Thursday, October 22, 2015

Halloween for Hispanics

Picture by Artiom P  under Creative Commons License
You are heating up a pizza, or zapping on TV, when your child is about to ask (or rather: declared that) he needs a costume for Halloween is coming.
For those Hispanics who, like me, prefer their birthday cake with candles that are digits (such as a 3 and an 8 to 38 ) instead of an humiliating pile of individual candles, all these allusions to Halloween are intriguing and perhaps a little mysterious. What is celebrated ultimately during the feast of Halloween?, why the disguise?, why the mortuary and baleful symbols? To answer these questions we need to delve a little into the cultural roots of this festival, and their progressive transformations throughout the multiple sieves of History.
Halloween is celebrated on October 31, that is, the eve of the Christian holiday known as All Saints' Day (in fact, the word Halloween is a somehow distorted and difficult to recognize contraction of the words All Hallow's Eve ).
Now, besides the undeniable Christian heritage noted above, the feast of Halloween is fundamentally a product of pagan Celtic traditions previous to Catholicism, such as the  so called Samhain. That festival marked the end of the harvest season (hence, the use and collection of the famous pumpkins, known as Jack-o'-lanterns) and the beginning of the dark cycle of the year (the darker half). Conceived as a time of change -and possibly culminations- the advent of autumn was considered a propitiatory event for the souls of other worlds (angels, fairies, spirits and other beings already gone) return to the world of the living.
Jack Santino says "the sacred and the religious are a key to understanding the context of Halloween as seen in Northern Ireland, but there (as in the rest of that country) there is a rather uneasy truce between the customs and beliefs from Christian worship and those associated with pre-religions Irish Christianity. "[1]
It might not be unreasonable to infer that, just as Carnival originally represented a challenge to the worldly power of the ruling classes [2] , the earliest versions of Halloween also constituted a challenge to the supernatural powers from beyond the graveThis hypothesis would explain the use of costumes with ease and without reverential mood; the evocation of ghostly figures, vampires, undead and demons (all characters that presumably should strike fear and, presumably, an attitude of respect and away).
In short, whatever the underlying collective unconscious to this celebration might be, the truth is that Halloween is one of the most sophisticated popular celebrations, with its complex web of games and liturgy (consider all the little rituals connected to it, such as trick -or-treating (search of goodies), carving the Jack-o'-lanterns (carving pumpkins), costume parties, gatherings to hear tales of horror stories, etc., etc).
And yes, I would say it is worth getting the costume for your child... ¨

Santino, Jack. The Hallowed Eve: Dimensions of Culture in a Calendar Festival of Northern Ireland . University Press of Kentucky, p.95
2 According to Mikhail Bakhtin , the carnival, in its medieval version was a time when caste differences relaxed and satin people defied the status quo masquerading as the ruling classes, while the powerful get drunk on the streets as vagabonds, and finally, a time of truce in which social relations are subverted.
Bakhtin, MM [1941, 1965] Rabelais and His World . Trans. Hélène Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Pedro Bonifacio Palacios (May 13, 1854 – February 28, 1917), better known by his sobriquet, Almafuerte, was a famous Argentine poet. Below you'll find the almost impossible translation of some of his poems (believe me: they sound great in Spanish).

AVANTI (from the Italian “Let’s move”)

If you fall down ten times you get up twenty
another hundred, another thousand, or as needed so many ...
Surely won’t be your falls so catastrophic
Nor, by force of the logic, be so many.

With the same famine as the plants
greedily eat up the elusive humus,
swallowing the rancor for unfair offenses
saints and holy their characters have formed.
Almost asinine obsession, to be strong,
Nothing but that needs the creature,
and in any unhappy soul I figure
that the claws of the fate at last release them...

All incurable may find cure
Five seconds earlier than their death!

PIU AVANTI (from the Italian “Let’s move further”)

Do not give up, even being defeated,
Do not feel slave, even being enslaved
Trembling with fear, think yourself being brave,
and fiercely charge while you are in dismay.

Have the tenacity of the rusty nail,
who rusty and old acts still as nail,
not the coward boldness of the turkey
who shakes its plumage at every little sound.

Proceed as God who never cries,
Or as Lucifer, who never prays,
or as the oak, that in its greatness
needs water, but asking it refrains...

That biting and avenging thunders,
your head keep yelling rolling in the dust!