Toas Publeos Reviews
Christmas Eve at Toas Pueblos (Native Indian village) Dec 30, 2010
On Christmas Eve,
About two in the afternoon,
The sun is already marching in the sky,
Crows are welcoming us
We go to Taos Pueblo from Texas,
Long drive but very excitied to see
American Indian beliefs
The oldest Pueblo in the Southwest,
The adobe buildings have been inhabited
Over one thousand years......
It is just before sunset and the bell at San Geronimo Church at Taos Pueblo calls everyone to Vespers. Luckily, we parked very next to village. But for many, parking is difficult and grid lock grips the road that leads to miles.....
Thousands of people stand and wait through the crunchy snow and follow what is left of the sunlight. We are ignorant and for us, it is different world. Air is pure as Indian's heart and everyone is looking at sky so we are....without knowing what is next. Frigid temperatures, high altitude and fresh snow on Taos Mountain make everything brighter and clearer while the shadows lengthen and deepen. Stacks of fragrant pitch wood arranged in a lattice pattern, called luminarias in Spanish, stand ready to be set ablaze just as the sun goes down.
The plaza of the Taos Pueblo village is divided by the Rio Pueblo. The adobe apartment-style buildings have been continuously inhabited since about 1000 C.E. They are arranged on the north and south sides of the river. People who live on the Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation still maintain homes in the village and some even use their family’s ancestral dwellings as their main house today. They try to maintain their life style with no electricity or running water.
Sun is going down but our anxious is getting bigger.....
Everyone is waiting for the procession to begin. We are always asking “what time is it going to happen?” and the Indian answer is always “when they’re ready.” No matter what time your watch says, when it finally happens, it is the right time. Men with lighters start up a couple of the smaller bonfires. People crowd around trying to get warm. Anticipation builds.....It is frigid cold so small bonfires are trying to warm the place....
This year, the tribe will be dancing the Matachines dance. Not much I know about the dance but enjoying every moment...To be selected to dance is an honor and much care and expense is taken to make sure each part of the costumes are just so. The cupillas (mitre-like headdresses), ribbons, palmas and jewelry must all be within traditional guidelines. The young girl who portrays La Malinche is usually dressed like a little bride. Some seem to represent the rough, animal side of nature. They are frightening as they stand on the rooftops of the buildings and shout rude things onto the people below. They jibe and their antics provoke laughter, but one is careful to move out of the way when they shout to move along in Spanish or Tiwa and crack their whips.
This year, there is a nearly full moon for Christmas Eve in a clear, darkening sky. Snow capped mountain shy to show its beauty as clouds are covered. Men with lighters start up a all the bonfires...big and small. People crowd around trying to get warm. Place is like full bright....The smoke from the bonfires is thick. Sometimes the columns of black smoke lay down on the ground – swamping us in their sooty storm. Sparks fly in the frigid wind that flows off the snow-capped mountains as night falls. The church bell sounds, marking the end of Vespers.
San Geronimo church is fronted by an adobe wall courtyard enclosure. The doorway is arched and now, as everyone is assembled just outside the archway, torches are lit. Huge bundles of kindling are bound together. Several men with rifles fire into the air. People flinch and cry out if they are not expecting it. Even if you know it’s going to happen, when the first gunfire sounds, it still makes you jump and start.
Men playing hand drums and singing in Tiwa follow, and the sea of people parts for them, but not quite enough. Los Abuelos yell and scold everyone to get back. Whips crack and curses are hurled.
In the courtyard of the church, the statue of Mary, She is carried on a platform decked with green pine bows. A canopy of white material is carried over the santo – perhaps just there to protect the painted face and white vestments of the santo from falling ash and sparks from the torches and bonfires.
The Matachines dancers follow, with their musicians, a rhythm guitarist and a violinist.....very happy to see so many happy faces.....after so many years.....
Something deep within,
Something hard to reach,
Something personal and unique,
Something ancient, old,
Something sometimes called the soul.
It is a life changing experience...Never shall I forget the Christmas eve at Taos
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