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The Day of the Dead

In the main square of Mexico City, the Day of the Dead was celebrated with a strange conviviality of humans eating special foods and the dead who were remembered. How widespread the service followed in the Cathedral of San Fernando,San Antonio, Texas, is, I do not know, but it was an exemplary way of celebrating the dead who have led exemplary lives. In the US, Halloween is saved from vulgarity by the sweet children who visit the homes of neighbors. In San Fernando the procession up the nave was led by children dressed as little saints, one a boy dressed as Santiago (St, James the Major). I suppose the idea is to teach the children to respect the dead. Then came a line of adults, each carrying a cross bearing the photograph of a local person who had led an exemplary life. One by one, they took their place behind the altar as those honored were named. Two were well-known: Henry B. (Hank) Gonzales and Cesar Chavez. Finally, respects were paid to three who had died in the past year. A short bio of each was read. One was a journalist for La Prensa. The second, a woman social worker, was eulogized by a woman dressed in black and wearing a black Spanish mantilla. The last was Hipólito García, the first federal judge of Hispanic origin. He is buried in the cemetery in Austin reserved for distinguished public servants. Naturally, those honored represented the Hispanic community of San Antonio. If this admirable practice were imitated, each community would choose those whom it would honor. The problem is that those chosen might not have been the best choice. It was not stated who made this invidious selection. They could be accused, oh horrors!, of elitism.

As usual, the lessons were chosen appropriate to the day. The New Testament reading was the passage in which Christ tells people to observe the law quietly, not like the ostentatious pharisees and scribes. The Day of the Dead does not celebrate the modern counterpart of these (it sounded as though some faculty members were the target),, but ordinary people who have tried at least to lead exemplary lives. We were asked to remember such people who have influenced our lives. I did.

Ronald Hilton - 11/3/02