Las Animas (Souls)

here are two periods in the church calendar when no type of entertainment was permitted. The first one was the Lent season, when the church commemorated the fasting of Jesus Christ in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights and then his death right after the Jewish Passover Festival. During Lent no type of entertainment was allowed by the church or by village tradition. The second was the month of November when the church honored the souls of the deceased. It was believed that these souls were waiting in a resting place called Purgatory, awaiting their time to be called into Heaven.

November was the month reserved to "Las Animas" and there was no birthday party, no wedding celebration, no quince aņos, no kind of parties. The "animas" needed to rest and out of respect, people had to go home early and vacate the streets so that the souls could have their procession.

Las Animas got up at midnight every night during November. The procession left the cemetery and proceeded down to the corner of Hotel Sanpedrano. It continued to the Palace Casino and turned left down Pescador Drive as far as Mickey's Store. There the procession went along the primary school street, turned left and onto Barrier Reef Drive all north up to the cemetery again. The procession took between two to three hours as it went very slowly, the leader dressed in black and the rest of animas dressed in dazzling white. The souls floated about one foot above the ground as they marched along praying, singing and chanting in unison.

Many Sanpedranos used to hear the singing during the calm November nights. The folks locked up their windows very tightly and turned off the lamps earlier than usual. No one even dared to take a peek through a window or a crack on the wall. Nobody was foolish or brave enough. It was said that if you looked out, one of the Animas (Souls) would hand you a lit candle. The next morning, to your awesome amazement, you would discover that it was no longer a candle but a leg bone. Anyone that received the candle, which changed to a bone, was due to die soon. The Souls would soon come and look for him. To escape this spell, you needed to get an innocent male baby, put the bone in his hands, open the window on the following night and return the bone (candle) to one of the Animas. Then, and only then, your life was spared.

Children never roamed the streets of San Pedro after nine o'clock for fear of "Las Animas". Even the occasional drunkard on the streets made sure he was home before midnight. And the "parranderos", those who used to sing to the ladies at their windows in the wee hours of the morning, well, they usually suspended "las parrandas" during November.

Many older folks saw "Las Animas" in the 1930's, 40's and even the 50's. Some saw them coming from the reef towards the main pier, and they managed to run and escape the candle, but not the high fever that hit them for two or three days. Another scary character that came out during November was "El Gigante", or the Giant. He would usually be by Rock's Store with one foot on either side of the street and facing south. The trick to escape the giant was to run upwards towards the north in the Marino's Bar direction. The giant was so big that he could not turn round fast enough to catch you. If you ran in his direction, he could catch up to you with one giant step. He would hold you up and examine you as he was looking for his lost son. The next morning, your body would be full of bruises.

I have never seen "Las Animas" because I have never had the courage to stay out during November after midnight. And I still sleep with my windows locked tightly during November nights so I do not listen to their singing nor see their candlelight procession. However, there are many people alive today that have seen both Las Animas as well as El Gigante. As for the poor Animas, with all the traffic and noise and people on the streets, they do not hold their processions anymore. In their place now, there is a procession of party people roaming the streets after leaving the discotheques. They are not floating one foot above the ground, but are floating high either the result of the use of liquor or drugs. Would you like to see the Souls or Las Animas? Well, stay out late during the month of November.

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