Monday, November 01, 2010

Happy Day of the Dead

Our early morning dose of polemical social and political commentary from across the northern border came with added skeletons this morning. Brozo and guests duly noted that today while some people se hacen los muertos, others se pasan de vivos. That almost every day in Mexico is now a day of the difuntos was one of several topical quips I could have predicted long in advance of the programme's airing.

All Saints Day in Guatemala involves a somewhat less multi-faceted evocation of mortality. The most camera-friendly of the local traditions takes place in Santiago Sacatepéquez, where little over a hundred years ago the inhabitants started sending up giant kites into the sky bearing messages for the departed. Kites, a Chinese invention, were introduced to Guatemala by the Franciscans.

I know this because this is also one of those mornings when Guatemala's most famed 'historiador' gets to show off his corpulent frame at the front of the newsroom. Thanks to Héctor Gaitán I am usually reluctant to tell my Chapin friends about my academic background, because here in Guatemala the historian is essentially a 'cuenta historias', a walking costal of anecdotal delights such as headless priests and pianos that play by themselves; the sort of person who, once driven away from respectable dinner tables, will seek employment in Antigua's parque central as a 'guide' — where he will proceed to latch onto gullible gringos ready to regard any old made up prattle as authoritative local tradition.

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