25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
All Saints Month (Las Animas)
Last week I heard David Marin and Julio Sosa at the morning show at The Reef Radio happily discussing about tales and legends about the month of November, considered in Belize and in Mexico as well as most Latin America, as the month of the Dead. November first is dedicated to the souls of children and November second to the souls of adults.
On the first, families who have lost a baby or child will prepare special pastries, candies, and goodies that children love, and have prayers at home where these goodies are shared. On the second of November, families who have lost a beloved mother or father, or any adult member of the family will prepare special dishes like tamales, relleno negro, escabeche or mechado and after prayers offered to the repose of the souls of their beloved, they will then share the goodies with all members of the family and friends. This event in San Pedro is known as “finados”- the time when the deceased are remembered.
During the finados, if relleno or tamales was the favorite dish of the deceased, a plate would be placed at the home altar among the candles and statues. Also placed is a glass of water, coke or any pop, cigarettes, and indeed anything the deceased used to enjoy in life, and it is believed that his or her spirit would come and consume these goodies. It is important that these spirits be kept happy, for if not, they would appear in the night during November and molest members of the family. Their spirits need prayers and offerings so that they would come out of purgatory and enter into their eternal resting place, Heaven. That is why finados is not only a ritual, but also something considered sacred as it means the full repose of the souls of the deceased and beloved family members.
Now it was believed that during the entire month of November, at exactly midnight, all the spirits would rise from the cemetery and go in procession along the main streets of the village. It was important to respect them so they could pray and if anyone was found on the streets after midnight, he would receive the scare of his life.
Urban legend has it that one certain lady who was a seamstress heard the voices of prayers and curiosity led her to open her window. One of the spirits in precession offered her a lit candle and she took it. Next morning she discovered that it was a human bone and she suffered a terrible fever. She was told that she had to get a innocent child and place the bone in his hands and have him deliver the bone back to the spirits as the passed by the next day. She did and she was well a gain, but never did she stay up late at night during November anymore.
Many villagers who have defied the “animas” have had similar incidents. They have seen the animas or spirits coming over the sea, in the lagoon, at various parts of the streets from the cemetery or the primary school area. Others who have failed to offer goodies and food or prayers at home have been bothered and frightened at home, the spirits moving from room to room or even pulling tricks like turning off your lights or lighting up the fire when least expected. To terminate these appearances and molestations, you need to sprinkle the room with holy water or offer the required prayers, including bringing in the priest to bless the house. The month of November used to be respected. No parties, no weddings, no type of festivity was held during the month of November. People went to bed early and respected their midnight time so that they could pray in peace. You check the records of the 1950’s and 60’s.