The Chavason 3 take a quick trip into their family’s past, which is also a piece of American history. Sandía Feast is in the Sandía mountain range, East of Albuquerque NM. Sandía means Watermelon in Spanish. As we watched the sunset over the Sandía mountain range on day one of our trip, we realized this mountain range was named correctly. The sky and sunset on the opposite side of the mountain turned into colors of pink and red, while the mountains turned into deep greens, and yup, it looked like huge pieces of watermelon placed right on top of the earth! As the sun went down the temperature dropped too and we were so struck by how cold it became. We needed to put on our Sandía casino sweatshirts. That’s right, not only we were invited to watch “our” culture in action, we also got the privilege to stay at the Pueblo tribe’s Sandía casino.
Like any casino in Las Vegas, this casino resort had every modern amenity and my twins took advantage of 24-hour pizza, grilled cheese, all you can eat self-serve ice cream, 24-hour buffets with sushi, French fries, and a river of orange Fanta as far as their 8-year-old eye could see.
I tried my hand at golf and maybe threw some coins in the slots. 😉 We swam till we had fins and dined with one movie star (yup we had dinner with ET, a story for another blog post). Back to our adventure….
After all of our spoilage in the resort, the 2nd day started with a short trip to visit the Pueblo Tribe that Uncle Max was born into. We saw up close the traditional wear of the “singers” of the tribe. <Sorry photography wasn’t allowed.> “Singers” of the dance are made up of male elders from the tribe that have participated in past rain dances as “dancers”. Think of a church choir, but instead of choir books with words and music written down, these songs are learned through the passing down of melodies, rhythms, sounds and learned by ear while memorized by the elders. Their outfits are also passed down through families and every stitch, pattern, and feather have meaning. Most of the 100 plus “singers” are allowed to wear handed down moccasins to protect their feet from the hot sand. They stand all day from 10am till 7pm while chanting to nature. There is only 1 drummer with a drum made of a hollowed out tree stump and an animal skin pulled tightly over the top. The drummer will carry the drum into the middle of the “singers” and provide the bass and rhythm that the “singers” and “dancers” will follow.
The “dancers” outfits are similar to the “singers” in that everything one wears is handed down from centuries-old ancestors and every thread and accessory is full of meaning. My cousin’s dress was steeped in tradition and meaning, from the feathers in her hair, to the cornmeal pouch she wore on her hip. The over 250 “dancers” practice together year after year, starting at age 4 through over 50 years old. Like “singers” none of the dances are written down. Observation and memorization of the steps are the only way they are learned. There are no words to explain the first time you hear and feel the pounding of the drum. Although we had “ backstage” knowledge of the workings of this tradition, we were not prepared to see the wind swirl around us and add its own howling to the “singers” chants.
We were not ready for the heat of the day to quickly retreat and make room for rain clouds. We were taken by surprise as the thunder matched the beat of the drum. The female “dancers” arms are painted in white with stripes that are similar to rain streaks and their hands are painted with lightning bolts. The male “dancers” painted all in blue to match the water drops of rain. As the chants got more powerful, the drum beats intensified, and barefoot dancers steps pounded the hot sand, the entire tribe was whipped by feathers and dust. After 8 hours of heat, the last dance of the day ended with a thunderclap that shook the ground preparing us all for the huge droplets of rain that followed.
The Sandía mountain range has been home to the Pueblo Indians over centuries and is where you can witness a mix of modernism and the true traditionalism of Native Americans celebrating Mother Earth and all Her Power. 😉
If you are interested in visiting the Albuquerque-Sandia area of NM, then you might enjoy visiting in October during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The fiesta is the 6th of Oct – 14th of Oct, 2018. Roundtrip vacations from DFW/DAL to ABQ range from $2000 to $4000 for 4 nights/5 days for a family of 4 depending on if you go during peak balloon season or not. If you want help planning this trip, please contact Craft the Travel at firstname.lastname@example.org.