Martes 13 is Latin America’s Friday the 13th — Here’s How it Started
Friday the 13th is a fun mini-holiday because it happens multiple times a year. This year, for instance, there are two Friday the 13ths. The other one is, for the first time in years and the only time until 2028, in October. However, the US isn’t the only country with a holiday about the number 13.
Many Latin American countries celebrate on Tuesday during a holiday called Martes 13. There’s even an old saying about it: “Ni te cases ni te embarques.”
What is Martes 13?
There are some commonalities in the origins of both holidays, most of them biblical. For instance, both Friday and Tuesday the 13th have something to do with Jesus and the 12 Apostles, a group of 13 men in total. Of course, the most infamous of the bunch is Judas, who betrayed Jesus prior to The Last Supper.
Additionally, Chapter 13 in the Book of Revelations centers on the antichrist. Moving away from strictly biblical references, though, the number 13 represents death and misery in the Tarot. Most importantly, however, the Tuesday in Latin America stems from the Sack of Constantinople, which took place on Tuesday, April 13 in 1204, at the end of the fourth crusade.
Tuesday comes up again during the Fall of Constantinople, which fell on Tuesday, May 29, 1453. The second toppling had a much bigger impact on Christianity, as Constantinople fell to the Ottomans.
And if that weren’t enough, the etymology of the word Tuesday holds some clues as to why Latin Americans continue to fear Tuesday the 13th. Tuesday, or Martes, comes from the name Mars. In Spanish, Mars translates to Marte. In the Middle Ages, people referred to Mars as “the little maleficent.” Not only that, Mars is also the god of war.
Where did we get Friday from?
So, where exactly does the Friday come from? The general consensus is that Friday the 13th has something to do with Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. However, there is no way of knowing whether that day was a Tuesday. In fact, historians don’t even know the exact year of Jesus’ crucifixion, let alone the day of the week.
Already, the origins of Friday the 13th don’t hold up to as much scrutiny as Martes 13. The deeper you go, the less sense it seems to make. Similarly, to Martes 13, Friday the 13th also traces back to The Last Supper. For years, people were wary of seating 13 people at a table.
In the late 1800s, Captain William Fowler from New York created the Thirteen Club to fight the stigma against the number. Fowler incorporated 13 into everything he could, from the number of the room where he hosted meetings to a dinner comprised of 13 courses. Four former presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, were members.
Besides that, a lot of the fuss around the number 13 mostly has something to do with notable deaths, arrests, and tragedies, even though a vast majority of those dates are more recent than the origin of the holiday itself. The only important Friday the 13th that predates the holiday occurred on Friday, October 13, 1307, the day King Philip IV arrested hundreds of men from the Knights Templar.
1907: Friday, the Thirteenth is published
The last bit of information that could explain the prevalence of Friday the 13th comes from a 1907 book by Thomas William Lawson. The novel follows a New York stockbroker who weaponizes the holiday to win big on the stock market. The book is in the public domain and available to read online for free.
Still, the most defining piece of Friday the 13th lore comes courtesy of the popular horror movies. The first film debuted in 1980 and, in the 43 years since, inspired 12 films. It’s disappointing that there isn’t one more to bring it all full circle, but maybe one day!