By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman (Written Christmas Eve)

MEXICO CITY, December 24, 2007 ( – Tomorrow is Christmas, but the old Catholic tradition of waiting until midnight to break the Christmas Eve fast has strong roots here in Mexico, and although fasting is no longer mandated for Catholics, “La Noche Buena” (the “Good Night” before Christmas), remains the main event in this very traditional society.

In Mexico City, where I am visiting relatives of a good friend, there is much to cheer the heart of those who struggle for the crucial values of life and family.  Mexico is a very young society, full of children and teenagers who can be seen everywhere. The large families that characterize this culture are strong and very extended; the “nuclear family” is augmented by the ubiquitous presence of innumerable grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces, often living in close proximity.

Beyond the extensive network of blood kinship, families tend to “adopt” one another, establishing familial bonds on the basis of friendship or a shared history. The “relatives” of my friend, in fact, are not blood relations.  They are the children of a nephew of the dead ex-husband of my friend’s grandmother. This, however, fazes no one.  They are “primos” and “primas” (cousins), and that’s that.

It is hard to imagine a better place to be than Mexico for Christmas, and although Mexico City is much more secular than “la provincia” (“the province”, which is the amusingly dismissive term used by denizens of the Federal District to refer to the rest of the country), the traditional warmth of Mexican society is evident. People are are famously friendly and have a good sense of humor. Festive lights and nativity scenes are everywhere, including bus stations and even along sidewalks. Neighborhoods are filled with “posadas” (Christmas parties), and the door seems to be open to anyone who wants to walk in. 

It is also gratifying to reflect on the strong faith of Christians in this society, both Catholic and Protestant.  Church attendance is high, and the simplicity and sincerity of belief is evident here.  Towering churches, some of them dating from the Conquest more than 450 years ago, dot the landscape, filled with beautiful works of art.  Now they are decorated for Christmas, awaiting the millions of families who will arrive tonight and tomorrow to thank God for the gift of His Son and for the blessings of the past year.

It is a beautiful irony to contemplate that this great city, which was once the captial of the cruel Aztec empire, has become a global bastion of the culture of life. The city that once offered thousands of human sacrifices to its bloody gods on a single day, now pays homage to the ultimate symbol of life: the Infant Jesus. The descendents of one of the bloodiest people the world has ever known, now a new “mixed” race of both hispanic and indigenous ancestry, are today famous throughout the world for their love of life and family.  What a testimony to the power of Christ!

This Christmas, however, is tinged with sadness.  Everywhere one can see the signs of a new Conquest.  Increasingly, images of “Santa Claus”, “Rudolph”, “Frosty” and other icons of the consumer culture are replacing the familiar images of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The angry rantings of American “rock and roll” are gradually displacing the beautiful ballads of traditional Mexican folk music, especially among the youth.

After years of slow accretion, the shallow ethic of the consumer culture is now making a direct assault on the culture of life in Mexico City. Politicians who literally raise the banner of the “Aztec Sun” have extended the already barbarous exceptions in the city’s criminal code regarding abortion. As is the case in many Latin American countries, Mexico does not penalize abortions in cases of rape and fetal deformity, and this year Mexico City decriminalized abortion for virtually any reason during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Although the Federal Government is contesting the law before the Supreme Court, and although abortion remains a culturally stigmatized and relatively rare practice in relation to the anglophone world, Mexico City is now increasingly the scene of terrible crimes reminiscent of its past: the sacrifice of innocents, now made to the modern gods of convenience and materialism. 

Increasingly, too, Mexico City is witnessing the rise of a militant homosexual culture backed by a legal system that is conceding more and more “rights” to sexual immorality. Mexico City hosts a gigantic homosexual parade every year, and homosexual dating services place advertisements at major intersections.  The city has legalized “civil unions” for homosexuals, institutionalizing perversion in a farcical imitation of society’s natural social unit. The same trends can be seen throughout the country, and throughout Latin America.

For now, Mexico retains much of its beautiful cultural heritage, and for this gringo the contrast is appreciable.  To be in this country, especially during Christmas, is to be in the house of a gigantic family, with all of its warmth and all of its foibles.  Even a foreigner can feel at home here, an adopted member of the same Holy Family that most Mexicans identify as their own. 

My Christmas prayer is simply this: that God will protect this humble people from the terrible onslaught of the Culture of Death, and that the values of life and family that exemplify this great civilization will, by the grace of God, endure.  Amen.