Happy and prosperous New Year 2018 to all.
We are now in a holy time here in el norte and throughout the entire world, that mystical period around the birth of the Christ. It’s a celebration that continues for a number of days and includes the Epiphany of the Lord Saturday (Jan. 6), which is also known as Three Kings Day.
The Christian faithful recognize this time as the coming of Christ at his nativity in Bethlehem as the King of Peace, who entered the history of a humankind that lacked then, and still lacks, peace among peoples.
It is something spiritual, supernatural, religious and mystical and is part of the great mystery of creation and existence from the distant past to the present. The people observe and take note of the holy times and the days in our customs and traditions with certain rituals, dances and songs.
Three Kings Day relates the visit of those who had been following an eminent star, which indicated the place of the nativity of Christ. Epiphany is celebrated in many ways, including, for example, dances at the northern New Mexico Pueblos, such as Taos and Picurís and many other places.
In this holy time the customs and dances and traditional activities in the north are very beautiful and mysterious. For example, the dance of los matachines, which occurred on Christmas Day at the Taos Pueblo, is a unique melding of indigenous culture and tradition with Christian figuration.
This dance has many interpretations regarding its significance. Some say that its origin perhaps came from ancient times stemming from the conflicted relations between Moors and Christians in Spain; others say that it refers back to the events that occurred in the fall of the Aztec Empire of Tenochtitlan when the Spaniards, with help from other indigenous tribes, conquered Moctezuma’s empire.
The matachines dance is exquisitely intricate and includes the figurative personages of El Monarca (Moctezuma) and La Malinche, who were part of the history and legend of the end of the Aztec empire. At the same time, they were part of the beginning of the epoch of Christianity in the form of Roman Catholicism brought by Spanish colonists.
This history contains various interpretations, including that the arrival of the Spanish signified the return of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl to the country on a certain day, in a certain year and fulfilled that god’s own prophecy.
Quetzalcoatl, who is known by many names in the MesoAmerican regions, gave civilization to mankind, according to this history. But at the same time he had a rival who was his twin brother Tezcatlipoca, who was a malevolent force. And it came to pass that Quetzalcoatl was deceived and brought low by his rival, and he decided to leave the region.
But Quetzalcoatl also promised the people that he would return at a certain time, which would be the year Ce Acatl, or the Year One Reed (of the ancient Aztec Calendar). He would return from the East to overthrow and reject the cult of Tezcatlipoca and stop the practice of human sacrifice to the other gods that had a great thirst for human blood and for human hearts.
The arrival of Hernán Cortéz to Mexico in 1519 corresponded with that Year One Reed of Quetzalcoatl’s prophecy. And so it happened, perhaps by a “coincidence,” or by true fulfillment of the prophecy, that the Spanish arrived and with the help of other indigenous tribes, overthrew that empire. And the rest is history, as they say.