Sun, Dec 24|
CHRISTMAS EVE / SAN ESTEBAN DEL REY / ACOMA PUEBLO
Time & Location
Dec 24, 11:20 PM
Acoma Pueblo, Haaku Rd, Acoma Pueblo, NM 87034, USA
About the Event
We meet at 11:15 pm at the Sky City Cultural Center and around midnight take Acoma shuttles to the 1629 mission church on the mesa. A description of the experience follows. We return in shuttles to the center around 1:30 am.
This is a free event limited to twenty-five participants; registration is required. Please expedite if you are interested—the trip will fill quickly—and please do not reserve tickets unless you are certain you will attend.
Website and map: Sky City Cultural Center
The closest lodging is at Acoma’s casino hotel: Sky City Hotel. Many other options are in Grants and Albuquerque.
The road is lined with luminarias between the viewpoint and the visitor center: map here. Turn off your headlights to see the glow.
Disclaimer: This is an Acoma Pueblo event over which Profundo has no influence or control.
EXCERPT / FRANK GRAZIANO / HISTORIC CHURCHES OF NEW MEXICO TODAY / PAGES 115-117
When we arrived at the church the doors were still locked and a long line of Acomas had formed outside. I separated from the shuttle group and stood against the wall of the convent. If you’re still enough you think you feel your body absorbing this unearthly ambience held down around you by the sky. Or maybe that was the adobe, the absorption. The site inspired the emotive perception required to see it. The church face in stark elevation, the bonfire lighting it, a drummer walking up and down the line. The overall impression was one of ambiguous juxtaposition: on the one hand the church is impossibly on the mesa—you can’t believe your eyes—and on the other it seems part of the mesa itself.
When the church doors opened the Acomas entered and the line formed inside, at a width of about half the church and backing almost to the choir loft. The tourists entered behind the Acomas and filtered to the sides. I moved toward the front and took a place in a corner formed by a wall and the confessional. In the late 1920s George Kubler took a photo of this corner, which showed a bird perched on a stepped design.
The church was magnificent—dressed for the occasion. Candlelight softening the focus inside a pewless, cool, spacious nave filled with anticipation and warm feelings. Acomas greeting, hugging, and advancing on a slow-moving line toward their moment with the baby Jesus. You have walked into a mood that can hardly survive beyond this church, this night. A place unto itself above the world on a rock. A slow burn, a gradual reveal, an emotional build that plateaus, without climax or denouement. I don’t remember any shadows.
Some of the Acomas were carrying petitionary offerings that they would leave at the altar. The common format was a flat basket with miniature livestock, pottery vessels, and other representations arranged in the likeness of a farm or ranch. The care and artistry with which these scenes are made was apparent. A 1929 report explained that after prayers at the time of presentation, these offerings “to encourage a generous multiplication of beasts and crops during the year to come” are left in the church for four days, “after which they are taken out and deposited in fields, at the base of cedar bushes, or in cracks in rocks.”
When the drums approach you feel it in your chest, and at the back of the church, while the line toward the altar advances, the dances begin. The mood accumulates complexity through male voices singing and moccasins in movement, with the stoic weight of walls as the backdrop. The dance groups, from Acoma and other pueblos, enter periodically, dance in the church, and then dance again outside, in front of the bonfire. Dance, song, visits, offerings, and prayer celebrate the birth of Jesus. The four days of ceremony that begin on Christmas eve are also a form of giving thanks to the Acoma governors and officials who have served the pueblo during the previous year.
CHRISTMAS EVE ACOMA PUEBLO$0.00Sold Out
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