(Orange, Texas)

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May 9, 2013

Social media eyed 'Day of the Dead' trademark fail



"It's a terrible idea. I'm outraged," said Kiko Torres, owner of Masks y Mas in Albuquerque, a shop that sells Day of the Dead art and clothing year-round. "I mean, what's the purpose of that?"

Elainne Ramos, vice chair of LATISM, a nonprofit Latino social media group, said the trademark dispute momentarily replaced immigration as the hottest topic among Latinos on Twitter. "Some people saw it as an attempt to own our culture and profit from it," Ramos said. "This is going to be a marketing case study on what not to do."

The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, honors departed souls of loved ones who are welcomed back for a few intimate hours. At burial sites or intricately built altars, photos of loved ones are centered on skeleton figurines, bright decorations, candles, candy and other offerings such as the favorite foods of the departed. Pre-Columbian in origin, many of the themes and rituals now are mixtures of indigenous practices and Roman Catholicism.

In the past decade or so, this traditional Latin American holiday with indigenous roots has spread throughout the U.S. along with migration from Mexico and other countries where it is observed. Not only are U.S.-born Latinos adopting the Day of the Dead, but various underground and artistic non-Latino groups have begun to mark the Nov. 1-2 holidays through colorful celebrations, parades, exhibits and even bike rides and mixed martial arts fights.

Lois Zamora, a University of Houston English professor who has studied the Day of the Dead, said Disney's interest shows how much this once obscure holiday has grown in the U.S. But she said the trademark attempt was odd. "Disney doesn't quite get it," Zamora said. "It would be like copyrighting 'Christmas or 'Easter' or, for that matter, 'Halloween.' It doesn't make sense."

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