Saudade: News from and for the Brazilian community/Notícias de e para a comunidade brasileira

Happy Halloween

From left, Junia Dias, Bruno Fialho, Cristina Magalhães, Rodrigo Moreira, Mayara Gonçalves, and Joana Dias in Salem last weekend. — Juliana Germani

A tradução deste artigo se encontra no final da versão em inglês

Happy Halloween to those who celebrate. This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to visit Salem with six Brazilian Islanders. We left on the first ferry, and spent the day visiting the city.

The city was founded in 1626, and was a prosperous trade port in the past. Nowadays, Salem is known for the historical witch hunt that took place in the city between 1692 and 1693. Around 197 people were arrested, and 19 of them were hung, along with the practice of torture, such as the form of torture in which giant stones pressed bodies to death. 

Given that we visited the city in October, when tourism is at its highest, we could also experience the Halloween climate in full swing. We visited the museums dedicated to the history of Salem, and it was fascinating to understand a little more about what happened in that “haunted” village through fanatical persecution that began when some children behaved strangely, such as hallucinating, screaming in pain, writhing, etc.

Two children, 9-year-old Elizabeth (Betty) Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams (the daughter and niece of Samuel Parris, minister of Salem Village), accused one slave woman and two other women of witchcraft. Afterward, many interrogations resulted in the deaths of innocent citizens.

The reality is that the children were infected with a rye fungus that caused such symptoms. As doctors could not correctly diagnose, the climate of hysteria and persecution was intense. After 250 years of hanging, the city has formally apologized for the deaths and hasty accusations.

Most of the commerce in Salem is geared toward the witch universe, and makes the environment very interesting and fun, as, in October, the festivities involve haunted houses, among other events related to Halloween.

We also visited the memorial to the victims of the witch hunt, which is next to the village cemetery and brings us to an important subject: how fear, prejudice, and ignorance can potentially lead human beings to act irrationally and commit great mistakes.

Joana Dias

My experience with visiting Salem was a positive one. I had never even heard of such a place, and that such events had taken place. It was exciting to learn about the history behind the witch hysteria. I wish that many other people in our community had the opportunity to explore the aspect of history that is so close by — I never thought I would be able to have such an experience, when you live abroad and then have an opportunity to experience the things that you saw in movies, it is very surreal, and it definitely stays with you.

Rodrigo Moreira

It was such an exhilarating experience. I confess that I didn’t know anything about the city and what it meant for Salem to be such an attractive tourism place. I knew that Halloween was a big deal in the U.S., but nothing beyond that it was a cultural aspect. I had driven through Salem before, but never had stopped to visit museums or something of the like. I think that it is imperative that once someone decides to move to another country and establish residence, that this individual invests time getting to know aspects of the culture, history, whether be the U.S., or any other place in the world. I strongly suggest that if people have the opportunity to visit historical sites, that they take up the opportunity and do so. It will enhance their English and their knowledge of things related to the U.S.