Thursday, October 20, 2016

day of the living peso

Where did October go?

Day of the Dead is almost upon us and I have not yet bought my Day of the Dead tree or wrapped my Day of the Dead presents or sent out my Day of the Dead cards.

Before you think I am handling a sacred Mexican holiday with far too much sarcasm, take a look at that photograph. I could have shot it at any discount store in Canada or The States. But it was in the bustling burg of Manzanillo.

Witch hats. Princess costumes. Plastic jack-o-lanterns with handles to assist little goblins in making a fast get-away on their trick-or-treat rounds.

Every year when photographs (or the real thing) show up in these parts, the usual suspects will don ashes, pull their hair, and bemoan the passing of another Mexican tradition. By that, I suspect they mean Day of the Dead.

Well, all of you pearl clutchers, I have a piece of news. Day of the Dead is a regional Mexican tradition. In some regions (such as Michoacán) it is very big. In a week or so, the highways around Pátzcuaro will be filled with pickups and trucks filled to overflowing with marigolds to dress up graves and archways.

Around here (as well as in northern Mexico) you will be lucky to see much other than local schools competing to build altars -- often adorned with vampires and werewolves. They look a lot like a science fair in the school gym gone wrong.

Some Mexican Indian tribes have a long tradition of setting aside a day to commune with their dead. The tradition survived in its home regions after The Conquest.

In an attempt to build greater national pride, one of the Mexican presidents in the 1960s (I do not recall his name, but undoubtedly one of you will), decided it would be a great idea to have another national tradition. His Education minister opted for Day of the Dead. Children throughout the country would be taught the tradition, and another thread would be woven into the national myth.

And like most things in this world that are imposed from above, everyone went on living their lives as if nothing had changed. Residents of Tzintzuntzán decorated their cemeteries and their homes drawing tourists like vultures to a carcass. While, in Monterrey, a tourist would be hard pressed to find a marigold. Ghosts and devils? You betcha. Marigolds? Not as likely.

I am not certain who buys all that Halloween paraphernalia. I do not see many trick or treaters in our small villages. That may be because I am usually out that evening (just as I was in Oregon and Nevada). But I have seen them in the smaller village of La Manzanilla -- just up the road. I susect wherever northerners congregate, the little baggers will follow.

I am not surprised Halloween has started to catch on around here. What kid could avoid a night where all you have to do is ask for candy, and you then get as much as you want?

Mexico is a cultural sponge. Even though the vast majority of the population is Mestizo, the culture has a velcro tendency for foreign cultural bits it likes.

Some remnants of the pre-Conquest culture survive. There are also lots of Spansh and French affectations that crept across the Atlantic voluntarily and involuntarily. The art nouveau and art deco buildings of Mexico City are examples.

And, of course, the cultural giant on the other side of the Rio Bravo has bequeathed as much to Mexico as it has to the rest of the world. Santa Claus. Levis. KFC. Home Depot.

Now, Halloween.

Here at the house with no name, we celebrate neither Day of the Dead or Halloween. But, we will celebrate Revolution Day next month.

Just don't expect any candy. And call first.

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