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HALLOWEEN: Dia de los Muertos

Many Americans do not know what Halloween is all about. For Catholic Hispanics it is ªthe Day of the Dead","Holy even" refers to All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). Churches usually celebrate them on the closest Sunday. Thus it was in San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, Texas. The church was decorated in green, the color of hope, for Advent. The clergy wore green robes, and many of the faithful wore something of the same color. The church was crowded: it was a special day. Local Texan "Hispanics" were singled out for praise, one a woman of the last century, the wife of a Texan governor ( I did not catch her name. Was it Diana de Avila? Texans, please clarify). She was praised for telling the "true" history of Texas, especially about the Alamo, "distorted by commercial interests" (presumably meaning that the Anglo immigrants were interested in land, slaves, etc). The Alamo, the Texan shrine located in San Antonio, was defended in 1836 by a group led by William Travis but fell to the Mexican army. I suppose two versions of Texan history are used in Texas, the Hispanic one different from the Anglo and Mexican versions (making three).

Photographs of four Hispanic Texans who died recently were the new heroes (saints?). Their photographs, mounted on banners, were carried in procession up the nave and placed behind the altar. One was the congressman, Hank González. Another had won for Hispanic men the right to box in mixed games. I was surprised to learn that boxing had been segregated in Texas; boxing but no segregation in Heaven? Another was Gloria Zorrilla, a leader of the bilingual movement, "aimed at teaching children English, while not forgetting their maternal language". I thought the aim was simply to teach them English. The words "Spanish" and "Mexican" were avoided.

A special feature was a parade of charming children, in nice costumes, with green predominating. I wondered why one girl had a halo over her head. It became clear when they moved up to the altar and were presented as "future saints"; she was simply dropping the "future". In theory the saints are few, most humans are lucky if they make it on the Day of Judgment. I was left with the impression that all in the church were good Hispanic saints. It was a triumph of that American art, public relations.

Ronald Hilton - 11/4/01