|Stop signs double as street signs in Tortugas. And Juan Diego is a VIP.|
The Pueblo Indians, who farmed here centuries ago at the base of the Organ Mountains, eventually integrated so closely with Spanish blood that the two cultures wed in this annual ritual.
|Tortugas is a small settlement, just south of Mesilla, NM. Not wealthy or powerful, this adobe hut bears witness to its humility.|
"Each resident of the village has enacted the pageant through a lifetime and it has become a strong urge as the season draws near, to fulfill those vows passed down to them by their ancestors. Preparations begin in November. Dances are rehearsed. Decorations are assembled. Sometimes new attire is made. Staying true to the symbol of Guadalupe everything is covered in roses." (Holy Adobe, Lenore Harris Hughes)
|The small burg was burgeoning with people. Narrow dirt streets around the church.were lined for blocks with cars parked on both sides.|
On December 12, the parish celebrates a lengthy Catholic liturgy. The bishop himself presided and preached this year's Mass. I understand that he spoke to issues of social justice, including the evils of domestic violence as well as addressing the narco-violence now raging in Mexico. Of the latter, he reportedly stated that the United States is--not "part" of the problem--but "the source of the problem."
|Malinches, small girls dressed in white, symbolize the purity of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (They receive their name from an Indian maid who traveled with Cortez in Mexico.)|
The overwhelming aroma of the multi-colored roses engulfs the visitor who steps inside of the church. There the image of the Virgin that has been carried in procession is displayed for the devotions of the people.
|The renovated tower of the simple but beautiful Tortugas church marks the center of the festivities.|
We visited each of three of the dance groups who performed in areas adjacent to the church. The fourth group was taking a break at the community house "La Casa del Pueblo" (seen in the final photo on this post.) Each group wore elaborate, distinct costumes. Most all costumes prominently displayed the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
|There were four plazas of dancing groups, all performing simultaneously.|
|The village pastor, a Franciscan, added a touch of historical authenticity in his habit.|
|Sounds of druming and the shaking of gourds is augmented by the rattle of the decorations on the costumes that rhythmically follow each action of the dancers.|
In an effort to drive away evil spirits, the blast of shotguns periodically interrupted the sunny afternoon, startling unprepared observers.
|Here--a few blocks away--another dance group exits "La Casa del Pueblo" (visible on the right) in formation, ready to begin anew another round of dance.|
The elderly are respected and their experiences valued as they passed the information about the ceremonial to their young.
One elderly Tortugeno said, "The urge to fulfill the vow is as strong as life itself."
~Holy Adobe, Lenore Harris Hughes