Five months ago, in April, I decided to take a weekly, literary stroll through the streets of the heart of this city, in the districts of Emiliano Zapata (“Old Town” ) and in El Centro. I have now arrived at the northernmost boundary, Calle 31 de Octubre, which is anchored at the Malecon by the Rosita Hotel; one of the historical landmarks of Puerto Vallarta.
The Rosita was built seventy years ago in 1948, when the population of P.V. was just over 10,000, by Salvador Gonzalez Gutierrez. To start with the hotel had only 12 rooms, furnished with one or two beds, a chair and a small dresser with mirror and bathroom. In those days there was no electricity in the village, so at check-in each guest was provided with a lamp to take to their room. Each room also had a 50 gallon drum of water with a spigot for washing. Now the Rosita has over one hundred rooms, a pool, air conditioning and free wi-fi and is celebrating its 70th anniversary. Many Congratulations to a very successful family business!!
Three blocks east of the Rosita is Woolworths, another landmark and an important bus stop for those travelling north of the downtown area. Another two blocks to the east and a climb up some stairs brings us to the Barcelona Tapas Restaurant, with its superb view of the city and the bay and the best sangrias in town.
Now, back to history. According to the magazine PDI Now! “On October 31, 1886, the ranch of Las Peñas belonging to the Municipality of Talpa de Allende was given official political and judicial standing when Decree No. 210 was passed by the State Congress. Today, an important street of our city (31 de Octubre) is named after this important date.”
31st October is also a date of multi-cultural importance. Aztec, Spanish and Celtic cultures held celebrations of lives past on that date. Netzahualcóyotl, an Aztec warrior, architect, poet and ruler of Texcoco penned an appropriate poem about our short stay here on earth….
I, Netzahulacóyotl, ask this.
Do we really live with roots on earth?
Only for an instant do we endure.
Even jade will shatter,
even gold will crush,
even quetzal plumes will tear.
One does not live forever on this earth:
only for an instant do we endure.
The Aztec Festival of the Dead was originally a two-month celebration to celebrate the fall harvest and figures of “death” were personified as well as honoured. The festival was presided over by Mictlán, Goddess of the Dead and the Underworld. In the preColumbian belief system, Mictlán was not dark or macabre, but rather a calm and peaceful goddess who helped souls rest until the days of visiting the living arrived.
Our ancestors accepted that they and their loved ones would die sooner or later and, from ancient times, honoured their memories. They believed that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, so, even now, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. On Dia de los Muertos, the dead become a part of the family and community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.
In Europe, the ancient Celts marked this as one of their most important annual festivals. “Samhain” commenced on October 31st and ushered in the Celtic New Year on November 1st. The Celts experienced this as a transitional period when the normally strict boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the eve of Samhain, they believed the veil between the two realms was the most transparent, allowing the spirits of those who have died to return to visit earth.
“Hallow” is an old word meaning “saint” and “All Saints Day” is celebrated by Christians on 1st November when they remember the saints, “All Souls Day”, on 2nd November, is set aside to remember everyone else who has died and the whole three day celebration starts on 31st October, on “Halloween” or All-Hallows- eve.
Why we don’t have streets named after the first and second of November is just another one of the mysteries of life. Next week we will be walking east from the Malecon and looking at more streets named after Mexican heroes and starting with Gustavo Ordaz Diaz.