El Halloween in Latin America

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El Halloween in Latin America undoubtedly came from the strong influence North America and specially the U.S. has always exerted on our Latin countries.  If we look back at where all started, Halloween or All Hallows Eve has ancient roots stretching back to the times of the Druids, when people believed evil spirits roamed the earth on October 31 and had to be collected by the Lord of Darkness, Lord Samhain.

Over the centuries the holiday transformed into a much more commercial event more about cheap thrills than any real spiritual connection to the world of the dead. Like many aspects of American culture, the American version of Halloween has spread to many other countries, including Hispanic ones.

Today, we widely celebrate Halloween in Latin America as an excuse for a party in many major cities, though communities in the countryside largely ignore Halloween in favor of All Saints Day, I guess because of our Roman Catholic background that stemmed from the conquest.

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If you’re looking to experience Halloween in South America, get ready to find Halloween parties in bars and clubs from Argentina to Colombia. In Peru Halloween has to compete with a Creole music event, so Peruvians don’t widely celebrate it even in the cities, but you can always find an expat bar with a few plastic pumpkins and a costume party.

Chileans call call Halloween la Noche de Brujas and Bolivians call it El Jailonween in reference to the wealthy expat Jailon Paceños that popularized it. But perhaps no other country knows how to throw a Hispanic Halloween like Colombia.

Main Aspects of Halloween in Colombia

Costumes: Adults and children wear costumes on the day and night of Halloween. Many adults even wear their costumes to work in offices and stores. For children, the costumes tend to be more fun than scary. You’ll see a lot of superheroes, cartoon characters, princesses, pirates, etc. but probably no vampires or soldiers. You’ll notice one major difference from the American sort of Halloween costumes in that not many in Colombia have their entire face covered with a mask.

School Activities: Most schools celebrate Halloween with special events that parents are encouraged to attend. For example there might be a Halloween play or a costume parade with the parents as judges for awards like “best costume.”

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Kids typically also get to enjoy special Halloween treats including candy and baked goods, and teachers often decorate their rooms with all the traditional symbols of Halloween like ghosts, spiders, witches, and jack-o-lanterns.

Trick or Treating: Parents do take their costumed children trick or treating for Halloween in Colombia. The kids call “tricky tricky Halloween” and receive candy from their neighbors. Families that don’t have a nice neighborhood to trick or treat in go to malls and shopping centers in the early evening, where a special trick or treat session takes place with the kids going around to each store and receiving candy.

Parties: Of course no Halloween in Latin America would be complete without a party. In Colombia, you will see the somewhat surprising sight of costumed people dancing to Salsa, either in the bars and clubs or in individual families’ homes.

Celebrating Halloween in Latin America can be very similar to that of the US however, we mix in our traditions when partying and enjoying the foods.  We celebrate with lots of candy and costumes but if we can throw in tamales, picada, and some delicious drinks like coke and rum, guaro and tequila it all improves.

What Is La Llorona Legend?

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Every culture has legends that seem one part cautionary tale and one part plain old hair-raising ghost story. Hispanic culture has La Llorona, or the Weeping Woman, a ghostly figure whose wails echo from Mexico to Argentina. Many versions of the La Llorona legend exist, with different countries putting their own spin on the story, but the core themes of loss and punishment always hold true.

The First Weeping Woman

Like many Mexican legends, the inspiration for La Llorona can be traced back to pre-colonial times.

Just before the arrival of Hernan Cortes’ army in the Aztec capital of Mexico, the goddess Cihuacoatl appeared in the streets among the temples, crying out for the fate of the people: “O-h-h, my children, the time for our departure draws near. O-h-h-h, my children! Where shall I take you?”

The Legend of La Llorona

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Long after the conquest and the establishment of New Spain as the capital city of colonial Mexico, a mysterious figure in white continued to appear in the streets, wailing “O-h-h, my children.” No one dared to leave their homes after curfew for fear of encountering the woman on her nightly rounds around the city.

Every night she cried for her children in the Main Square, and every morning just before dawn she vanished at the shore of Texcoco Lake.  Sometimes, a young child vanished with her, stolen by La LLorona in a futile attempt to replace her own lost children.

This weeping woman was not a goddess, but the ghost of an ordinary woman doomed to suffer for all eternity for her mistakes. Legend has it she loved a Spanish nobleman. She bore him three children, but being an indigenous woman she could not marry him. When her lover finally married a Spanish lady, the woman went insane with grief, drowned their three children, and committed suicide. When she reached the gates of Heaven, she couldn’t explain where her children had gone. She became doomed to walk the earth for all eternity searching for them.

Even today, the ghostly figure of La Llorona continues to haunt Mexico City. She has also expanded her search for her lost children to many other cities and countries. You might hear her cries one dark night, or even see her veiled white form disappear into the waters of some river or lake.

La Llorona in Colombia

In Mexico La Llorona inspires fear but also a touch of pity due to the unjust society whose prejudices led to her madness. She wears white like a bride, and there is a purity to her pain.

In Colombia she cuts a much more terrifying figure. La Llorona in Colombia wears a black robe with a hood, like Death. Crickets, fireflies, and butterflies alight in her long curly hair, but when you catch sight of her face you see nothing but a skull with two glowing orbs for eyes. She too wails, but she has not lost her child.

The dead babe rests in her arms, its angelic expression marred by the tears of blood the mother sheds over it. In this version of the La Llorona legend, the ghost appears to girls in danger of having their own illegitimate children to frighten them.

No matter which version of the legend you believe, you would not want to meet La Llorona out at night!

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