Thursday, November 15, 2007

Attitudes of Gratitude

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — If you’re feeling challenged on the gratitude front, sometimes it helps to put things in perspective.
When it comes to participants in the first Thanksgiving, English settlers seem to have a lot more to be thankful for than their indigenous benefactors who attended the 1621 Plymouth harvest fiesta.
American Indians in general would have good reason to spend Thanksgiving singing the blues. Even their ethnic group name is derived from European invaders. I can’t refer to them as Native Americans because I’m supposed to follow Associated Press style, which specifies “American Indian.” The name America, of course, is derived from Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian who wandered around new-to-European worlds during the same period Chris Columbus was mistakenly concluding he had reached India.
I was thinking about all that during a tour of Acoma Sky City, as our guide Gary Keene described the horrors Spanish invaders imposed on his ancestors.
After chonicling foot amputations and other atrocities, Keene gracefully segued to the ultimate glass-half-full attitude.
“The Spanish did one good thing, though,” he opined, through their ignorance of nonterritorial traditions: They specified that separate territories belonged to specific groups of Pueblo peoples, thus establishing a basis for sovereign land rights and claims.
So now, down the hill from what is reportedly the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America, is a beautiful $14 million cultural center, financed by proceeds from a hotel and casino complex a respectable distance away.
Personally, gambling is one of the few vices that has never interested me, but I love the poetic justice of it all, a chance to get a little something back for that Manhattan-for-cheap-beads scam and other rotten deals through the centuries.
Keene’s cheerful attitude has made me think about all the things I have to be thankful for during a period when I’ve been mourning the loss of some of my favorite people.
Again, though, it’s all relative. Many of my friends have buried their loved ones, and most of my recently departed dear ones just relocated to other parts of the planet. I’m grateful for phones and e-mail and digital cameras that allow us to keep in touch. I’m grateful that grandson Alexander the Great escaped from San Diego before the recent devastating fires and what I fear will be a perilous decade for the once-great state of California. I’m happy that he and his mom and dad are all in the clean, green Pacific Northwest now.
I’m even grateful for commercial airlines, I decided, though I wavered a bit after lengthy delays that shortened reunions in 2007.
Still, I’m grateful that we all love — and like — each other so much that we wish we had more time together. And wherever we are this holiday season, we’ll be praying the rest of the world could have a year as wonderful as ours has been, for our troops and people struggling in war-torn nations.
Jerry Harrell of Mesilla suggests we make time to send holiday cards this year to: A Recovering American soldier, c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20307-500.
May attitudes of gratitude grace your holidays. Happy Thanksgiving.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at Access my blog by going to, click on the Blogzone and then on the Las Cruces Style icon or go directly to

