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Thursday, November 2, 2006

Dia de los Muertos

I think this is a great holiday and needs to be observed by more people.
For those out of the know, it is a holiday in Mexico that is part of Halloween but is a little different. While Halloween and November 1st are days to honor all departed souls in general (and little kids are honored on the 1st), November 2 is a day to pay your respects to specific family members and friends who have died in the past few years. It's supposed to be about honoring and celebrating the person rather than mourning that they're gone. People put up alters with candles, sweets, or the person's favorite things, or they'll put out an extra plate of food at the dinner table, or go visit the grave and leave flowers and food and pour some favorite beverage (usually alcohol-based) onto the person's grave. Sometimes the whole family will have a picnic at the gravesite.
But as for us non-Spanish Catholics, in this age I think it's a good holiday because it allows us to slow down and think back on lost loved ones and remember why those people were awesome, and for people who do believe it lets them feel closer to the deceased, like a reunion of sorts. It's like a very odd family reunion or Christmas party.
I didn't make an alter, but I did put up La Catrina at work (a famous symbol of dia de los muertos), and have been thinking about my Aunt Peg and John Grandpa. I think they'd both appreciate a nod on this holiday.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Deep thoughts on language and culture

Happy Halloween/Samhain!
Just reading an interesting article from a man in India saying that because the lower castes are not taught English, they are therefore prohibited from getting high paying jobs:
He writes in the article “A Middle-eastern friend was lamenting that they have been driven into an intellectual blind alley because they are stuck with medieval Arabic, which determines their mindset. (Incidentally, their plight is really bad. More books are translated into Spanish in one year than into Arabic in a couple of hundred years!). They are literally trapped in the language of real and imagined pasts. The very idea of progress becomes impossible.”
Assuming the statement above is correct, I think it brings up an interesting argument (and an entire field of anthropology): how much does language influence how we think and view the world? I don't just mean derogatory terms like calling someone a faggot (which is bad enough in itself). I mean like everyday things. For example, in Spanish, a spoon is feminine but a knife is masculine. A road is masculine but a mountain is feminine. How does that effect how they see the world? I know in some south pacific language (maybe papua new guinea?) the word for girl translates as "little mother," or something like that. Just a moment of anthropological introspection.
I’d be interested to hear from someone who actually knows another language (you have seen the extent of my Spanish in the above paragraph: El camino va a la montana. My madre tiene una cuchara. Tengo un cuchillo).