Thursday, June 23, 2016

Becoming a New Mexican changed my perspective on being an American July 3, 2016

LAS CRUCES - I’ve enjoyed lots of all-American, traditional red, white and true blue celebrations of the Fourth of July in Las Cruces.
I’ve loved it all: the fireworks competing with, and most years losing, the contest with Mother Nature in both sound and sight categories. The monsoon season almost always kicks off with a spectacular thunder and lightning storm on Independence Day weekend. Usually, the stormy weather doesn’t lead to the cancelation of fireworks, but there’s an impressive enough natural display to remind we mere humans who’s the real boss.
And who could resist our heartwarming, patriotic and sometimes slightly eccentric assortment of festivals, from boat parades at Elephant Butte and a country picnic at La Viña Winery to Cloudcroft’s decorated bikes and pets parade (followed by Cloudcroft Light Opera Company melodramas) , and Silver City Museum’s old-fashioned ice cream social.  
Then there are the only-in- New Mexico events, like the spacey Alamogordo fireworks shows, where you can enjoy the rocket’s red glare reflected on actual rockets at the
New Mexico Museum of Space History grounds. And the even spacier Roswell UFO Festival which features sci-fi stars, a UFO mart, lectures and other features you are unlikely to find anywhere else on the planet, like alien costume contests for humans and their pets.
When I first moved to New Mexico, I thought this might be a manifestation of our cosmic bienvenidos philosophy. We’re so inclusive, here in the Land of Enchantment, that we decided this is the perfect time to extend our spirit of independence and freedom to a fiesta for the whole universe.
Later, I learned that the festival timing had something to do with commemorating that now famous UFO incident the first week of July 1947, but I’m still sticking with my cosmic New Mexico Fourth of July spirit theory.

Becoming a New Mexican has changed the way I think about being an American. My artist/American history teacher mom, imbued our Midwestern childhood with lots of colorful historical facts, but it wasn’t until I moved here that I really began to grasp what it means to grow up in our diverse melting pot of cultures and ethnicities.

I’m proud to have friends in many tribes and pueblos and through art, music, ceremonies and stories have come to understand something of the spiritual depth and wisdom of the ecologically enlightened indigenous cultures that inspired the founding fathers of the United States. It’s been wonderful to learn about the civilizations that thrived here thousands of years before the Europeans (and even my prehistoric Viking forebears) settled on this continent.

While living in Santa Fe, famously billed as the oldest continuing state capital in the nation, I was often reminded that the Mayflower colonists and other early WASP immigrants our family historian lionizes, are really latecomers.

My amigos with Spanish, Mexican and South American heritage have relatives that were here more than a century before mine and many have carefully preserved and shared the portraits and artifacts to prove it.
I’m mindful that many of my loved ones, including my grandson Alexander the Great, who can claim Cherokee heritage through my daughter-in-law Shannon, have roots that run far deeper that mine, in this land that I love.

In this contentious election year, when dialogs can too easily devolve from hyperbole to hate speak, I’m going to devote some Fourth of July time to grateful remembrance of all the immigrants (including my ancestors) who helped create so much of what I love most about my diverse and vibrant native land.
And then I’m going to offer thanks to all those who gracefully and generously welcomed those immigrants, despite, at times, some vicious abuse and exploitation of the hospitality of those kind and loving souls who were here first.

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450, or @derricksonmoore on Twitter.

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