049. Dia de los Muertos

A discussion on the celebration of the living and the dead.


Questions to ponder

  1. How/Should we celebrate the dead?
  2. What rights do you have to claim over your own dead body?
  3. Does the current funeral/body disposal service in America cost too much, too little, or just about the right amount?
  4. How Americans interact with their dead has changed drastically over the course of the past century. Rarely are dead relatives displayed at ones home as a family mourns. More people are opting for cremation and dying in hospitals, meaning that for some families, loved ones go into a hospital only to be seen again as ash. Is this progress in the processes of death?
  5. The dead surround us. Buried into hill sides or vaporized into some carbon wafted in our nose, quite literally what were once about 100 billion other human beings now infuse our environment. Does this require us to treat our environment differently as it grows ever denser with dearly departed?
  6. Will the dead ever walk among us?
  7. Is our modern declaration of “brain death” necessary and/or sufficient to demarcate “the living” and “the dead”? 
  8. Hirschkind (2008) notes, “Preachers mine a vast archive of eschatological imagery — the horrors that occur in the grave (ayzeb al-qabr), the terrifying encounter with the angel of death (Azra’il), the exuberant sensuality that awaits the pious in heaven — reworking this stock of highly visual narratives to both astound their audiences and enliven their moral affects.” On average, does the inclusion of “fire and brimstone” rhetoric in discussions of morality and ethics benefit participants? Put differently, are more souls likely to “go to Heaven” if they know they are “held over Hell”?
  9. In what way(s) is a fixation with death beneficial/harmful to a society/culture and/or its neighbors.
  10. Dia de los Muertos refers to a set of Roman Catholic holy days celebrated in Mexico corresponding to All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Usually the “Day of the Dead” (also, el Día de Animas, el Día de los Finados, and el Día de los Fieles Difuntos) is reserved for All Souls’ Day, with All Saints’ Day being celebrated on its eve. Why/Should we have two days to celebrate our dearly departed: one for the best of us and one for the rest of us? 
  11. The history of the United States and Mexico over the development of America has been one of contact, conflict, exchange, and continuous influence. A modern incarnation of this “same old story” is the influx of immigrants from “south of the border” affecting United States healthcare policy. How/Should/Could undocumented immigrants and/or non-citizens of the United States be given healthcare if they lack the means to pay it? 
  12. How/Should/Could citizens of the United States be given healthcare as a right?
  13. If you were a ghost, what would you do with your time?
  14. How/Should we fear death?
  15. Do we die the right way these days? Have we in the past? Will we in the future?
  16. How many more Americans will die by this pandemic?

Readings to consider