Sorry guys. Busy time at work. And Assassins Creed Odyssey does not want to share me. But here we go again.
One thing I have not written about is the entertainment before the 20th century. However, at this point I should make note of something. Before and after the Independence, the quintessencial sin/crime of any person was vagrancy, which equaled lazyness. Vagancia. If you did not make money (for your employer in most cases), your existence did not make sense. Folks were meant to work before dawn and after dusk in one way or another, always being productive. Not even the elites could be spared. There was no greater shame to an Hacendado than to have a "dandy" son. The leader of the Hacienda was expected to lead and
sit on their ass
supervise operations, having similar schedule than the service. Of course they did not physically toil, but were expected to work
(white collar jobs). So all casts of society had a pretty tight life. To catch anyone without a job and/or actively contributing to society really rustled their jimmies. Everyone had to earn their keep. Being catched outside without a job or purpose was heavily punished, mostly with forced labor.
This was specially hard on the lower classes because their pay was barely enough to live. And as Homer Simpson said: no tv and no beer make Homer go crazy. Work and work and work without proper entertainment was maddening, so they took any available reason to celebrate.
The wonder of electricity galvanized the world for the old folks, but they also knew how to party. I´d like to talk about (1) sports, (2) animal entertainment (3) games, (4) devotion, (5) recreational substances (6) the arts and (7) the good ol fashioned hanky panky.
- Sports. Soccefootball is a 20th century fad, and cycling began in the 19th century. Before that, sports worldwide were quite simple for modern standards. Usually sports were wrestling, foot and/or horse racing, obstacle courses and (pistol) shooting, practiced on places called Champ-de-Mars (Campo de Marte) in honor of the roman god of war, Mars. The idea was that sports main purpose was to prepare people for conflict, so they were usually practiced by the armies. More civilian-like sports that I could mention would be pole-climbing, tug-o-war and a form of cricket/golf.
- Animal entertainment. Oh boy, lets address a detail of the human mind. We like to shed blood: its in our nature. Today we get our fix playing Call of Duty or Pokemon, but our grampas got their fix by cockfights. My own dad, born in 1969, when he first came to Santa Tecla in 1985 went to cockfights held at El Cafetalón (a park). So until very recently they were part of the fabric of society. As in Pokemon, you could bred chickens, look for the best stats, give them items and so forth. But more importantly, they were meant to be observed. There would be a pit, where people payed for watching and there would be betting. Roosters should not die (preferably), and matches were often until a chick was beaten and the other would prevail. To-the-death matches were uncommon and most wasteful, since raising a champion was a multi-generation challenge. Before cinema or consoles, young men were known to spend their allowances on cockfight bets.
Another game surounding poultry was the (morbid) game of duck. It was held on open spaces. First a live duck (old, barren or sick) was to be half buried at neck level. Then, full speed on horseback, the player was meant to lean on to seize the unlucky bird by the neck and pull it. Like a game of Polo with extra
blood. It was banned not because its barbarity, but because there were so many accidents. Leaning on at full speed was not a great idea, specially for plump people that owned horses. The game of duck could be practiced afterwards being closely supervised by the City Hall and changing a live animal for a plant or stick loosely buried.
Yet another game/spectacle was bullfighting. Inherently a spanish passtime, it required an special arena, performers and settings. Peninsulares, criollos and wannabe mestizos were fond of bullfighting, which did not always end by the slaughter of the bull. The toros de lidia (fighting bulls) were meant to "wrestle" with cowboys, like in modern rodeos and jaripeos. Like with the roosters, killing your best performers is a bad idea. Sure, there were bulls meant to be slain, but not all. Bullfights were always present in most festivals, and attracted large crowds.
And we cannot forget about horse racing and shows. Remember how natives were barred of owning or riding horses? Thats why El Salvador had so little of equine backstory. Sure, now
we have some experience with horses, but is relatively new. After the independence, everyone could have horses if
they had the money. Natives and poor mestizos (the vast mayority of the population) could not afford them. Thus, horses and weapons were tools of trade for the militias and the armies, but not for common civilians. Therefore equine entertainment was a big deal. The poor folk could see but not partake.
- Games. Have you ever though in shame how your ancesters would look on you if they knew you´re a (virgin) lvl 85 half-elf necromancer in D&D? Well, if answered yes, you´re living your great x5 grampa´s wet dream. They were the original dorks who played cards all day. They had no choice: the standard plain deck was the only one available, and they were heavily used by all casts and classes. From the poorest to the richest, all knew how to play cards in a myriad of ways. Knowing that was one of the few enterteinments, decks were zealously crafted and taxed. There were very few manufacturers, that required a patent given by the government. This gave way to piracy and the illegal printing of decks.
Games of dice were common also, as was bowling (carambola), checkers and chess. And there was the ancestor to billiards and "futbolito". It is non existent today, as it evolved, and was called Truco (Trick). This game, as with billiard, was to put balls on their respective pits, but had different rules and tools.
