November 06, 2004
"There is nothing to fear from the dead. It's the living we should fear." 
I live in a bordertown in the desert southwest, and I've come to realize that this place, and so many others like it, may share a flag and some other surface similarities with adjacent communities, but like cities and towns on both sides of the fence, this ain't the US of A, and it ain't old Mexico, either. It's La Frontera, the border, and it's a world unto itself.

Cultural assumptions about how people should or could behave go out the window after a short time here. And I can't help but soak up some of the lifestyle and the attitude, in the same way the people of Mexico's borderland have absorbed the attributes (bueno y malo) of us "norte americanos." Each November since my migration to this place, I've attended displays of altars in honor of "Dia de los Muertos" (Day of the Dead). And it was jarring at first, those smiling skulls, and the food set out as some kind of offering. But after thinking upon it, and considering it's origins (Catholic with a hint of Mayan, in a country that emerged from a history awash in blood and death), and it's attributes, I think it's probably a healthier attitude than most.

I've already lost two brothers-- one, suddenly, to a car accident over 20 years ago; another, 6 years ago, to cancer. Add to that the loss of a high shool friend at age 17, and I can say I'm probably a person who has thought about death and dying more than alot of people I know, young or old. That being said, I have developed a profound appreciation for this celebration, this honoring of friends and family passed, this smiling handshake with death. It's a healthier response, as far as I'm concerned, than the "let's talk about anything but that" attitude in the US that basically encourages people to turn their face and run from the idea. My appreciation has developed to the extent that I'm going to create memorials of my own at our community's Dia de Los Muertos celebration next November.

And that cross-cultural shift? I also saw some of that here at Halloween, with scores of muchachos y muchachas at our door, though some didn't quite seem to get the 'routine' or custom-- I had more than a few wearing no costume whatsoever, yet with pillowcase (candy bag) in hand. For reference, it's better to man the candy bowl and distribute the treats individually. Otherwise, you're inclined to chastize repeatedly, "Solamente uno, por favor!"

posted by James  [link] | |




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