Sunday, November 10, 2013

All Hallowed Eve meets the Day of the Dead!

This year I observed different celebrations of the recent Halloween and Day of the Dead occasions which maybe the start of a new synergy blending these two different cultural traditions as they are practiced here in Loreto Bay.

I have written in previous years about how Halloween has been observed here in Loreto Bay – memorably the year we had a costume parade up and down a section of the Paseo where most of the people were in the parade, leaving only a few watching from the curb (  On other years, I when I had neighbors with young children living nearby, I have had a couple of the kids, escorted by their doting parents, call at my door for candy – but at that time occupied houses were few and far between so the pickings were slim for the little trick-or-treaters.

But this year there was a big change in how we celebrated Halloween, and I hope it becomes a new tradition that will continue to build greater connections between us here in Loreto Bay and the surrounding community in and around the town of Loreto.  At least in this part of Mexico, rather than Halloween being primarily a “residential” activity, with kids going from door to door collecting candy in their neighborhoods, the tradition here is mainly for kids to go to stores and businesses in the town for their treats, and not to other homes.  In the days before the 31st the Wine Bar and several of the other business offices along the Paseo announced that they would have treats available for kids and the Wine Bar invited Homeowners to join them for the evening and see the kids in costume that called for treats.

As your intrepid reporter, I felt obliged to cover this event and so after work I settled in at the bar and soon the place was full of people from Loreto Bay enjoying each other’s company and watching different sports on the big screen TVs.  Not long afterwards the first kids arrived – and, consistent with my experience celebrating Halloween in other places, the earlier in the evening, the younger the costumed kids are.  Likewise, with the first arrivals, there were almost as many adults escorting them as there were kids looking for candy.

Although this was not the first year that Will and Cynthia have had Halloween candies available for kids, fortunately this year they had stocked up, apparently anticipating a bigger turn out than in the past – and a good thing they did!  After the first few “toddlers” had been and gone, and it was actually getting dark outside, there began an almost steady stream of costumed kids – gradually increasing in age and size as the night wore on.  Along with this shift the number of “parental escorts” declined and there was a distinctly spooky feeling in the air for a while, as the sidewalks around the traffic circle at the south end of the community became populated with a growing collection of various ghosts, goblins and other things that go “bump” in the night!

While much of this was familiar to me, and anyone else who grew up practicing Halloween in most places in Canada and the US, I was struck by several significant differences as well, with this Baja version of the night.  For instance there is the greeting called out by the kids as they arrive at the door . . . “HALLOWEEN!” which echoed up and down the street . . . short and to the point!  No “Trick or Treat” or (dare I say, with the risk of dating myself) “Halloween Apples”!  Probably this abbreviated call is language based, since the word “Halloween” is pretty universally familiar and “Trick or Treat” is a more complicated concept to express, particularly if you are translating it from a Spanish perspective.        

But the thing that stands out for me most as a memory of that night were the costumes!  First of all, in a town the size of Loreto, fairly isolated in a remote part of the Baja Peninsula, access to “store bought” costumes is almost non-existent.  I did see a small display of a few witches’ hats, some small make-up kits and a few other accessories while grocery shopping the week before in El Pescador, and while I didn’t check out the couple of stores in town that have birthday type gifts for kids, I am sure there wasn’t much more than that available elsewhere in town.

But it was not just the fact that almost all of the costumes that night were home-made out of necessity – what impressed me even more was the quality and detail of the many ones that came calling at the Wine Bar during the evening.  I was reminded of “when I was a boy” back in the ‘60s, when making Halloween costumes from scratch was the norm and there was a healthy sense of costume competition on the streets of my neighborhood on that special night.  But the time and effort that had obviously gone into many of these kid’s costumes was consistently higher than I recall seeing in recent years back in Canada – no “plastic mask (inevitably made in China) with a garbage bag poncho” level of effort here!

On this Halloween we saw many more of the town’s people bringing their costumed children out to Loreto Bay to make their rounds, and from all appearances they appeared to be pleased with their candy “harvest”!    So we may be seeing the beginning of an expansion of the Halloween spirit here in Loreto Bay, fueled by the availability of candy from the many Grandparents (who may be missing young ones where they come from) and while the kid’s incentive is obviously another source of candy, perhaps their Mother’s may be motivated by the costume competition!

To round out the story, I was back at the Wine Bar two nights later for their “Dia de Muertos” celebration with special musical entertainment by the always popular Loretano guitarist Herzon, accompanied by his son on percussion.  This was an occasion for another full house at the Bar and the musicians were channeling the “spirit” of the occasion with their own costumed acknowledgement of the Day of the Dead.  I was feeling a bit “Devilish” myself, and although the traditional look for the “day” is typically more of that of a skeleton, I was moved to express an El Diablo theme for the evening.   

Of course this was an adult affair – no costumed children running around – and the treats were not of the candy variety, but mainly those of alcohol and savory tapas snacks!  But with the haunting sounds of Herzon’s guitar and a happy crowd of Homeowners enjoying that, and each other’s company, we enjoyed a second themed evening at the Wine Bar in 48 hours. 

When Loretanos include us in their celebration of Halloween, and share their children’s excitement (and their own costume handiwork) with us in exchange for a little candy – and we recognize their traditional Day of the Dead, with the help of a local musician – perhaps the blending of these similar but distinct traditions may create a new hybrid event in future years . . . when a harmless celebration of death and the dark side becomes another way of “Living Loreto”!