Friday, November 6, 2015

Halloween in Llanos

Text and photos by Elizabeth Barnes 

Last weekend was a festive one in Quetzaltenango. Sunday, November 1 was Día de los Muertos — many Xela families visited the cemetery to pay respects to loved ones who have passed away. On Saturday, October 31, throngs of people filled Parque Central to admire the alfombras (carpets) lining the streets and watch the image of la Virgen del Rosario parade around the park and back into the church.

It was also Halloween, of course. While Halloween is a much bigger deal in the United States, Xela had its share of decorations and costumes, and Pop Wuj celebrated at the Family Support Center. Every year we have a party with decorations, treats, costumes, and scary stories.

The day before our party, General Projects Coordinator Albizael Del Valle repairs an orange shirt worn by one of our pumpkins. All of the more elaborate costumes were made ahead of time by Pop Wuj staff and volunteers.
On Friday morning, los grandes (the older kids) bused down to Pop Wuj to make decorations for the party that afternoon.

The most popular choices were pumpkins, bats, and ghosts.

After making dozens of paper decorations for the walls of the Family Support Center, the kids tackled the pumpkins to bake pies and carve jack o' lanterns.

Our carvers begin by scooping out the insides of each pumpkin.
Some of the pumpkins had thin, brittle shells that had to be cut with care.
Carmen, our Director of Social Projects, led the kids through the laborious process of making pie dough, rolling it out, and transforming gooey piles of pumpkin into a delicious filling.

The kids take turns kneading two batches of dough.
After cooking the pie filling on the stove, students moved it to the blender and added spices.
Carmen shows the kids how to smooth the dough. 
The pie turned out absolutely delectable, and somebody couldn't resist breaking into it early!
At lunchtime, the kids headed back to Llanos del Pinal to eat fiambre, the traditional dish for the Day of the Dead, and put up their decorations. Pop Wuj staff, volunteers, and students followed with all the costumes, and the party started with everyone getting into character!

"Dr. Shanti" poses with Princess Amy. Shanti is a Medical Programs Coordinator for Timmy Global Health.
General Projects Coordinator Albizael Del Valle cowers in fear around four terrifying zombies and a ferocious lion.
Mid-photoshoot, Princess Amy charges in to adjust Oscar the Robot's cardboard head.
Ilcy, one of our witches, shows off her costume.
Once everybody's costumes and face paint were ready, we killed the lights and lit the jack o' lanterns carved earlier that morning. It was time for scary stories!

Albizael and Gustavo, a teacher at the Family Support Center, spooked us all with their stories.
Allegations that Albizael's jump scare made me yelp in fear are entirely unfounded.

Stories done, we brought the lights back up to feast on pumpkin pie. Ashley, a longtime volunteer and Medical Programs Coordinator for Timmy, taught the kids how to say "Trick or Treat" in exchange for a piece of candy.

Full of pie and sweets, the kids sadly had to take off their costumes and pack 'em up for next year. We hope your Halloween was just as fun!

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