered on art as a tool to explore death. Now it is ridiculous people dressed up and drinking. I don’t see any tie to the festival other than people appropriating sugar skull iconography. The past two years made me feel dirty. It went from something inspired by to making fun of. I do think it is worth considering, regardless of how small a matter it may seem, especially because we are a community that prides itself on inclusiveness. How can we remove the splinter with a beam in our own eye?

Amy Singer


That’s really dumb. Lots of people celebrate St. Patrick’s day who aren’t Irish, celebrate Halloween who aren’t Pagan, etc. Just celebrate what you want and have fun without all the guilty hand-wringing!

Lynne Marie Duncan

We have a listener

How interesting. I think it’s great that Missoula is being open-minded and looking for solutions.

Meagan Thompson

Learn a new language

Good Lord, leave Missoula alone. I love coming home from Vegas so I can enjoy the vast majority of citizens that speak only English.

Laura Johnston

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