Central Falls’ Halloween celebration draws diverse cultures

“This is a safe and family-oriented Halloween day event for the city,” said Tracey Giron, the director of parks and recreation in Central Falls, who added that in a city with such a diverse array of cultures, keeping things loose-ended is important.

 

 

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — A 15-year-old Wednesday Addams was unusually cheery and patient in Jenks Park Wednesday afternoon as she painted the faces of costumed children at her table.

“Sweetie, let me get up close,” Addams — whose real name is Esmeralda Flores, a student volunteer from Central Falls High School — said, as she moved in to take care of a finer detail on the candy corn she was painting on a young girl’s cheek.

Flores’s face-painting was one of many family-friendly activities prepared for the hundreds who took part in the city’s annual Halloween in the Park celebration.

“This is a safe and family-oriented Halloween day event for the city,” said Tracey Giron, the director of parks and recreation in Central Falls, who added that in a city with such a diverse array of cultures, keeping things loose-ended is important. “What I like to do is bring things that are not just Halloween-related but things, like the bouncy castles, that the whole community can relate to.”

Indeed, for several of the attendees, Halloween is a tradition that they were familiar with in their home countries, but if it was celebrated, it was not with the same flair.

“This is a great opportunity for the community as a whole to come together,” said Sandra Quintana, a Peruvian-American, who was with her 6-year-old daughter, Alexandra Ortega. “Back in Peru, we have it but it’s only for kids, but here you see all the adults come out dressed up, too. Out there, the bigger celebration is the Day of Creole Music.”

That holiday, established in 1944, also takes place on Oct. 31 and is intended to celebrate the musical traditions of Peru, which consist of a mixture of Andean, European and African styles.

“We came out here so that we could celebrate in peace,” said Alix Berdugo, who emigrated from Barranquilla, Colombia in 2016, and came with her daughter, Ashley Banquez, 5. “We won’t be going house-to-house tonight, this is much safer.

“Back home, we do something similar called the Day of the Little Angels,” she said. “Children go out on November 1 dressed as angels and go house-to-house asking for candy.”

The holiday has its roots in earlier tradition where instead of asking for candy, they’d ask for “offerings” to make a sancocho — a type of stew.

On the other side of the Atlantic, in Cabo Verde, candy is not as big a part of the festivities.

“People don’t give out candy there,” said Elaine Vaz Ramos, 16, speaking in Portuguese. “There’s a lunch for the family. We throw parties... But not everyone does it.

“This is my second Halloween here [in the U.S.],” said the CFHS student — one of many volunteers. “This type of celebration is a new thing for me that I never saw back home ... The best part is seeing all of the happy children.”

In Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory since 1898, the tradition is similar to what is common throughout the U.S. — except it’s hotter there, according to Pablo Ruiz. Yet for him, as a father to 8-year-old Paola, it’s a question of being in a safe community, that brings them to the event every year.

“We come here not just for the tradition, but also because I know it’s safer than other places,” he said. “I like all the games and activities they have here for the children and I hope this is something that they will keep doing for many years to come.”

His daughter, had a much simpler explanation for why she enjoyed it.

“Candy!”

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Kevin G. Andrade - The Providence Journal

kandrade@providencejournal.com

Twitter: @Kevprojo

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