There is time a during every fiesta when the sun grows larger in the sky, stomachs grumble, and everyone takes a break. No feast day would be complete without a bowl of green chile stew and a tortilla to chew on when the heat becomes too much. As the afternoon drones on, the community settles into their lawn chairs and lethargically squints out at the play that has resumed on the plaza.
A 500 year old bullfight.
Kicking up dust in the center of the courtyard a cowboy lassos a guy in a bull costume and then frolics with a cross-dresser. The crowd cheers and chuckles. It’s fun to watch the same neighbors that you run into at the grocery store clown around, but what does it all mean? Everything is open to interpretation.
According to the church bulletin, the Ensaye is a play that comes from the village of Santa Fe, near Granada, Spain and was written in 1503. It tells the story of how the Spanish converted the Muslims to Christianity after they tried to steal the Holy Cross. The conquistadors performed the dance in an effort to evangelize New Mexico’s Native Americans, but instead, the Pueblos infused the spectacle with their own culture and beliefs. Throughout the years the role of each character has flip-flopped between good and evil to reflect the preferences of the performers. Continue reading →
Growing up out West, I’ve become adverse to sticking solely to the trail and one day I got lost. I was descending the steep face of Sandia Peak and midway down I found myself chasing mule deer tracks into the desert.
I could clearly see Albuquerque, my destination, but without shade, water, or a clear path to guide me, I soon succumbed to a dizzy wandering. In the glaring midday sun my vision became impaired by stars and a mirage of halos. I like to believe that my guardian angel led me to that 7-Eleven at the edge of town where I quenched my thirst on a slurpie and brain-freezed myself back to life.
The puckered lips of Old Man Gloom. Photo: Jeremy Hockett.
Eventually anyone who spends some time in New Mexico gets heat stroke. You forget to drink water, your lips get painfully chapped, and you end up looking like a sunburned Zozobra. The only remedy to a fever dream is to wake up in an ice cold bath.
Sandia is Spanish for Watermelon and at dusk the mountain turns pink on the arid west side. The green forested rolling hills of the east side becomes the rind. It’s cooler in the higher eastern elevations and the stream at San Antonio is an oasis. Native Americans, Spaniards, and Gringo’s alike competed with the rest of the animals in the woods for a drink at the spring. One party after another gained control over its access, but the others have not gone away. The acequia at San Antonio fuels diversity. Continue reading →
“Tony, Tony, look around. Something’s lost and can’t be found.”
The Lash of the Penitentes is a 1937 oddity that is both a documentary and a B-movie. The circumstances surrounding the production of the film are shrouded in mystery and only a few scenes have survived, but it illustrates a murder mystery that took place in the Sandia mountains where I grew up.
Holding up the faith.
The film depicts the penitente brotherhood as a secret, self-flagellating sect and, to this day, the order lives up to its reputation. The pilgrims who walk north to Chimayo every Good Friday still whip and crucify themselves along the way. Through self-imposed suffering, they atone for their sins.
Back in the old days, San Antonio was a remote village and the priest only came down from Santa Fe once a year to hold a service. It was up to Los Hermanos Penitentes to care for the church and uphold Christianity at the edge of the frontier. Continue reading →