Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Official "NO" to Halloween

"I take advantage [of this] to issue a call to all the population, especially the Christian population, so that they will prevent their children from participating in celebratory events that are not part of the Honduran nationality nor of our culture, like the satanic festival of Halloween; this is not part of our culture, nor of the beliefs and traditions of our country."

So says Áfrico Madrid, Minister of the Interior and Population. In a statement to the press covered in El Heraldo, Madrid said Honduras would not allow foreigners into the country who were planning to carry out satanic rituals during Halloween. Madrid said
"these are charlatans, defrauders who take advantage of the innocence of the people or their superstitious beliefs."

Using the law of public good, mayors were instructed to stop any such activities that have as a goal defrauding the public.

All of this because, again according to El Heraldo, a cemetery worker in Santa Barbara found what he said were the remains of a satanic ritual on a grave when he came to work a few mornings ago: photographs, blood, knives, cigars, and crosses made of corn. This, El Heraldo stated, was evidence that wizards and witches from different countries had met in the Santa Barbara cemetery to hold diabolical rituals. Only Jorge Canahauti's newspapers carried these two stories.

We are reminded that Santa Barbara was also the setting for the famous novel by Ramon Amaya Amador called Los Brujos de Ilamatepque ("The Sorcerers of Ilamatepeque") about two former soldiers of Francisco Morazan, the brothers Cipriano and Doroteo Cano, who are accused by the oligarchy in Santa Barbara of being practitioners of black magic and are killed by a firing squad. The story is a fictionalized account of a historical event documented by Rubén Angel Rosas in his book Tradicciones Hondureñas. The novel's exploration of the conflict between unthinking suspicion of new ideas and a kind of conservative traditionalism seems all too pertinent.

Halloween itself is a distinctly North American celebration, of course, and in that sense, it would not be surprising if a nationalist call were made to refrain from this foreign celebration. Most countries in Latin America celebrate the Day of the Dead (November 2) and All Saints Day (November 1), which are Roman Catholic holidays. During this period people will clean up cemeteries and visit the graves of loved ones. But what is being called for in Honduras is less a return to national traditions and more another blurring of the lines between secular practices, religion, and the conservative politics that guided the coup.

Making it much clearer what is at stake here, the presidential advisor on religion, Carlos Portillo, said that the government was preoccupied with the values of the country and would be organizing events for people to pray to support the Armed Forces of Honduras at various locations around the country. Portillo also announced an evangelical rally (he called it a crusade) to be held the 31 of October in Tegucigalpa. So, no satanic rituals: just the perversion of religion in the service of a kind of jingoistic patriotism.


John (Juancito) Donaghy said...

The Day of All Souls, the Day of the Dead, is November 2 in the Catholic liturgical calendar - not October 31.

November 1 is the feast of All Saints. In the Catholic liturgical tradition major feasts begin with the first Vespers, the evening prayer the night before the feast day - about nightfall, much as the Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday evening.

RNS said...

Thank you. I corrected the article this morning.

When I lived in Oaxaca, Mexico the celebration for the Day of the Dead was an all night vigil in the cemetery, with some bringing food for the dead.

RNS said...

Keeping this up to date:

The mayor of Tela, Atlantida, based on the decree issued by Áfrico Madrid, banned all public Halloween parties. Quote: "Halloween is not part of our culture"

The political governor of the Department of Cortés also agreed to crack down on it. He says he wrote to the immigration department and other government entities to get an idea of how many witches and sorcerers (presumably foreign? why else ask immigration...) are operating in Cortés. He said they could be shut down, their businesses closed, without violating their rights of free speech because these people commit fraud and blackmail.