The Blessing Way

The legendary fiesta of life and death


The Pueblos, towns, and cities of El Nórte celebrate their Fiestas to honor the patron saints of their communities and other special events. This summer again we will have the Taos-area Fiesta of Santiago and Santa Ana, and of course we annually anticipate the great Fiesta days at Santa Fe, San Lorenzo at Picurís Pueblo, the Annual Old Taos Trade Fair at the Martínez Hacienda, San Jerónimo at Taos Pueblo, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and many more.

There is an old story, a “fabulous local legend,” about a great Fiesta in the area a long time ago, that was related and passed on by an elder wise man named Don Ramón de la Lúz, who recounted:

‘This happened a long time ago when, during the annual Fiesta celebration in my native village in the valley of the sacred mountains, there erupted a supernatural conflict, a confrontation between a giant serpent known as El Vivorón who lived in the high mountain caves; and the figure of Santiago formed by or revealed in the colossal cumulus clouds in the skies over the fascinated yet terrified populace of the village; while a great Lady who also appeared in the tempestuous summer skies, smiled upon all of us.

‘This wondrous Lady-form encouraged the people to continue the Fiesta and told them not to be afraid because she would see to it that they would be safe from harm in the great battle that she said was to be waged fiercely above and around them.

‘I remember that the Fiesta did go on with full force and spirit: The music, the dances, the foods, the Santos processions with the images of the Saints; the good and bad things, the fortunate and unfortunate things; and all the while with the people knowing somehow that they were the prize, or the high stakes, of the celestial conflict that had now begun to rage about.

‘I remember that the battle was so powerful that even the Campo Santo graveyard was shaken open and that for the duration the living and dead were celebrating together; and that all was as if turned upside-down and exposed, up for grabs, as it were, and it seemed as if all creation was hanging in the balance, depending on the outcome of the conflict.

‘The towering tempestuous storm-cloud figures of El Vivorón and of Santiago crashed against each other with full force while the great celebration of life and death surged on below, and as the presence of the great Lady filled the thundering skies.

‘In the sky, they clashed ferociously, the dragon with gleaming scythe-like claws and teeth as of iron, against the brilliant sword of Santiago. Below, there was dance and food and music; and prayer, and the great bells were resounding from the ancient churches.

‘I was there, and saw the whole thing; I could not take eyes off the celestial battle, and saw the moment when the sword of Santiago finally penetrated the very guts of El Vivorón, the dragon-serpent, and I can never forget the sound of its scream at the mortal wound it had received.

‘And its blood fell on the earth like a strong, hot rain, and it fell from the skies, and after great thrashing throes of agony, it died. Then the floods of rain-water from the storm floated its corpse away into caves opened by the earthquakes which the conflict had caused.

‘Then the sky cleared. The storm passed, and then Santiago also was gone. The great Lady who filled the cleansed, blue skies smiled over the world and then also passed from sight.

‘We all saw a sign in the sky then: A great white bird, like an eagle, or an archangel, calling out in joyful, powerful song as it flew with wide, pulsing wing-beats high overhead, circling over the world.

‘I will always remember that most remarkable Fiesta from so many years ago. So I bless all the Fiestas because they are important to this world and to a higher world also. ¡Que Viva la Fiesta! I always say,’ said Don Ramón de la Lúz.