Friday, November 9, 2007

Mariachi Memories and Festival at Young Park

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Mariachi transcends time, place and ethnic origins.
Can a Midwestern Scandinavian-American Baby Boomer really grow up loving mariachi, you may ask?
Si, and I’m living proof.
I may have had a lot to learn, but I was hardly a mariachi virgin when I moved to New Mexico.
I came from a family of singers in Michigan. Dad, who was trying to teach us Spanish, made sure our road trip repertoire featured some fun Español numbers.
In my Midwestern WASP familia, the canciones de mi padre included pop standards from his salad days in the 1930s and 40s: “Si Lito Lindo,” “Vaya Con Dios,” “Juanita,” “La Cucharacha,” and assorted other ditties.
There were also lots of fun Spanglish hybrids like “The Donkey Serenade.”
I can’t remember where I put my car keys, but my brain can instantly access: “Amigo mio, does she not have a dainty bray? She listens carefully to each little tune you play. La bella señorita? Si, si mi muchachita...”
Well, you get the idea.
We not only had the music, we were learning the moves. By the time I got to high school, many of us in the Orchard View High School Spanish Club could manage a rudimentary version of what we called the Mexican hat dance.
As a teenager, I heard mariachi groups singing and playing versions of those family favorite songs during trips to California and Tijuana. I may not have understood much about mariachi musical traditions then, but I know what I like, and I loved the soulful vocals, the romantic guitars and shimmering violins, the clear passionate trumpets, the beautiful costumes and dramatic movements of flamenco and folklorico dancers.
In the West and even the Midwest, mariachi became a part of my life. I discovered how much I missed it when I moved back East. The turning point came when I was planning a party in uber-Anglo Palm Beach and found myself trying to turn a chamber music group into a mariachi band.
As I worked to coax a French horn, cello and viola into playing a little cocktail hour ranchera to liven things up, I knew that it was time to return to the Southwest. Now, of course, I know I was not asking the impossible, I was merely ahead of my time. These days, the likes of Mariachi Cobre, Linda Ronstandt and a sombrero-clad Doc Severinsen routinely and brilliantly lead symphony orchestras to mariachi magnificence.
With exposure to the real deal, even the culturally deprived can learn. I was born preferring salsa to ketchup...and the rest of the United States, given a choice, finally caught up with me.
So it is with mariachi and all its glorious trappings.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Jose Tena’s Ballet Folklorico de la Tierra del Encanto. The flashing mariposa skirts, the sight of dancers in their crisp white Veracruz outfits accented with colorful embroidery, moving with lighted candles down the aisles of Oñate High School’s’s all etched indelibly in the mucho gusto balconies of my brain.
Show me a soul who is not moved by the rush of mariachi dancers and musicians opening a Spectacular concert at Pan Am and I will show you a difunto.
I’m not sure when I realized mariachi was a lot more than music and dance and pageantry.
It’s also poetry, passion, pleasure and pain. It’s faith, an expression of—and cure for—the blues, a great way to cheer up when you’re down and celebrate when you’re happy. It’s chiles and Christmas and luminarias and maracas and piñatas and a hot summer fiesta with cool margaritas.
Mariachi is a culture, a way of life.
I remember a meeting in 1994 with some of the founders of what would become the Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference. Jose Tena was there, along with Phyllis Franzoy, Erlinda Portilla, Judy Luna and several others, including native Las Crucens with Anglo roots who stressed that the heritage they wanted to preserve and nurture was sin fronteras, transcending borders and boundaries of heritage and ethnicity.
It’s a dream we’ve seen fulfilled, a rare thing, our own little milagro, and all who have contributed should be proud.
¡Viva mariachi!
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at Access my blog by going to, click on the Blogzone and then on the Las Cruces Style icon or go directly to

Thursday, November 1, 2007

More Burning Plan gigs

As promised, I'm passing on info from "The Burning Plain" casting people at Stew Casting . Don't call me. If you're interested in any of this E-MAIL THEM! (Again, not me, please, I have nothing to do with the movie) at:


"The Burning Plain" by Guillermo Arriaga is looking for the following
Stand-Ins & Doubles.

We will be filming through Dec. 18 in and around Las Cruces, New Mexico.
In some cases,lodging will be provided. This mostly applies to those we have personally worked with and are familiar with(you know who you are).

It is preferable that we do not have to provide lodging, therefore those who live in the area will be given priority after those we have worked with.


FEMALE (Mariana) - 17 - 22 years 5' 9" Size 6 Bra 34c Blonde Hair

FEMALE (Gina)- 30 - 40 years 5' 7" Size 6-8 Bra 34c 125lbs Hair
Undetermined at this point

MALE (Robert)- 6' 2" Size 46L Pant 36/34 Shirt 17-17 1/2 210lbs
Dirty Blonde Hair

MALE (Young Santiago) 5' 11" Size 39/40R Pant 30/32 Shirt 15 1/2
34 150lbs Dark Brown/Black Hair

FEMALE (Maria)- Young Teen 5' 1" 31" Hips 77lbs Size 13 Jacket /
Size 12-13 Pant Medium Brown Hair

Please make sure you are these sizes/weights/colors as WE WILL BE MEASURING.
At least make sure you are VERY close to them before contacting us.

We need the following Stand In's & Doubles for filming on the Burning Plain.

