Most of my friends know that Judy and I made friends in several of the pueblos the week we first visited New Mexico in 2009. When our friends in the Santo Domingo pueblo heard that we moved to Santa Fe, they insisted we come to their house to celebrate “All Saints Day”. She described it as their tribe’s equivalent to Thanksgiving: Food, family, and friends.
So, we paid a visit this afternoon and had an incredible dinner… blue corn enchiladas, tamales, green chili stew, a sweet rice (with dates, pecans and green onions!) that I HAVE TO learn to make*, chili, homemade bread, yams, several veggie dishes, salads, pies, etc.
*I have since learned to make “Pueblo Rice”
After the meal, they asked if we wanted to get the “real experience” of All Saints Day. We were given each a big reusable shopping bag and instructed to go to each house, say a prayer aloud for the house and family and then shout, “Oramus…Oramus!!” (which is asking God to ‘hear us’) Then the family opens the door and puts a gift of food in the bag to thank those who have offered prayers.
It was one of the most moving experiences! We were probably the only white folks going from door to door doing this. Sometimes we joined groups and sometimes we did it alone. It was very friendly and warm. The natives doing this became familiar smiling faces. Sometimes native children tagged along with us. A few people said their prayers aloud in English but most in their native tongue. Usually, we would be praying in English while a half dozen others prayed in Spanish or tribal Keresan. After we bellowed “Oramus…Oramus!” at the end of the prayer, the people inside would open the door and put food in our bags. Everything from whole loaves of bread to ramen noodles to boxes of pasta to plastic containers of salad to homemade pie to cookies!
One moment of complete irony was when I stood at a door holding out my bag and a toddler came out and threw a candy bar in my bag. …My life cracks me up.
On a serious note… What an experience! Many of these people are poor. Initially, there was a twinge of guilt about going door-to-door taking food from them. Some of the food was clearly from their pantry cabinets. But the Indians are a deeply religious people and those prayers have real value to them. You couldn’t mistake the gratitude in their eyes.
This is a side of New Mexico that many New Mexicans don’t get to experience first-hand. The sad fact is, when you perceive a ‘wall’ between your culture and that of another, then you have built that wall. I consider myself blessed to be welcomed and invited to join in pueblo traditions, feasts, and ceremonies. It’s one thing to talk about “Native American culture” in the abstract… It’s quite another to experience it from the inside.
We both came away feeling very FULL tonight.