13 November 2007

Black Tuesday

A very dear friend of mine noted that today is Tuesday the 13th and asked me if there wasn’t some significance to Tuesday the 13th being an unlucky day in Mexico. As a matter of fact there is but although it is the 13th day of the month it doesn’t spring from the same source as the traditional unlucky day of Friday the 13th in the U.S. In Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries there is a saying that goes "Martes trece, ni te cases, ni te embarques, ni de tu casa te apartes". Translated it means “On Tuesday the 13th don’t marry or board a ship, or even leave your house”. As a matter of fact, there are also several European countries including Greece where Tuesday the 13th is considered unlucky.


To answer that question we have to go all the way back to the year 1034 when the Eastern and Western branches of the Catholic Church broke apart in a great schism. At that time the Eastern branch was headquartered in Constantinople which is now the modern city of Istanbul, Turkey. Constantinople was gradually weakened as a result and was slowly surrounded by the forces of Islam. Flash forward to the year 1453, just two years after the birth of Christopher Columbus. On Tuesday, May 29, 1453 Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. The Turks overwhelmed the city and anyone caught out in the open or in the streets was killed by Muslim swords and the blood ran ankle deep in the streets and emptied into the sea, turning it red. For the people living there at the time it was the end of the world and it will forever be remembered as “Black Tuesday”. That is why the saying goes “Don’t even go out of your house” when Tuesday falls on the 13th because it is a very unlucky day.

The year 1453 witnessed a great upheaval in society and it was a watershed year. In 1453 the so called “Hundred Years war between England and France ended and the reformation actually began. Greek scholars began fleeing the East and going to the West carrying with them many Greek manuscripts including the Greek manuscripts of the Bible. In Rome, the scholars began comparing the Greek manuscripts with the Latin manuscripts and in 1456 Johan Gutenberg produced the Latin Vulgate in printed form and made the Bible relatively affordable to own and available to every scholar with money to buy it. It was the first book printed on the newly invented printing press. With the fall of Constantinople the traditional trade routes to the Far East were closed off and explorers like Prince Henry the Navigator and Christopher Columbus began looking for new routes to the riches of the Orient.

The capture of Constantinople was a wakeup call to the world. Nothing was ever the same afterward. It shook Europe to the very foundations. Spain was particularly affected because of fierce battles against the Moors who were finally driven out of the Iberian Peninsula by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Perhaps we now have a new “Black Tuesday” that future scholars will consider to be a history dividing date. It just so happens that the date September 11, 2001 fell on a Tuesday as well. Kind of ironic that after 548 years the World was again shaken to the foundations by Muslim invaders…only this time, instead of the Ottoman Turks, it was the forces of “al Qaeda”.

Footnote: Perhaps there is a "Black Tuesday" in every generation. On Tuesday Oct. 24, 1929 the United States Wall Street stock market collapsed. Did it divide history or was it, and perhaps 9/11, just a bookmark with the real "Black Tuesday" yet to come? Only time will tell.


Anonymous said...

Okay, I see the "Tuesday" portion, but why the "13th"? Is it just mixing superstition about the number with the day of the week to make it more superstitious or something?

Oh, and thanks for the entry. =)

Bob Mrotek said...

Ange, I think the 13th has the same connotation that Friday the 13th has. There were 13 apostles at the last supper, the Knights Templar were arrested by King Phillip on the 13th, the Valahla thing, blah, blah, blah, etcetera. Don't worry about it. Just stay home on both Friday the 13th and Tuesday the 13th and you will be covered :) You know, I could write a book about all the events that happened in conjunction with the sack of Constantinople. We are still feeling ripple effects to this very day except that we are so wrapped up in other things that we just don't realize it. I only wish that George Bush knew a little more about it :)

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.