We are filming in and around Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Please contact us if you are exact or VERY close to any of the
following charecters :

PAT 14 y.o. male 5' 5" 105 lbs 28 waist 10 1/2 Shoe light brown hair

*RANCHER #1 40 - 50's male 5' 4" (stocky) 34 Pant Brown Hair

OPERATOR 25-33 female 5' 5" 125 lbs Medium jacket/dress 5 Pant
34B bra Dark Brn Hair Light to pale skin

BOBBY 10 y.o. male 5' 1" 115 lbs 14/16 Jacket 30 Pant Light Brn
Hair Pale Skin (blue eyes a plus.)

*MONNIE 8 y.o. female 4' 0" 55-65 lbs Size 8 Jacket&Dress Pant 8
Size 1 Shoe Lt Brn Hair Pale skin (blue eyes a plus)

CRISTOBAL - 22-30 male 6' 1" 170 lbs 16 1/2 - 34 Shirt Pant
31/32 11 Shoe Dark Brn/Blk Hair Med Brn/Olive Skin

SANTIAGO (grown) 25-33 male 6' 0" 165-175 lbs 40r Jacket 33/33 Pant
15-15 1/2 Shirt Size 11 shoe

lbs off is not close to exact btw)


Retro fiestas remind us to live for today

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — As modern life grows more complex and challenging, it’s interesting that so many of us find comfort in customs and traditions of earlier times.
Even small kids, obsessed with everything from dragons and castles to dinosaurs, seem to long for the golden days of yesteryear.
We’re in luck here in the Borderlands, where we can take trips down many memory lanes, without investing in expensive video games or spending our weekends in dark movie theaters or glued to the TV.
In fact, we can combine time travels with gatherings with friends and family and lots of fresh air and exercise at what could be the best time of year to be outdoors in Southern New Mexico.
This weekend’s full-tilt fiesta events focus on the 36th annual Dona Ana Arts Council Renaissance ArtsFaire. If you haven’t been, there’s still time to climb into your retro finery (or go in your 21st century time-traveler civies if you’d rather) and head for Young Park to watch old-time jousts, join the king and queen for royal processions, see arts and crafts, or just relax in the sun and enjoy wandering minstrels or chow down on ye olde Navajo tacos and New World chocolate treats.
Last weekend, and with a closing Friday night procession in Mesilla, many of us joined to commemorate Dia de los Muertos, based on ancient customs honoring dear departed souls.
Next week, both mariachi fans and students will be celebrating what many consider a modern milagro: the rebirth and perpetuation of mariachi music, dance and customs that many feared would be lost to this generation.
Why are we so drawn to retro arts, activities and customs?
I was pondering all this a few weeks ago as I drove home from the world premiere of Bob Divens’ “Extinction: A Love Story.” The musical focused on something really retro: the passions of dinosaurs who lived and died 65 million years ago in what is now New Mexico.
Bob has been so busy that he told me he would be breaking a long tradition by not appearing as Robert the Ratcatcher at RenFaire this weekend. I’m not sure if his special, stuffed-toy rat catapult will be on hand, but we can’t deny that Bob has been generous in sharing his knowledge over the years. (Hurl a rodent for a friend and he’s rid of one rat today; teach him to build and operate a ratapult and he can hurl rats for the rest of his life...)
Which brings me to a major motive for all this retro stuff. As Carol Thomas of the Society for Creative Anachronism told me last week: “My main goal is fun. I like learning how to make things and do things the way they used to be done.”
If it came to a choice, she admits, there’s no way she would trade now for then.
“I like things like modern medicine,” she said.
She stressed that what the SCA does is “recreation, not reenactment. We don’t do anything dangerous. They had to learn these skills because they were at war and we are not, nor do we wish to be,” Thomas said.
A lot of this retro stuff is just plain fun, remembering the best aspects of what were often cruel and agonizingly difficult times. High-tech types enjoy the return to simpler eras.
And there is balm for the soul in some of this: time heals, lends perspective, and offers hope in the continuity of tradition.
There is something wonderful about building a little altar and remembering the best parts of lives well-lived, after the sting of death has lessened a bit.
And there is something charming, fortifying, even spiritually uplifting, about seeing a granddaughter move through a graceful folklorico dance in the same kind of dress her mother and grandmother wore, hearing young students and polished professionals perform some of the same mariachi tunes your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents loved.
There’s something about retro fiestas that reminds us the importance of living in the moment: to stop and appreciate the best moments of today.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at