Most of these games revolved around the arcade, saloons or casinos, some of which are still around. But they were present everywhere. From lunch breaks, funeral wakes, weddings, after the daily work, you could find people playing boardgames, cards or dice. What was considered unhealthy was obsessive gaming that kept people away from work and productive endeavours. After all, the worst sin was vagancia.
- Devotion. Remember the misas meseras (mass held on a monthly basis that justified the existence of the cofradías) and misas cantadas (singed masses)? Well, they were quite the show. The Broadway of their time. You could not have the mass only: after it people sang, danced and performed. Stages and parafernalia were made. Our Fiestas Patronales (local festivals celebrating a divine patron) are the remnants of such shows. Parades, fireworks, feasts, public demonstrations of faith... The divine patron was the excuse to wind up and compensate for social inequalities and injustice. In such events one could forget the miseries of life and drink up and dance the problem away. And one more thing. Baptisms, first communions, weddings, your saint´s day (if you were named Joseph your saint´s day would be of Saint Joseph) were reason enough to jubilee. In a morbid tone, wakes (as in funerals) could spark celebration as well. Specially taboo were parties held in the wakes of children. Not everyone grieves the same way, and some saw fit to drink, dance and perform in such occations. But this kind of festive reunions were banned and stopped nonetheless, for decency´s sake.
- Recreational substances. Speaking of drinking up, booze was a cornerstone of life. (Beforehand, I´d like to apologize if I don´t give details about this part: I neither drink or smoke, so all of this information comes from reading). Vodka is made of potatoes, rum from molasses, wine from grapes, beer from wheat, mezcal from agave. And our first alcohol, chicha, was made of corn (as usual). Dating way back to precolumbian times, chicha was consumed by the natives and later by their mestizo offspring. Considered crude by finer caterers, it was improved later by adding foreign fruits like pineapple and apple. The second traditional alcohol is chaparro, which is a, say, bastard form of rum. I say bastard because it is not as refined as rum, being harsh and strong. Chaparro is made by molasses just like rum, and it came to be by the time we began harvesting sugar cane.
Being highly demanded, booze was taxed and guarded on authorized dealerships, with the local government looking close by. Knowing this, smugglers and illegal breweries cut the corners and mounted black markets. The equipment was costly and if discovered all the production would be spilled and the copper pots, barrels and such were destroyed of smelted, leaving the illegal brewers in financial ruin.
Tobacco was also there. Chewed and/or smoked, no one lost a night´s sleep over them as long as they payed their taxes. Being a plant, people could harvest their own in the Haciendas.
- The arts. Remember, most of the population could hardly speak properly. So do not expect high culture here, on a rural land on the middle of nowhere. In fact, foreigners complained that even the elites were uneducated, happily illiterate sitting on their Haciendas. Peninsulares were accustomed to theatre, carnivals, literature, fashion, ochestras, simposiums, what we would call now gourmet food and exquisite social gatherings. But here the wealthy criollos neither knew about those nor they were interested about them, being content with their own simple comforts. So, the newly-arived socialité were determined to change that. They brought flamenco dancers and spanish guitars. which took root on the colonies and the independent young counties. The spanish fashion became the criollo fashion, and the guitar tunes slowly became our own. In time literacy extended to the middle classes, which became obsessed with poetry and declamation, having public contests of poetry. Theatre had a tough time since most performances revolved around religious themes, but eventually had enough success to justify great Theatres to be built. As with food, as I mentioned on previous logs, we never had much luck. Merchants could bring rare and exquisite spices and exotic foods but they were only for the well-to-do. A middle class person would never know a cheese and charcuterie board, while I (a middle class person) can easily get one.
- Sex. I mean... its (theorically) free, no special equipment needed, no higher education is needed to play base level, only one player needed to enjoy as many times as desired (a second player is a very much appreciated upgrade). What else can poor folks afford? Needless to say people bred like rabbits, and there were three reasons behind it.
First, there was a rampant infant mortality rate. Children were vulnerable to so many diseases. Before plumbing, people disposed of their waste randomly, even washing away poop in the same river where they got their drinking water. Cholera reigned supreme at this point, and children were specially affected. Have you ever noticed on public graveyards how many infant graves there are? Thank heaven most of those graves are from 50 years ago, because later 20th century managed to starkly reduce infant mortality rate. My late maternal grandpa, born in 1934, had 11 siblings, 7 of which reached adulthood. So people had lots of children foreseeing some would die.
Second, having lots of children meant lots of hands helping you on your old age. Before modern retirement, the only way to secure your last days was to sire as many productive sons and daughters possible, so they can support you.
And thirdly, there were poor planning methods. Heck, the modern concept of planned parenthood looked alien to people before the 20th century because of the last two reasons.
Reasons behind, old folks humped a lot. My grandpa which I mentioned early was known to prowl the Acajutla port, seeking thrills on the new arrivals. Like, stalking people on route to other destinations and being their love on this port. Also he sired loads of natural (bastard) children, my mom being one of many. He never gave his last name to any of them, all taking their mother´s last name.
Obviously prostitution was there also, since its the oldest line of work in the world. But in a highly religious society, it had to stick to the shadows.
More on part X
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