05 Jul My First, Unforgettable Feast Day in Santo Domingo
Eat plenty, eat plenty.
American Indian culture has been established and influenced the Southwest for centuries. Today, there are 19 sovereignly ran pueblos, or reservations, in New Mexico. One ancient, American Indian cultural tradition still reigns today are feast days. This historical practice stemmed from spaniards bringing Roman Catholic Religion to New Mexico in the 1500s. Catholic missionaries tried to convert American Indians; however, many Natives chose to incorporate Catholicism with their existing beliefs. Thus, Feast Days celebrate both American Indian traditions and the remembrance of Catholic saints. During my first week in Santa Fe, several locals told me to attend a feast day before the end of my visit. Fortunately, I was able to attend my first (and certainly not last) feast, the Peter/St. Paul Feast Day, on Wednesday. This celebration took place at the Santo Domingo Pueblo, which is located 30-minutes south of SF. Once I, and a coworker, arrived to Santo Domingo locals directed us to the pueblo’s church entrance. The church was by far one of the most memorable adobe structures I’ve seen thus far. Before entering, we walked through a dirt courtyard enclosed by white stucco walls. From the courtyard entrance, I could see candle flames through the cracks of the chapel doors. What was most notable was the front walls painted white with turquoise and bright orange borders. The front wall features two painted horses, face to face. On the rooftop lies a black, aldbourne bell. Once we entered the church, we noticed a table full of food. “Take a seat,” one of the cooks told us. Initially, I was put off-guard by this suggestion because we knew no one. I felt like a stranger. “Eat plenty, eat plenty,” another feast attendee told us. Once I sat down and was given a plate, bowl, and suggestion to try the chili, I knew I was a just guest. I also realized the pueblo church opens their feast to locals and guests. While eating, I was told that part of the feast day purpose is to literally eat all day. I was given a tote-bag full of food before leaving the pueblo, which honestly made my day. That celebration also features several outdoor activities designated for specific groups of people. There were horse races and a rooster pull for pueblo males, and a gift run for pueblo children and pre-teens. What I found most fascinating was the corrida de gallo (a rooster pull). The tradition was originally birthed in Spain. The custom entails a suspended rooster hanging from a stretched rope. Horse riders raced by the bird, while standing in their saddle, in attempts to grab or tug it. Journalist Marc Simmons explains the reasoning behind this phenomenon as “Ancient Spanish symbolism [which] drops of blood were closely identified with drops of water.” Now, Pueblo Indians still practice this custom during feast day celebrations. I witnessed the corrida de gallo at the Santo Domingo’s Feast Day. Riders participated in the pull at least five times or so. Dozens of male horse riders, ages 14 to 70, grouped together anxiously in anticipation for the church bell to ring and start the race. Then, one by one, racers dashed to capture the rooster. The audience swayed, uttering “oohs” in disappointment for riders whose fingertips simply touched the rooster. Likewise, “ahs” were given for rooster-attaining victors. Quite frankly, pull was one of the most exciting spAt the entrance of the Santo Domingo Pueblo. orts events I’d been to in a while. The most moving, and not to mention heart-warming, moment of the feast was watching the children race for toys. Once the horse riders began gathering tons of toys in bins to the center of the dirt plain, I saw dozens of children leap from their seats in excitement. I couldn’t help but smile. They all ran to the outside of the dirt plain, waiting to be summoned. Once a horse rider yelled a specific call, they all ran in unison as fast as they could. Once they made it to their toys, they all waited patiently to receive a toy that would surely impress their family. In the end, no child left empty-handed.
At the entrance of the Santo Domingo Pueblo.
feast day photos: http://bit.ly/1Bz2Uyt