I did a lot of writing and sorting through my writing. My mood is confusion. Obfuscated moments.
Abuela Asturia Gales (my name means “Scotland” in Gaelic, btw) sky reading revealed that her 10th child was a mid-sign Aquarius. I didn’t learn much about astrology except for random shit until I began reading about it in middle school (it’s been popular before now; I don’t get how it’s treated as a “Millennial’s thing”). In those days, official hospital documentation needed to “exist” as a person and there were rules about it. Some elders say you had to be baptized before you were considered a person; on my mother’s side there are stories about baptism/registration mandating biblical names (a lot of the elders of my families have “real” names and “given” names too). Others explain that due to high infant mortality rates, parents were encouraged to give their offspring a few months to survive before being registered.
We got a lot of unexplainable shit on both maternal and paternal sides – skull reshaping, piercing practices (possibly inking too) – I love when an “Indigenous Scholar” tells me about myself as if I was just discovering myself. We kinda tend to leave things as is – the elders caution us not to revitalize some of our old ways for fear of bastardization. What is that called in academia? It’s not quite appropriation (of one’s own “ancient” culture); it’s more like a dishonest connection longing for lived experiences. It’s especially unwelcome (as I mention often) to claim an unlived experienced for material gains (*to pick up on this, I instruct folxs to just notice who claims what identities during what time and spaces – it does not take any work whatsoever). I’ll write about the various meanings (outside U.S. contexts) of mestizaje another day…
So… while a lot about my father has always been Aquarian to me, I knew there were subtle differences (perhaps because I’m on the Capricorn border and him close to February). Today was his registered 69th bday and we celebrated with my brother delivering steak, mashed potatoes and veggies along with wine and cards from the kids. I felt silly gift bagging all my father’s clothing items he’d forgotten at my apt in NYC or that I’d taken recently (I steal from loved ones, but they usually understand); but that’s all I can do this year:
Birthdays often make me think of death or ends. Numerous diseases came to Abya Yala from settler colonizers including smallpox, bubonic plague, chickenpox, cholera, the common cold, diphtheria, influenza, malaria, measles, scarlet fever, sexually transmitted diseases, typhoid, typhus, tuberculosis, and pertussis. Some say that the custom of burning El Año Viejo came from a time period were there was much death due to diseases that arrived from overseas. A play on words, “año viejo” is a term used to tease elderly folxs as well as literally meaning “old year.” The tradition grew from sanitary measures that recommended the burning of the clothes of relatives who had died of yellow fever and other contemporary diseases. The holiday developed as clothing of the dead were later stuffed with hay, sawdust, paper and other stuff before. People began placing the “bodies” on public roads on the last day of the year were they’d be ignited at 00:00 in order to drive away the plague and with the hope of leaving behind everything bad, to start a new full of hope. The evolved tradition now involves elaborate all-year planning and very imaginative creations. Some folxs use papier-mâché to depict famous politicians or celebrities in puppet form; others make house-size or bigger effigies in groups of people. Many people hold contests and the beach is now a famous spot for the traditional mid-night burning.
The objective is to say goodbye to the year that ends up burning with the puppet all the bad things that could happen and hoping that the new year arrives full of positive energies, to achieve personal and professional successes.
The anthropologist Tamara Landívar, maintains that the burning of the Old Year (figurine, made with paper, old clothes and decorated with a mask) “is the way to close cycles; it is the way that the human being has to start the new year “.