Friday, July 26, 2013

The Slowest Parade in America

Mescalero Parade, Mescalero, New Mexico

You know you're in a slow parade when
  • It stops in front of you and the first unit's occupants get out so they can take pictures of the units following
  • You can walk up to the front of a unit and take photos, then to the side, then the other side, and then the front again, all at a leisurely pace
  • The classic-car section of the parade appears to have had enough (maybe ran low on gas?) and it leaves the parade early via a highway exit
  • There's so much of a gap between one unit and another that people think the parade is over and leave

The Mescalero Apache summer parade in Mescalero, New Mexico, is that parade. The parade celebrates the Mescalero maiden puberty rites, and also coincides with Independence Day festivities.

Advance planning

This is what I saw when I thought I found the perfect spot for parade watching. It was kind of a hot day, and the breeze blowing through the shaded underpass looked like the perfect spot. My hunch was reinforced by the sight of all of those who had come before me to stake their territory.

My homestead is marked by the green chair in the foreground. 

Mescalero Parade, Mescalero, New Mexico

By the time the parade started, it looked like this: 

Mescalero Parade, Mescalero, New Mexico


Arriving early at a parade route makes it easy to find the best parade-watching spot and also the best parking spots. Arriving early at a parade that is scheduled to run about two hours means you'll likely have something to drink and maybe to eat, also. The yang to these yin is that it will be necessary to relieve yourself.

I was lucky. The first time I had to go - before the parade started - I walked up to the Senior Center, entered, walked down the hall, and used the restroom.  When I emerged, I discovered that the building was about to be closed up, and I was politely shooed out.

Later, during a lull in the parade, I walked up to the police station, entered the vestibule, then through another door, down the hall and to the restroom. When I emerged, a police woman who had been outside was now in the vestibule and she told me I wasn't really supposed to be there, that the door between the vestibule and corridor was usually locked.


The medicine woman

One of my parade neighbors was a medicine woman, based in El Paso. She and her relatives have attended the Mescalero rites for eight years.

A congenial woman, she told me about two large women's gatherings, one already having occurred in El Paso this year, related to the sun; the next would be in Mexico, related to the moon. Both sounded exciting.

But do not get between this woman and pencils thrown out to the parade attendees. Someone could get hurt. 

The wax and gold

In Ethiopia, there is often more than one level of interpretation for what someone says or writes. The wax (sem) is the superficial message.  The gold (werk) is the true meaning of what was said or written. In its poetic form, this is called qene.

My first processing of the Mescalero parade was that it was just a parade, albeit with Apache notes.

But one of the floats had a sign referring to Edna Teenah Comanche, "the little girl who rides the train." Tracking down this reference a few days later took me down a path that gave me a greater appreciation of symbols that rolled by me in the parade, but which didn't make much of an impact at the time.

So there's more to come about this parade

In the meantime, a slide show:



Anonymous said...

uummm, where's the slide show??

Mzuri said...

et voila! A few months late, but fixed - thank you!