Calif. theme park Knott's Berry Farm under fire for Day of the Dead-themed haunted house

A popular theme park in California is under fire for a Halloween installation that some allege is culturally insensitive to Latinos.

Knott's Berry Farm’s “Day of the Dead Scare Zone” is being called sacrilegious and inappropriate and a petition already has close to 800 signatures to force the park to take down the attraction.

The campaign against the Knotts Berry Farm Scare Zone was started Hesperia, California, resident Armando Cruz Velasco, who is angered that the park is using a traditional holiday like the Day of the Dead – or “Día de los Muertos” in Spanish – to market what he sees as just another Halloween haunted house.

“This sacred holiday—although trivialized in media and mainstream—is important to the Latino community,” Cruz Velasco said in a statement sent to Fox News Latino. “Would Knott's get away with taking another sacred cultural holiday and creating a Scare Zone with it? I think not. So why are we letting them appropriate Día de los Muertos, year after year after year?”

Knott's Berry Farm did not respond to Fox News Latino’s calls for comment.

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The petition has drawn a number of supporters from Southern California’s Latino community who are similarly angered at the theme park.

“Dia de los Muertos is a day of remembrance, a tribute to loved ones who have [passed] would you go out and party the day ... of your mother or father’s death?” Luis Ray of Los Angeles said. “It is a day of respect for the dead, and has significance in our culture. Why not go out and party on Memorial Day? How about 9/11? It’s a day of remembrance and respect for the dead.”

This is not the first time that marketers and companies have faced a backlash for using Day of the Dead iconography.

The holiday originated in Mexico but has spread across the globe and is meant to honor deceased family members. Families build private altars called ofrendas to honor the dead, offering them sugar skulls, marigolds, their favorite foods and beverages and visiting graves with those items as gifts.

Disney drew the ire of angry Latinos when it tried to trademark “Dia de los Muertos” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last year and quickly announced it was withdrawing its trademark request.

"What were they thinking?" Genevieve Barrios Southgate, director of community programs at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, told the Orange County Register.

"Disney obviously responded to public pressure," she said. "I guess that's what happens when you don't have culturally sensitive people as your advisers."

In 2011, Universal Studios Hollywood also added a “La Llorona: Villa de Almas Perdidas” to their popular Halloween Horror Nights and recruited Mexican actor and “Y Tu Mamá También” star Diego Luna as a creative consultant to design the new maze.

La Llorona, or "the weeping woman," is a mythical figure attached to the Day of the Dead in popular culture.

Some people were angered that the Latino figures they grew up with would be used as fodder for ghoulish mazes and haunted houses.

“La Llorona is a macabre figure. It wouldn’t occur to me to dress up as this character. She isn’t a woman I can respect or relate to in modern day,” said Yolanda S. Walther-Meade, a San Diego Film Festival host. “Women really do murder their children. What about a Mexican soccer player? That’s a more positive example of a Latino figure to dress as for Halloween.  Even a Day of the Dead skeleton would be at least a little educational and not so offensive. 

"The Latino culture has so much more to offer than only these scary folkloric characters,” she said.

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