November. My month. November, trying to push October’s startling yellows, reds, and oranges to the ground in gusts of 40 m.p.h. winds from the west. November clouds seem darker, perhaps because they harbor possibilities of snow and ice, unlike the April showers bring May flowers rendition.

November begins with Day of the Dead altars laden with photos of our beloveds and their favorite foods and drinks. Maybe Pablo was humble about his soccer playing, but there is his uniform displayed by his worn-out shoes. Margarita’s cooking caserola is on the altar with her hand-carved wooden stirring spoon. In Mexico, tamales pile up for the night when family and friends come by to remember, to call the names, to tell the stories in the corner where an uncle is in charge of pouring the spiked punch into the clay mugs for the adults.

November in the north brings another ritual – hunting, specifically, deer hunting. As with most rituals, the passing of time clouds the origin stories. Halloween dates back to the Druids and building fires at each end of town to keep out the evil spirits. Day of the Dead invokes the Aztec dog, the escuintle, guiding departed souls to cross the river of death, now to return via marigold paths leading them home to their families. Deer hunting was a necessity, preceding any European stepping foot on North American shores.

November hunts were to fill larders for the long winters, an act of survival. I always felt my family would survive anything, because, before my father became a clinical psychologist, he trapped enough to pay for his college, he fished and put filets in the frying pan, and his forays into the forests brought back an array of game for mealtime, the largest being – deer. He had tasted porcupine, beaver, mallards, and probably a squirrel, but venison was the delicacy, especially if the deer had been “corn” fed in the fields. 

November also hosts another ritual – elections. I write this on election day, too early for any results. In 2000, I accompanied Augsburg College Global Ed to Cuernavaca, Mexico, where we served as election observers. In Mexico, the president gets a one-time term of six years. There are three major parties, the PRI, (Institutional Revolutionary Party), PAN (National Action Party), and PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution). That year was pivotal. The country held its proverbial breath. Even the United States was on alert. Would there be a peaceful transfer of power if PAN won over PRI, the political party that had controlled Mexico since Francisco Madero in 1911?

A quick back story on that development includes the word, dedismo – a pointing of the finger. Each PRI President “pointed the finger” at he-who-would-be the successor. Each election, many T-shirts, tortillas, and promises of electricity for your village accompanied campaign speeches. Decades passed and corruption wove itself into the expected behaviors of elected officials up to and including the president. Yet, in 2000, Vicente Fox Quesada, the PAN presidential candidate, stepped into the fray with his cowboy boots and Coca-Cola company, challenging the PRI’s grip over Mexico.

In Cuernavaca, our Augsburg group spread out, some going to polling stations, others to grocery stores to verify the ban on liquor sales that Sunday, and other’s checking voters’ thumbs for the indelible ink placed there to identify those that had already voted. At dark, we returned to the Augsburg house, just across the 2000 Bridge from the downtown. We waited on the roof, overlooking the small barranca canyon separating us from the Centro. We squinted our eyes and strained our ears to make out the Spanish on the radio and house television.

Then, popping noises, loud booms, rapid gun fire? My roommate, Janice, and I ran to the door and headed to the bridge . . .

I can’t help myself. Check my book, pages 212 and 224, for the outcome (click links to see pages). Like today… what will be the ending?

Will we manage a peaceful transfer of power? Will there be guns? Violent losers? What will become of our November Election Traditions?

Back to Election 2000 to the north, my Mexican friends were quick to point out that we had Al Gore vs. George W. Bush votes being counted and questioned in – you ready? In Florida, the state where one candidate’s brother – a hint – Jeb Bush, was governor. Even if you lived through this, check out “hanging chads” and Elián González, the little boy survivor, who floated to shore in an escape craft from Cuba. There are recent articles and books linking Elian, the Supreme Court decision, and the 2000 U.S. election together as a building block to what is happening at this moment. 

November 2000, Vicente Fox Quesada was declared a winner that July voting day in Mexico. For the first time in Mexico, there was a transfer of power and it held up without a revolution. Further north, Al Gore conceded to George Bush. Where would we be if Mr. Gore acted differently? We’ll never know.

November 2022. The hunters will return to try their luck again. Today’s Power Ball is estimated at $1.9 Billion, with a “B” – bad luck or good? Today, people in the U.S. are voting. Some voted weeks ago. Others have had their ballots annulled for miniscule errors. Lawsuits are already filed. Will this boil down to luck?

November 2000 came and went, as will today. What will our story be? What will the future historians contemplate, suppose, relate about our traditions? What part do you play in this, our history?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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