Spirit of the Season

Christmas Lights

A couple of years ago, I read about a Christmas celebration at the Coronado Historic Site in Bernalillo, the former site of the Kuaua Pueblo. It was occupied by the Tiwa people as early as 1325 along the Rio Grande River. Before engaging in the celebration, I wandered around the site and the visitors center to find out what it was all about.

When Coronado happened on the scene, he forced the villagers out with nothing — no food, clothes, shelter, livestock — nothing. He spent two years searching for the gold that a priest said was there. The priest had lied about the gold, so Coronado ultimately returned to Mexico empty-handed, and his mission was declared an “expensive failure.”  

He didn’t know that the gold was in the ground and the streams less than 30 miles east of the pueblo. The first gold rush west of the Mississippi was actually in Golden, New Mexico, centuries later.

Presently, however, much of the pueblo foundations have been reconstructed. The square kiva, in particular, has one layer of an ancient mural recreated; however, in the visitor center, there are 14 examples of the original mural on display. One of the most extraordinary things is that they encourage people to pick up the artifacts to connect more directly with the past and try to imagine the lives of the pueblo people back then.

Square Kiva

But back to the celebration…

It was cold and brisk, but moving about helped not to focus on that piece of it. There was hot chocolate and cookies available for all. A choir singing Christmas carols under the eaves of the adobe structure was beautiful as well. But the most interesting and indeed the most heartwarming happening that evening was a Native American man playing a handmade flute next to a roaring fire in the horno — a Native American outdoor oven. He stood in the courtyard, in native dress with his other instruments laying next to the fire, glowing in the firelight, awaiting his touch to bring the magic musical sounds to life.

Corn and Chile Lights

It was a lovely celebration under the stars, no thanks to  Coronado, rather to the resilience of a people who were minding their own business and were unceremoniously displaced by a greedy Spaniard. History isn’t always kind, but the season’s spirit helps to mend some wounds to a small degree.

Luminaria Under the Stars

While you enjoy the holiday season, try to remember that it’s not always about how many gifts you get or how much money someone spends, but rather the help and compassion you share with others. Let’s not let history repeat itself.

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