Halloween Monsters, Vampires y Muertos
By Patricia Medina, PhD.
During this time of the year throughout the US, children happily anticipate Halloween as a day to dress up in costumes and go trick-o-treating while adults go along and dress up to celebrate with their children or to attend parties. Some families watch horror films together that are full of blood and gore.
In Mexico and other Latin American countries, however, this Holiday (Day of the Dead and Day of the Saints) is celebrated a bit differently. Those of you who watched the movie Coco might remember the importance of the family altars, decorated with food and flowers to honor the dead, and the meals served at the tomb of relatives to remember and celebrate their legacy.
As I think about this holiday and how to celebrate it, I contemplate the scary parts of Halloween as an allegory to our daily lives. Who are the monsters, the vampires, the zombies and who are those they prey upon?
Politics after all can be both an exhilarating and garish sport, especially right now when power brokers position themselves for power at the expense of our communities’ progress.
Is the monster Donald Trump and the vampires his legion of followers who spew anti-immigrant hate that results in our elected Republican leaders going along with the cruelty of caged immigrant children separated from their mothers?
Are the other vampires those political leaders in the Democratic party who claim to support immigrants but fail to act on legislation because is “not good timing” in their political power calculation? They get our votes as blood money but yet fail to pay back in kind with good policies that ends our community’s suffering.
Are the zombies those local elected officials who just go along in the name of being “team players” because they are afraid of being denied access to political bosses or fear being dropped-off the Democratic party line during election time?
But drawing from the wisdom of my ancestors whose stories built my family’s resiliency, I choose to ignore the gory part of our current political discourse.
As an American citizen who is engaged in the work of changing heart-and minds of my fellow Americans on immigration reform, I rejoice in the fact that his holiday is not about celebrating gore and death.
For thousands of years of our native American and Spanish culture, this holiday is all about celebrating the lives and legacy of those who lived and fought for our families and for our rights. It is about building community with the living in the memory of the dead.
So, as an American of Latino ancestry, on the day of the Dead and the Day of the Saints, I will honor those Latino leaders and immigrants who fought and died in all our American wars to preserve our American freedom and liberty.
I will build an altar to honor my dead ancestors. I will share special foods and treats with my kids while remembering their deeds and all the sacrifices of the leaders who died fighting for justice.
I will celebrate the legacy of all the lives lost in the trail of tears coming to America; I will remember them because they made a courageous choice to leave behind death in the hope of finding life and the American Dream. I will remember them because I know that no-one takes a hard journey with an uncertain future unless the terror at home is real.
For most of us, Halloween is just one day full of gore and sweet candy. But for those in our community who are forced to live in fear of deportation for driving to and from work without a driver license, their daily lives are a nightmare. And their children live in a constant state of anxiety and fear. Theirs is not a Halloween movie. It is a daily reality.
So, this Thursday in Halloween, I will celebrate this American holiday in the tradition of my ancestors. I will build my Day of the Dead altar and I will pray for the souls of my dead relatives but also for the souls of those who died attempting to cross the border and gain political asylum.
But I will also pray for the living so we can find our courage to continue the fight to end the horrors of our current immigration system.
I will make an ofrenda so that the leaders of both our political parties hear the voices of the innocent children who cry for their parents. I will pray so that they find the goodness in their hearts to enact driver license legislation in NJ and close all the ICE detention camps and put an end to the suffering of the 5,500 families currently separated by Trump’s unjust immigration policies.
Dia de los Muertos is not just about celebrating the monsters or the dead. Or just about gore and vampires.
It is about honoring the lives of those who left us so that we can be inspired to continue the fight for the families and the children living among us.
Patricia Campos Medina, PhD is a Labor, Latina and Progressive political leader. Opinions expressed in this column are her own. Follow her on Twitter @pcamposmedina