T wenty five years ago everyone believed in "Las Animas".These are the souls of our beloved departed ones. November is upon us and this reminds us that November was the month dedicated to "Las Animas".
November I was the day when prayers (novenas) were dedicated for the repose of the souls of the infants. November 2 was for the souls of the adults. Consequently the entire month was dedicated to offering prayers for all the deceased.
The first 2 days were great since the celebration included prayers and lighting candles, but it also included a special dinner offering. To us it was a banquet. My grandmother did her "animas dinner" in honour of her mother, our great grandmother. This included killing of a hog and some ten chickens to prepare a giant pot of "relleno negro" enough to send a good ration to every home in her family, which is pretty large. November second was like a local holiday in San Pedro with all the families doing their relleno or escabeche or chirmole or mechado or the famous tamales. On the little altar at home was placed a plate of food, and if the deceased was a smoker, a cigarette too.
No one was found on the streets after midnight during the month of November. We were told that a procession of all the souls of the dead left the cemetery at exactly midnight. The souls were dressed in white and floated along 2 feet above the ground. If caught on the street, one would be trapped and carried along. And believe me, nobody was caught because nobody, absolutely nobody, dared to venture into the streets after midnight. In fact, adults were usually at home by 9 p.m. and children by 7 p.m.
If you were awake and happened to hear the singing and praying of the procession of "Las Animas", you were not to open your window. If you did, one of them would hand you a candle and the next morning the candle would be a bone. Now there was one way to return this bone to the deceased without him taking you too. You had to place the bone into the hands of an innocent baby and hold the baby out of the window when the animas were passing by the following night. They would remove the bone from the baby's hand and it would once again become a candle and the animas would continue their procession. This procession took place every night at exactly midnight throughout the month of November. The owner of the bone would then return for it and possibly for you. Thus, faithful to this belief, everyone closed their windows during November.
Don't ask about waking up in the middle of the night and wanting to use the "chamber pot" (the urinal). Children preferred to wet their beds or hammocks.
No boys shot at birds with their sling shot during November because our parents indoctrinated us with the idea that the little birds were our reincarnated little brothers or sisters or relatives visiting us during this special month.
In November there were no parties nor were there dances held. Persons who were born during that month were considered unfortunate in that they could not celebrate their parties. No one planned a wedding during November. In fact the church discouraged weddings during November- a month dedicated to prayers in remembrance of our beloved departed ones.
Whether the "animas" really went out on a procession at midnight every night of November could be a myth or could be real. One, this is certain, everybody believed so in the 50's and 60's and this belief gave way to respect for the souls of the deceased and a special month dedicated to them. Today respect has been lost for the living, and much more for the dead.