Sunday, May 12, 2013

San Francis de Paula Fiesta, Tularosa, New Mexico

Queen, knights, and bishop. San Francis de Paula Fiesta, Tularosa, NM.

Here's the story:

The Latino settlers of Tularosa and the Apache in nearby Mescalero land had skirmished for years. It came to a head in 1868, on Round Hill, when the Tularosans and a contingent of U.S. soldiers engaged in a brief battle with the Apache. The Tularosans prayed that if they won the battle, they'd build a church in St. Francis' honor and commemorate him every year in thanks for his intercession. 

San Francis de Paula Fiesta, Tularosa, NM.

The Tularosans did win the battle with the Apache and they did build the church, and thus has been celebrated every year the San Francis de Paula Fiesta. And also, the Apache and the Tularosa settlers pretty much got along fine ever after.

Like so many rituals in New Mexico, the layers of culture are many and rich, as demonstrated in the fiesta's music, dance, clothing, language, food, and rites.

In this one small fiesta in this one small town, were present:
  • Bishop
  • Queen and her court
  • Knights (of Columbus)O
  • Priest from Peru
  • Bilingual Mass in a church that honors North American and European saints
  • Indian-Mexican-American religious dance traditions through the matachines and danzantes
  • Mexican-American folklorico dance tradition
  • La Marinera, a Peruvian dance with indigenous Peruvian, African, and Spanish roots
  • Belly dancing
  • Hip hop dancing
  • Line dancing
  • Navajo tacos, hamburgers, enchiladas

Tepeyac Danzante from Hatch. San Francis de Paula Fiesta, Tularosa, NM.

In my opinion, a sustainable culture is one that keeps the traditional arts alive while continuing to create new expressions of its culture, based on contemporary realities of life. Which is one reason why I appreciated so much the variety of local talent showcased in Sunday afternoon's entertainment.

Note: The danzante and matachine dancers at the fiesta represented a recent revolution: women among the ranks. Both of these religious-dance practices, in the past - and still almost exclusively today - men only.

Folklorico dancers from Hondo. San Francis de Paula Fiesta, Tularosa, NM.

St. Francis observed all of it:

St. Francis observes. San Francis de Paula Fiesta, Tularosa, NM.

 One of my favorite moments - the new church priest, from Peru, dancing the La Marinera:

I also loved how many of the fiesta attendees joined one of the line dances. Notice the fiesta queen in white capris and peach top. One of the fiesta organizers, in black shorts and white/black t-shirt, used her force of personality to get people to join in - wonderful! I saw her give a particular someone a look that would be understood in any language: By God, you'd better get your ass out here and dance or I'm going to kick it into next week when this is over.

A great fiesta!

A slideshow:

San Francisco de Paula Fiesta, Tularosa, NM


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