Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bi-Cultural All Hallowed Eve

Last weekend I was invited to a Halloween house party here in Loreto Bay which proved to be a great opportunity for many of the Homeowners who have recently arrived back here to get together and celebrate the beginning of a new Season and renew connections in our Community.  Halloween has become a more universal festivity than the mainly child-oriented event that it was "when I was a boy", and that trend was certainly in evidence here on this All Hallowed Eve!

That is not to say that Halloween in Loreto Bay is an exclusively adult occasion.  There is a small population of mainly younger children who live here, often their parents have businesses here and they choose to own or rent in Loreto Bay. For these younger "Trick or Treaters" there was  a circuit of homes that were occupied and whose Owners had stocked up on goodies to distribute, as well some of the businesses along the Paseo that were open and handing out treats, including the Wine Cellar that had organized an open party and encouraged people to spend the evening there and enjoy the kids in costume who stopped by for Halloweening.  I also saw several car loads of costumed kids, who were obviously "candy commuting" from town, under their parents supervision, and were apparently enjoying some sweet success in their pursuit of treats in Loreto Bay!   

I have observed this popularity of costuming here on other occasions in the past, and the party I attended was no exception, with 90% of those in attendance in disguise - which speaks to the planning and preparation, or in some cases, resourcefulness and creativity, of many of the people who had the forethought to bring costumes and/or accessories with them.  Particularly considering that many of them had made space within their limited airline luggage to bring these things with them for just such an event.

The scene of the  party was the large beautiful home of Dave and Sherry in a completed cluster of homes in Agua Viva, with the pathway approach lined with traditional luminaria (paper bags, weighted with sand holding a candle).  Inside the spacious courtyard area was decorated with other Halloween themed decorations and there was a table full of savory and sweet treats on the dining room table that had been catered by "Mrs. Baggets", a bakery and sandwich shop in the town of Loreto which has recently come under the new management of Jupiter and Laura.  The adjacent kitchen was (as usual) a popular focal point of the party where guests fixed their preferred beverages and visited, but I soon discovered that the real "action" was upstairs on the large second floor terrace where most of the ghouls and goblins congregated in the mild evening air.

While some of the costumed guests were "incognito" and maintained a mysterious presence most of us were more or less recognizable, if not immediately, then during the ensuing conversations.  Recent arrival dates and length of stays were a common topic as people resumed friendships or made new acquaintances, and a number of the conversations I had during the evening confirmed my earlier impression that more Homeowners are here earlier in the Season and planning on staying longer than in past years.

While these Halloween traditions that were familiar to us, and had been successfully transplanted from where they had been a part of our holiday calendar since childhood, my observation is that since I have been here there is more attention being paid to the celebration of Halloween than I was aware of when I was newly arrived.  This higher profile Halloween takes the form of numerous parties, both public and private, and even the availability of some basic costume pieces and decorations available in local stores (including pumpkins, which I don't think I've seen before).

But of course Mexico has their own traditional celebration at this time of year, Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, which traces its origins here back hundreds of years to the Aztec culture, and is celebrated in the days following Halloween.  There is also some overlap with the observance of All Saints Day in this predominantly Catholic country.  Here in Loreto the public observance of honoring the deceased is mainly evidenced by the appearance of elaborate displays of artificial flower arrangements that seem to "blossom" around town and are offered for sale in the weeks leading up to the end of last month.

 These flowers are an essential part of paying respect to family members who have passed away, as it is the tradition to visit and maintain their grave sites over this holiday, tidying the site up, painting doing necessary repairs etc, decorating it with new floral arrangements, fresh remembrance candles and even leaving token gifts of favorite possessions, food
and drink - often culminating with an overnight party at the grave- side for family and friends of the deceased.  I took the opportunity of this holiday to visit the Loreto Cemetery on the day after the 31st and saw what I'm sure was an unusually busy scene (for a normal Saturday) of Loretanos doing their annual maintenance of their ancestor's resting place in preparation for this uniquely Mexican tradition.  Which significantly also extends to the many roadside shrines that are a sobering feature of Highway 1, marking the scene of where accidents have taken lives in the past, and now are the destination of annual pilgrimages for the families to pay their respects.

And so another holiday celebration passes, as we who have come to adopt Loreto as our winter home bring our own traditions, create some new ones, and see the influence and evolution of those traditions here in our new home on ourselves as well as the local residents, whose own traditions are making an impact in turn on us.  Combining the appeal of our North American festival of dressing up in costumes with the age old traditions of remembrance and respect for family and friends who have passed away is just one more unique aspect of "Living Loreto".