It means we want Halloween and it’s what kids in Mexico say instead of trick or treat. I’m no cultural anthropologist, but I’m pretty sure the Mexican Halloween is an imported, bastardized version of our elaborate, sugar-filled consumer fetish—in the same way the American Halloween is just a distorted descendant of Celtic traditions, now gone completely awry. Instead of the bonfires of falls past, which attracted bugs that attracted bats, we now buy plastic, bat-shaped stand-ins, hang them like model planes, and call it a holiday. Even the extortionist roots of trick-or-treating have fallen away. Today if a house can’t deliver, kids politely go to the next one, no tricks and no hard feelings. But I digress.
This was the girls’ fourth Halloween as cruising kids, yet the first that really seemed foreign. In 2011, they hung out and trick-or-treated with other gringo kids on the docks in La Cruz, Mexico. In 2012, they canvased the houses of a posh Victoria, Canada neighborhood, an experience indistinguishable from the States. Last year, they were in Grandma and Grandpa’s neighborhood in the Bay Area. But this year, this year was remarkable.
We’re anchored off the small, Baja town of Santa Rosalia. Days before the big day, we asked around about the local traditions. We thought kids would dress up because we saw costumes displayed in some of the storefronts. “Si,” we were told, kids would dress up and they would go door-to-door soliciting candy after dark.
Do they say trick or treat?
“No, ellos dicen ‘queremos Halloween.’”
And then we learned that in Mexico, kids don’t go knocking on the front doors of people’s homes, they do their trick-or-treating at businesses. The copy store, the pharmacy, the ice cream parlor, the hairdresser, the gift shop, the grocery store, the hardware store, the hotel—everything open is fair game.
At dusk, we dinghied ashore with Eleanor’s delicate jellyfish costume and Frances’s rugged snorkeler ensemble. Each carried a plastic grocery bag they’d decorated with a Sharpie. When we got to the familiar Santa Rosalia downtown, it was like stepping back in time. The narrow streets were clogged with cars filled with people who weren’t going anywhere fast, just Friday night cruising like in a 1950s movie. Hundreds of costumed kids and their parents moved eagerly along the sidewalks and in between the cars, crossing the street from open merchant to open merchant. Lamp posts were decorated and flowers were piled high in front of florists preparing for the Dia de los Muertos celebrations to come.
Back on the boat that night, the girls dumped their bags onto the table and fanned it out to commence the traditional hours-long trading session. But between the two girls, there was only one piece of familiar candy, a rogue mini Butterfinger. Nothing else could be readily identified and nothing else contained chocolate. Nearly everything was hard candy, much of it containing a spicy chili coating or center that would burn your mouth up. It made trading between them difficult, and fun to watch, the risk of ending up with something less desirable than what they started with was great.
In our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we slumbered through the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Follow along at http://www.logofdelviento.blogspot.com