I Moved To Oaxaca

Sunday, October 31, 2004

You know the feeling American towns and cities give off during important national holidays? That ghost town feeling? Or maybe it's the "What am I doing on the street when I should be inside warm and cozy with my family" feeling. The kind of feeling you can experience Christmas, Thanksgiving, Superbowl Sunday. Oaxaca is feeling a little like that for Day of the Dead. Or, it would if the streets weren't crammed with tourists and the vendors catering to them.

Yesterday in Soriana, one of our supermarkets, people were loading up with groceries for the long weekend, and in the downtown mercado and in the Abastos, people were loading up with Day of the Dead supplies: flowers, candy, chocolate, and bread, sugar cane, candles, tissue paper flags. Tons of it. Because most people started building their family altars last night, or today, because tomorrow the dead start showing up and everybody wants to be ready. Me, too, only I built my a day early so that it would be ready today, Halloween, a holiday not really celebrated here -- though street kids don masks and plastic jack o'lanterns and ask for money -- but certainly celebrated in the U.S.

Mexicans say that the spirits of dead children show up around noon on the 1st, and that the adults and old people trickle in later in the day and on the 2nd; everybody goes home on the 3rd, unless it's Sunday in which case they wait until Monday. But I think that -- and here I am, showing my gringa excentrica nature again -- that the spirits of dead cats come back a day early, on Halloween night. Trust even a dead cat to cadge not one or two but three free meals. So the tins of tuna and Whiskas and chicken-flavored kibble are out, along with some fresh water and balled-up paper. Welcome back, kitties!


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