Saturday, December 3, 2011
In Honor of Imaginary Beings
Probably the BEST thing one can say about peoples' devotion to"Imaginary Beings" is that it does produce some lovely and evocative imagery. Old Santa Fe friend María Móntez-Skolnik captured this image recently, around Thanksgiving, at the little "Santuario" in the village of Chimayo, in the mountains east and north of Santa Fe.
The Santuario has gained renown for the curative powers of the mud made from dirt of the Chapel floor. It's been regarded as a "healing" place for four Centuries, or so. And there started to be a problem, cuz LOTS penitents came to acquire the miraculous mud, and the floor of the chapel was continually being gouged out. So now they bring the dirt in from somewhere out in the hills, and the priest blesses it. I guess this 'works' just as well.
The lights with which the structures are festooned are called "luminarias." They're paper bags with the "novena" candles bedded in sand in the bottom. They are ubiquitous this time of year, out here.
Another seasonal/religious tradition is to build small "bonfires" in the streets on Xmas eve, for a pageant the call "Las Posadas," re-enacting the search by the Jesus family for a place to stay, ending at/in the manger. The faithful--and those playing along--light the "farolitos" to guide the "holy family" on its way.
Fyeieio: The tradition of the farolitos/bonfires is exaggerated hugely, and currently is outrageously misinterpreted, down in south Louisiana where I spoent 10 years in the '80s/90s: there, on Xmas eve, the Cajun folks spend weeks constructing HUGE, intricate, fabulous structures on the Mississippi River levees, only to set them alight, on Xmas eve, and dance, eat hugely, and drink and celebrate in the garish light of the flaming structures. It's in honor of the "Posadas" tradition, also, of course. But the (philistine) local media announce faithfully that they do it to "guide Santa" up to Baton Rouge.
Back at the Santuario: Every year, on Good Friday (before Easter), the faithful flock to make the pilgrimage to the Santuario from Santa Fe, a distance of some 20 miles, and even further. Throngs of pilgrims come from all over to visit the site and ask forgiveness for their sins. I have seen people on their knees, moving along the road-side, slowly, painfully. The SHOULDERS on the highways north out of Santa Fe and south from Espanola, and from the west, from the direction of Los Alamos, are always thick with folks walking alongside the traffic, starting on (Holy) Thursday, and going on through the night, and through the next day.
The State and local law, and the tribal cops from the Pueblos over which the pilgrims traverse (and there are several: Tesuque, Pojoaque, and Nambe', at least), keep EAGLE eyes on it. There has been violence associated with or linked to pilgrims, increasingly. One year--2002, iirc--there were even check-points with pat-down searches.
In addition to the "Santuario," the village of Chimayo is home to a large family of Hispanic weavers, the Ortegas, whose work is known and valued in folk art collections around the world. It is also the home of the renowned eatery, Rancho de Chimayo, established on the old (18th Century) family hacienda of the Jaramillo family, who once farmed the valley. They now operate a B&B there, too. My dad and the owner/proprietor, Arturo Jaramillo, were pals. The restaurant became the de facto celebration station for my family from almost the day it opened. The food is delicious (though not cheap), and available in varying degrees of capsaicin-enhancement.
If you happen to dine there, you may want to try the Chimayo Cocktail. I "invented" it, chatting with the owner (at the time), Arturo Jaramillo, after a family gatherning/meal there in the late '60s. It's basically a tequila sunrise with apple cider instead of orange juice, and a dash of creme de cassis instead of the Gran Marnier. Served up, with an apple slice garnish, and cinnamon-sugar around the rim.
¡Su salud! (y pesetas, y amor, y tiempo para gustarlos).