If you’ve never heard of El Salvador’s epic La Calabiuza festival, you might be in for a surprise. Every November 1, A.K.A. the eve of El Día de Muertos, the mythological undead come out to play in the city of Tonacatepeque — and it is one of the coolest things you’ll see today.


La Calabiuza* celebrates Central American mythology and post-war reaistance.#elsalvador #diademuertos #centroamerica

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As TikToker @puchicadanny explained after attending the festival, La Calabiuza happens on All Saints’ Day, but that is where its relation to Christianity ends. In fact, it is a ghoulish, eerie, powerful celebration of Indigenous mythology, and rejects Americanized Halloween traditions in just about every way possible. 

Tonacatepeque’s residents and the rest of the festival attendees dress up in costumes that pay tribute to Indigenous folklore, such as La Siguanaba, a woman cursed by the god Tlaloc who goes from beautiful to monstrous in the blink of an eye. Other notable figures seen throughout the festival? El Cipitío, La Siguanaba’s abandoned son who always wears a big hat, and El Cadejo, a supernatural, evil black dog.

As 15-year-old Salvadoran Francisco Siliezar explained to The Tico Times, “We participate in the Calabiuza festival to not lose the tradition and to reject the Halloween of the United States,” favoring Indigenous traditions harkening back to pre-Conquista times. 

Meanwhile, Tonacatepeque historian Luis Silva told the outlet that 16th century Spanish conquistadores were no match to Salvadoran’s love of La Calabiuza — and even when they tried to stop it, the tradition continues to this day.

A far cry from store-bought costumes seen throughout the U.S., La Calabiuza’s attendees dress up in unique, homemade creations, bringing in face paint and clay masks.

As explained by @puchicadanny, the one-day party also brings in other aspects of Salvadoran culture, such as delicious ayote en miel, or pumpkin in honey, which is cooked in large, communal pots.

Meaning “skull,” La Calabiuza might represent the undead or the underworld, but it actually now symbolizes a rebirth for El Salvador.

The epic festival stopped for more than a decade during the country’s Civil War, which occurred from 1979 to 1992. Once the war was over, La Calabiuza came back stronger than ever, and is a way for young people to continue to embrace their culture and identity. 

In regard to the festival, historian Silva described, “What the Spanish brought has virtually disappeared,” with centuries-old Indigenous folklore embraced instead.