Even in the cemetery, workers prepare for vandals

Geovanny Coronodo spruces up a tomb in advance of an increase in visitors expected this week. He is no fan of American-style Halloween.

While many American tourists and expats nursed their hangovers Sunday morning and recalled the more notable costumes from the Halloween revelry the night before, many Costa Ricans were dreading the aftermath of the horrifying holiday. At least that was the case at the Cementerio del Obreros in San Jose.

Geovanny Coronodo, a grounds keeper at the cemetery, said the celebration which many Americans enjoy has no real connection with the deceased or Costa Rican culture in general and is instead about destruction, and destructive behavior.

“The people drink whiskey and smoke drugs and it makes them crazy,” Coronodo said. “Then they come to the cemetery and break crucifixes and destroy the graves.”

He and a guard patrolling the premises Sunday afternoon said for the night of Oct. 31 security is increased on the premises and the workers and family members of those buried there just hope they can escape the night without too much damage.

“There are many beloved family members here and we have to respect that,” he said. “This is sacred ground.” The site is in Sabana Este.

Furthermore, Coronodo said the Costa Ricans have enough of their own spooky traditions, rooted in the country’s folklore, that there is no need for the predominately American celebration of Halloween.

Portions of the country’s religious community also appear to oppose the pagan celebration of Halloween. Damaris Vindas, leaving church on Sunday, said she would rather honor the beauty in life and avoid what she classified as its uglier aspects. Needless to say, she had no plans to celebrate Halloween this year.

“We need to pay attention to the pretty things — not monsters, devils, witches and things that do damage,” she said. “It is against God.”

Costa Rican cemeteries have many elaborate monuments to the dead. So they are highly vulnerable to vandalism. A.M. Costa Rica/Zach McDonald

Costa Rica’s central government made a statement on Halloween in 1997 when the Día Nacional de la Mascarada was created by decree. That is why there were celebrations in Aserrí and in Parque Morazán Saturday and Saturday night. Youngsters and adults donned traditional masks, which have been used in Costa Rica for centuries. They have their roots in religious observances going back to Colonial days.

However, even at such events vampires, zombies and other Anglo-American creations appeared. Of course, those watering holes catering to expats and visitors have their own, frequently elaborate, Halloween celebrations.

What Coronodo and others really are worried about is what Costa Ricans call Noche de Brujas, which is the local version of Devil’s night in the United States. Youngsters and some adults go on sprees of vandalism, perhaps in local cemeteries. They also block roads with burning tires and trash. The Fuerza Pública will be out in force tonight. The country had a bit of a break last year because Hurricane Tomas brought heavy rain to the country Oct. 31, and most of the criminal activity did not take place.

On a more respectful note, Many Costa Ricans will be going to the cemeteries to honor deceased relatives today, Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 2, All Souls Day in the Catholic calendar, is also the Día de los Santos Difuntos, the day of the deceased saints. The annual event is very low-keyed when compared to the three-day festival in México where it is the Día de los Muertos.

Costa Ricans traditionally place flowers on the graves and perhaps do a little cleanup. The Mexicans, of course, stage elaborate meals and festivities at the graves.

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