This column is especially dedicated to our brothers and sisters at Taos Pueblo, including those who have passed on - such as Pete Concha, Marcelino and Lorenzo Suazo, Tony Reyna, Joe Paul Concha - and certainly all the families there.
I am grateful for the wisdom gained from my discussions in Spanish with Pete Concha, an elder, in the late 1990s, when he was around a hundred years of age and he would share some of his memories with me about his life and times and his "hermanos y hermanas" in the area. He recalled how everyone would come together on certain occasions, including the great Taos Pueblo Fiesta de San Jerónimo, and how he always would pray for his people and for all people and for the world, as the responsible religious leader he was.
The Taos Pueblo San Jerónimo Feast that will be celebrated this Friday and Saturday (Sept. 29-30) is an example of centuries-old religious syncretism (Roman Catholic and Pueblo religious expression) that is counter to the religion-related wars and turmoil that the world now sees about to boil over from the Middle East and the Holy Land of the Abrahamic traditions, as well as in many other places.
The world could learn valuable lessons of peaceful accommodation from the San Jerónimo Feast. This feast is one of the most profound and meaningful American indigenous spiritual and social events in the life of the peoples here in Taos. The celebration begins on Friday evening (Sept. 29) with the vespers and Saturday (Sept. 30) is the full day of the Feast of San Jerónimo, or Saint Jerome, who was named the Roman Catholic patron saint of Taos Pueblo at around the turn of the 17th century.
Taos Pueblo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in North America. Furthermore, Taos Pueblo is part of the much wider civilization of many other very ancient pueblos that also acquired names of the saints, like San Juan de los Caballeros (Ohkay Owingeh now), San Felipe, Santo Domingo and others. And Taos Pueblo is a World Heritage site by United Nations designation.
Taos Pueblo and its sacred lake of emergence and waters have not only remained in place since before "recorded history," but also survived some of the most tumultuous events and historical and geopolitical upheavals. Beginning in the 16th century, when the Spanish explorers, settlers and conquistadores made their way here from the "Old World" across the Atlantic Ocean to this "New World," the two civilizations met and clashed, then reached an accommodation that is now more than 400 years old.
Taos Pueblo and the other pueblos continue to live and thrive in the United States, in contradistinction to other Native American peoples who were broken apart and removed from their ancestral lands under genocidal policies promulgated by the American government.
In the American Southwest, neither the Spanish crown nor later the Mexican rule sought to dispossess or eliminate the puebloans from their lands. They did seek to convert their religion. But the 1680 Pueblo "Revolt," which briefly shook off Spanish dominance, changed everything. When the Spanish returned after 1692, mutual accommodation and respect since then have prevailed in these aspects of religion and spirituality.
The great Taos Pueblo San Jerónimo Feast, like other Pueblo feast days, now are an admixture of the very ancient native religions and Roman Catholic saint's days, which can be said to be a triumph of the most fundamental common spirituality among humanity, no matter how different their origins.