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Disney ‘Día de los Muertos’ Trademark Underscores Need to Reject Corporate Pandering

Upoar over trademark is justified, but Mexicans enabling cultural appropriation is the real problem

The Indigenous Peoples of Mexico have observed what is today known as Día de los Muertos since time immemorial.

The Spanish and the Catholic Church attempted to destroy this ceremony, and when they couldn’t, it was incorporated into the Catholic religious calendar. Centuries later, Mexicans are dealing with another colonizer, expect this one is from Burbank and is called Disney.

In April of 2012, reports surfaced that “Toy Story 3” director Lee Unkrich was planning to produce an animated feature based on Día de los Muertos. The LA Times called it a “nod to Mexican audiences,” and many of us seemed to agree.

Fast forward to May 1, 2013 — just a few days ago — and Disney attorney Kevin Daley, is filing 10 trademark applications with the US Patent and Trademark Office for the term ‘Día de los Muertos’ for use in promotional products ranging from backpacks to cookies.

For many, this is where the problem started. But, in essence, Disney is simply doing what multinational corporations do: protect and commoditize. Are we so to naive to believe Disney would make this movie and not attempt to trademark ‘Día de los Muertos’ out of respect for our culture?

For those expressing disaproval and outrage throughout the blogosphere today: where were the petitions and angry tweets in April 2012 when Disney announced a Pixarized version of this sacred ancestral tradition?

Of course we should make our voice heard, but at this point, we need to demand Disney not make “The Untitled Pixar Movie About Día de los Muertos.”

And the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a gentle violation of our culture. Corporations will forever be eager to profit off of it if we let them, so let’s use this latest episode as an opportunity to examine our role in our own exploitation and to take a look at how we’re helping to preserve our cultural heritage for future generations.

Update: Disney Drops Bid to Trademark ‘Día de los Muertos’

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