Halloween Spanish Style

Dear Readers, I’m sorry this post has been delayed due to technical difficulties… Belated happy Halloween to all of you! Let me know when you receive it. Thanks, I’ve missed you, Concha


Come to find out during my latest trip to Spain that Halloween is now in vogue there. How this came about, I have no idea, but all the store windows in Málaga and Madrid, including the airports, were full of skeletons, pumpkins and goblins. I don’t think the children go treat or treating, but costume parties are definitely trendy. American culture reigns, while they hate our politics. Some restaurants even announced a Thanksgiving menu. No wonder I didn’t have jetlag this time, it felt like I was in the States!

Well, not exactly. Summer was still in full bloom in Málaga. Tourists and natives alike were all wearing shorts and mostly white clothing, they never heard of the American saying about Labor Day and white clothes. I packed a fall wardrobe and the only white I had on was my hair. Something that hasn’t taken over yet. Almost every woman’s hair my age was a shade of reddish chestnut.

Málaga itself is full of contradictions. The River Guadalmedina is dry, children were playing and rollerblading in its riverbed. Although there is vegetation on its banks, there is no water flowing. When I asked Belén, my kind host, about it, I found out that it has been like that for years due to the Limonero Dam built in 1983 to prevent the river from overflowing and flooding the city. I was again walking around with her on October 12th, a national holiday. I remembered that it used to be celebrated as the Virgin Pilar’s day. No more, now it’s the Day of Spanish Identity (el Día de la Hispanidad), celebrating Christopher Columbus voyage to America. Oh, oh, not everything is politically correct yet. That evening, we run into a procession of the Passion Virgin, with music and penitents in tow as it is done during Holy Week. Not even Belén could explain that. The Cathedral is known as “La Manquita,” (the one armed) because it has only one tower, the other was never finished. The funds were sent to the American colonies to fight for their independence. Who knew?

But nothing compares to what is going on with my father’s archives held in the library of the University in Málaga. A large classroom is full of tables overflowing with folders carefully marked as to their contents: letters, press articles, manuscripts, notes, photographs, reviews…All of my dad’s academic long life of 96 years on display. The students have catalogued every detail according to date, themes and place—either his life in Spain or the United States, where he died in 2010. I spent lots of interesting hours there all week doing some investigating myself and taking notes for possible future projects.

The keys to the room are held with the librarians in the main floor who were supposed to accompany us to the archives to open the doors. On the very first day, I found out that some of them will not come near the place late in the day because they are sure there are “presencias,” ghosts, in my father’s archives. They have heard noises of people knocking at the door, while the hallway looks empty if they check, and the students attest to this. The professors don’t go that far, but they confirm that folders disappear and reappear somewhere else. Other times an important paper will surface at their fingertips even though they had been searching for hours. At first, I laughed about all this; it could be the Halloween effect after all. But by the third day, I was spooked and made sure that I wasn’t there alone. I know how upsetting it was for my dad when anyone touched his work, which often was spread on the dinning room table and on every surface of his study. I didn’t want him to show up and blame me for organizing this academic battleground.

7 Responses to Halloween Spanish Style

  1. Jean Dowdall says:

    Wonderful post as always! – glad it finally made it through.

  2. Cristina de la Torre says:

    So much to learn, so much to explain… sounds like a rich trip!

  3. Thank you, Concha for this entertaining and beautiful text. I loved how you went from this new hype about Halloween in Spain, to your research work. Thank you for keeping us posted. And, of course, happy birthday!!

  4. Ines says:

    Me encantan tus crónicas. Yo también estoy asombrada de lo rápido que se ha introducido la fiesta de Hallowing en España. Creo que es una pasión nacional lo de hacer fiestas y adoptan todas las que se enteran.
    Un abrazo Ines

  5. conchaalborg says:

    Thanks, dear friends, for your comments! Concha

  6. Tom Deveny says:

    Concha, Nice to read your blog! Isabel and I just got back from Argentina, and Halloween is in vogue there, as well. (At least in the chocolate shops, which are on every block in Bariloche).
    Happy Thanksgiving!