Friday, March 29, 2013

Holiday traditions celebrate diversity

Las Cruces Style — S. Derrickson Moore Holiday traditions embrace diversity By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES— As we prepare to celebrate Easter, Passover and spring, I’m all in when it comes to new beginnings and rejuvenation, two themes that resonate this time of year. But I’m also in a thanksgiving mood, grateful that we are blessed to live in such an inclusive place, where diverse religious groups welcome one another to join in their celebrations and learn more about each other’s traditions and heritage. It’s a welcoming way of life that started with New Mexico’s first residents and has continued to this day. Though I was born elsewhere, I’ve learned enough about the history of my querencia (that wonderful, not-quite-translatable word that describes a soulmate connection between a person and his or her most beloved place in the world) to realize this welcoming spirit was not always honored with the respect and gratitude territorial hosts deserved. But somehow, as our national affiliations, territorial names and property ownership changed (and, indeed, the very concept of individual property ownership was altered), the inclusive spirit endures. From Pueblo peoples (who had their own internal skirmishes and then a brilliant revolt against interlopers who pushed too far) to Spanish Conquistadors and early Anglo-American entrepreneurial imperialists, the land we now know as New Mexico has been through a lot. But somehow, the bienvenidos mat is still out. We like and often love each other. We marry and elect leaders outside our own ethnic groups. We’re intrigued by diverse customs and traditions and will go out of our way to explore and help you celebrate and preserve your cherished way of life and maybe even find ways to incorporate some of it into our own. I think of the deep fusion of Old World Christian and New World American Indian and Mexican milagro beliefs represented in the Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations at Tortugas Pueblo and their generosity in sharing their pilgrimage, ceremonies and feasts with the community. I think of a long-time Las Crucen with Northern European roots who worked very hard to establish what has become one of the world’s largest international mariachi conferences, helping to preserve a once-threatened genre for generations to come. “I live here; it’s my heritage, too,” she told me. I think of a dear amiga, citizen of Great Britain, born in China, who spent her early childhood years in a World War II Japanese concentration camp. New Mexico became her base to start an arts education program in adult and juvenile prisons that became a national model. And after the shock of 9-11, her first impulse was to arrange for us — two Christian Protestants — to pray for peace at a Las Cruces mosque. I think of actions big and small from those whose roots here stretch to antiquity to those who are relative newcomers. I think of a conversation with Temple Beth-el’s Rabbi Larry Karol, who shared with me his experiences after he was asked to sing at a Christian-Muslim wedding here. I think of the founder of my own Christian faith, a Jew from Nazareth who taught us the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And I think of my spiritual mentor, contemporary prophet Tenny Hale, who taught me that as humans we must connect with our Creator and learn about the world and one another and strive to consider each individual’s needs as we strive to do onto others. I can’t think of a better place to learn lessons crucial to survival of our souls and ourselves than in our evolving city. Like all humans, we have our differences and our problems. But we also have fusion fiestas. Green chile wontons. Jewish mariachis from Rhode Island. Episcopalian Anglos building Día de los Muertos altars. Artists of all creeds and ethnic groups who eagerly and joyously embrace and express the diverse wonders of our querencia … As we celebrate new starts, resurrection, rejuvenation and exoduses to promised lands and free lives, I hope we don’t forget what is very special about the Land of Enchantment. And I hope and pray we’ll work to preserve and protect our unique multicultural heritage and the inclusive spirit that inspires it. May you have a joyous Easter, Passover, and advent of spring. S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at; 575-541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.


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