Our northern spiritual heritage endures


First, this announcement: On Saturday (Aug. 5), the Northern Río Grande National Heritage Area organization will have the grand opening of its National Heritage Center at Alcalde. It will be at the location formerly known as the Oñate Visitor Center. The daylong event will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a blessing and official proclamation of the center's new name, along with food, music, a variety of speakers, lowrider cars, cultural exhibits, several bands and dancing. The event will go until about 8 p.m.

The Northern Río Grande National Heritage Area is a U.S. National Park Service-funded, not-for-profit organization in the Taos, Río Arriba and Santa Fe tri-county Northern Río Grande area whose mission is to advocate for, protect and help sustain the unique cultural history and characteristics of the area. The NRGNHA's board of directors is made up of people from the three counties, including representatives from pueblos, local government, area colleges and universities, writers, scholars and more.

The NRGNHA's move to the former Oñate Visitor Center location is in collaboration with the Río Arriba Board of County Commissioners.

Many people, particularly those of a spiritual bent, believe that the landscape terrains of the high forested mountains and the lakes, streams and rivers; the volcanic desert plains; the fertile valleys along the Northern Río Grande; the wide, breathing skies; and the living light of the powerful sun are infused with and emanate a primal spirituality that influences the multiple religious and spiritual traditions of ancient, recent and current peoples of the north and are often melded together in our feasts and faith celebrations.

The feasts themselves affirm and manifest that belief. Guarded ritual and ceremony of pre-Christian spiritual traditions take place in ancient sacred sites and in the beautiful pueblo feast days (like San Geronimo at Taos or festivities at Picuris, Tesuque, San Ildefonso or any of the eight northern Native American pueblos). Ceremonies also take place at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, at the Santuario de Chimayó during Holy Week, at other shrines and during days dedicated to saints in northern towns. There are also Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, Zen and Hindu religious celebrations. In all of these, the essential spirituality of life and being is evidenced.

All these feast traditions - and notably the pueblo celebrations - have grown from the fertile cultural soil of the religious spirit and give magnificent testimony to the natural and supernatural spirit of the lands, the waters, the peoples and cycles of time and being.

The feasts and fiestas of Northern New Mexico invoke deep, primordial and joyful sentiments of celebration, of overcoming and of thanksgiving, sometimes even in the midst of dark, tenuous and desperate times. Some Northern New Mexico feasts commemorate tragedies, losses or victories in war, for example. And sometimes the feasts are held in the spirit of a mutual peace - or truce - wherein some reconciliation may be attained among peoples who for hundreds of years have held grievances against each other.

In any case, all are welcome and invited into the mystery, wisdom, joy and blessings of the spiritual heritage that is manifested in these feasts.