HALLOWEEN IN MEXICO AND LOS CABOS
By Cheryl Miller
The U.S.-style holiday of Halloween has made major inroads into Mexico, with monster
costumes almost as widely sold as the marigold flowers traditionally used to decorate
relatives' graves during Nov. 1-2 Day of the Dead ceremonies. Professor Stanley Brandes,
chairman of the Department of Anthropology at the University of California , Berkeley
stated in 2007 that "Halloween costumes and plastic pumpkins have flooded into Mexico
on the North American Free Trade Agreement's commercial tide, changing the country's
Day of the Dead festivities."
His statement is very true. Since I have moved to Los Cabos over 5 years ago, I have seen
the measurable growth of the celebration of Halloween here in this county. Where 5 years
ago, seemingly no children wandered the streets on the eve of October 31st in search of
candy and treats, now, the main streets of Cabo San Lucas are abuzz with little goblins and
witches everywhere. Our main mall. Puerto Paraiso, is another favorite location for the
children to go, where many merchants and charitable citizens hand out candies to the
costume clad youth, who yell "Halloween" instead of "Trick or Treat". In addition, the
tradition has grown to be slightly different here, as the children often go up to one another
and yell "Halloween" to each other, whereupon they need to share their bounties amongst
themselves, exchanging a chili candy for a tootsie roll, etc.
In the past, buying the traditional orange-type pumpkin to carve was fairly new and fairly challenging in Los Cabos. Of course, 5 years ago just finding a traditional Haloween pumpkin in Los Cabos was almost impossible. These symbolic vegtables started appearing a few years back, but at very high prices so that a small to medium pumpkin easily could cost $25 US, making it impossible for the majority of the public to partake. This year, with the advent of WalMart into Los Cabos and the major grocery chains seeing the change and demand, pumpkins seem to be priced at about $0.30 a pound, allowing a much more affordable, new tradition to emerge. The pumpkin bins started emptying out on Oct. 1st when they were first available, as well as ready-made costumes.
Halloween seems like good clean fun for most Mexicans who are embracing this into their
regular Day of the Dead festivities, but the growth of Halloween has some pretty major
oposition here as well. In 2007, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City
condemned Halloween as "damaging and against the faith," as conservatives sought to
stem celebration of the ghouls-and-goblins holiday and return to the country's traditional
Day of the Dead. The church further stated, " Those who celebrate Halloween are
worshipping a culture of death that is the product of a mix of pagan customs, stating that
the worst thing is that this celebration has been identified with neo-pagans, Satanism and
occult worship." Interesting position for the Church to take, as the Day of the Dead
celebrations historically emerged with the advent of the Catholic Church in Mexcio
in the 1500's as a way to encourage convertion of the indigenous people to the church
by embracing formally pagan rituals already on the continent. But, the Church urged parents not to let their children wear Halloween costumes or go trick-or-treating — instead suggesting Sunday school classes to "teach them the negative things about Halloween," costume parties where children can dress up as Biblical characters, and candy bags complete with instructions to give friends a piece while telling them "God loves you."
In addition, certain vocal groups such as "Yo Influyo", a conservative internet magazine has called on teachers to "eradicate" Halloween and "defend our culture.". Prof. Brandes of Berekley also reports "All over Mexico today, there appears evidence of resistance to the Halloween invasion from the north," said Brandes, in an article published this month in the Journal of American Folklore. He said that clerics in several Mexican states have prohibited the celebration of Halloween on the grounds that it represents a threat to the sanctity of the Day of the Dead, traditionally held on November 2. In other signs of resistance, the city of Oaxaca moved to protect its competition for the best home altar - set up to honor the dead - by disqualifying any altar that presents "foreign elements."
In reality though, here in Los Cabos, the mix of the two holiday celebrations and the traditions from two continents, seem to be gaining favor in the population, which is a huge melting pot of Mexican cultures and traditions. Every year, the number of costume clad children roaming the streets on October 31st increases, searching for candy and treats! Come on down with a bag of candy and make a child's day!