December 17, 2004

Editorial

Why Nuestra Gente Celebrates Christmas

The celebration of Christmas is part of our culture. Ask any Mexican Citizen, any Latino; ask anyone who is a descendent of the Spanish conquest why they celebrate Christmas. The conquering Spaniards brought the religious concept to the continent of America and other parts of the world.

The Spanish Missionaries which came to the Americas and the surrounding islands, principally the Franciscans and later the Jesuits, recognized that the Indians, of America and the surrounding islands, passed on their histories and belief systems through dance, ritual poetry, music and drama. The Conquistadores realized that to control the peoples of the Americas, they had to break down the native means of passing on their culture and history. They had to break their links to the past, which established, their means of control over their people. In a sense, the Conquistadores had to supplant the Amerindians belief of their Gods and bring them under the belief systems of the Catholic Church. The Priests wisely used the music, dance rituals, dramatic presentations and their poetry and begin the process of converting them to the God of the more advanced Europeans. Once they controlled their belief systems, the local Indians would be controlled and be made to serve their European masters.

The process of change was instigated with the sudden miraculous appearance of the Holy Virgin, who was bronze skinned, and obviously Indian, to a very humble Indian Juan Diego in 1531 at Tepeyac, a site, located just outside Mexico City. Tepeyac had traditionally been the site for Aztec and Toltec religious ceremonies. Miraculously her image was imprinted on Juan Diego’s serape and Juan Diego presented his cape to the Spanish Rulers and the Missionaries. La Virgen became the tool of their subjugation of the American-Indians to the Missionaries and their Spanish rulers. She became the Patron Saint of the Mexican Indians and of all the Americas. Not too surprising, the same scenario has been used in other lands conquered by the Spaniards to subjugate the native populations. Eventually all signs of their past Gods were erased and they became converted to the Catholic Religion.

For Mexicans, and most Latinos, Christmas season begins shortly after the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on December 12, and ends with the Feast of the Three Kings on January 6. Of course, we also take a little bit from other European countries such as Las Posadas and La Pastorela that reenacts the flight and search for shelter of Joseph and Mary as they seek lodging. This little ceremony started in Europe. Of course, the Making of Tamales is strictly Mexican as is the custom of having Menudo!

Regardless of its antecedents, our “Gente” has taken onto its self the concepts of the European Christmas, except for adding a little salsa and Chili to it, and made it part of our culture. Beats sacrificing young maidens to the Serpent Gods of old or having your heart cut out to please Quetzalcoatl. Though deep in the center of the tribal lands of the

Mayan, Nahuas, Zapoteca, Olmecas, Yaqui, Inca, Huichol, Huesteca, Tarahumara, ancient ceremonies to the ancient Gods still hold sway and the old ways are still revered.

Feliz Navidad~Merry Christmas!

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