Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

If you have lived in Mexico as I have, the Day of the Dead is an absolutely wonderful time to visit a town such as San Miguel de Allende. This traditional celebration of the dead is not a sad ceremony at all. Families come together to share their fondest memories of the deceased family members. In preparation of the big night and day, the entire town is busy cleaning graves, decorating them with their dead relatives’ favorite foods, brands of alcoholic beverages, candies, and cigarettes. Later in the evening at the cemetery, everyone enjoys singing their loved one’s favorite Spanish songs. Here, death is seen as just a part of life, a returning guest with nothing to fear; the Day of the Dead is about sharing fond memories with friends and family. Not coincidentally, Day of the Dead begins October 31 and ends November 2. Halloween also has its roots in All Saints’ Day.

Day of the Dead Altar
Traditional Day of the Dead Altar

Bright orange marigold pedals are the calling cards for the departed souls and they decorate the home-made altars. These pedals line the pathways of the Jardin (Plaza) and potted marigold plants adorn every home. It is believed that the pungent and distinctive odor of the marigold leads the souls to their respective families for a visit and a nostalgic get-together between the living and the dead.

tradition ORIGINs

The origins of this predominately central and southern Mexican tradition are an interesting mixture of Catholic and Aztec rituals. Of course, the invading conquistadors, as here in New Mexico, brought with their military invasion a slew of new Catholic holidays and traditions, completely alien to the indigenous peoples. As is always the case, the conqueror makes the rules and enforces his religions onto the conquered. However, in Mexico, there was such a disproportionate number of Aztecs to the very small European military and religious presence, a melding of the two religious and traditional culture’s rituals was necessitated. While every effort was made to force the Spanish’s beliefs upon the Aztec, the indigenous peoples found a way to weave the new ways into their old ways.

santa-fe-market-street

All Saints Day began in the 4th century in Europe as a day to honor and remember the Saints and those humans who had entered Heaven. In present-day Mexico, the Aztecs also had a day of celebrating their dead, and the Day of the Dead traditions were born. An Aztec festival dedicated to the spirit of the Aztec god Mictecacihuatl is considered the first remembrance of a departed soul in current-day Mexico. From Europe came All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day which all fall during a three-day period. Both cultures shared an appreciation and respect through ceremonies for departed souls, reaching back to souls from past lives. Both were a common tradition of the continuance of someone’s life, and a marriage of these two traditions merged. Now, for instance, the altars for the Day of the Dead feature crosses and the Virgin of Guadalupe as well as skull masks with calavera make-up that came from the ancient Aztec rituals.

Today’s customs

Enough history. More to the fun. The young teenagers dress impeccably in tuxedos and evening gowns with calavera skulls painted on their faces. Everyone lines up in the Plaza to be painted by make-up artists to make sure to look their best. The original calavera was a fancily dressed woman of Spanish culture with a parasol. This was a parody of the Spanish ladies who did not deem it respectful to attend and participate in indigenous festivals. The food is fantastic, like during the Fiestas here in Santa Fe. But in Mexico, instead of chimichangas and tacos like here at Fiestas, chocolate and sugar skulls are both eaten and placed around the altars. Light and fluffy chicken tamales with tomatillo-cilantro salsa are served, along with classic chicken breast with Mole (chocolate) sauce. Candied pumpkins and Oaxacan hot chocolate are enjoyed everywhere, at home and in the streets.

Day of the Dead Face Paint

Even pets wear skeleton costumes and everyone from babies to old folks participate in the fun. A parade usually closes the celebration, and the most outlandish and fascinating costumes and faces all gather at the Jardin for one last evening of celebration, respect and remembrance of the Dead. We at the Inn on the Alameda serve some of these dishes on the Dead of the Dead and you (while still living) can enjoy your favorite foods, drinks and desserts in our beautiful Agoyo Lounge.

Best,

Joe Schepps

Owner, Inn on the Alameda

Mark your calendars for several visits to the International Folk Art Market this year. And afterwards, relax at the Inn on the Alameda for a drink – or for the night!

A City of Superlatives

A CITY OF SUPERLATIVES Santa Feans will gladly tell you the many superlatives that define the city. The oldest. The highest. The best. While there’s no denying the city’s altitude, the veracity of the best is up to you because when it comes to oldest,...

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Madrid Miners and the Game of Baseball

Madrid Miners and the Game of Baseball

Historic Madrid, New Mexico, and Baseball

Historic Madrid, NM, as it appears today.

If you haven’t ever visited Madrid, New Mexico, consider adding it to your tourism bucket list. Located outside of Santa Fe, near the mineral-rich Ortiz Mountains, Madrid offers you a fascinating trip into the history of art, coal mining, and even baseball!

Madrid originated as a coal mining town known as Coal Gulch. In the 1850s the town began to grow in size and importance. This trend continued through the 1880s with the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. The railroad created a tremendous demand for coal, which fueled the expansion of the town to 2,500 people. During the 1920s, Madrid was even known for a Christmas light display with over 150,000 lights. The display was powered by coal generators that also supplied electricity to the entire town.

Like many company towns, the residents of Madrid relied on their employers to provide stores, amusement, schools, and hospitals. Employers even sponsored entertainment and social activities in order to prevent “idle hands from becoming workshops of the devil.” In 1919, the recently hired town superintendent, Oscar Huber, created a baseball team known as the Madrid Miners. Along with the team, he also oversaw the construction of the first lighted ballpark west of the Mississippi.

Oscar Huber Memorial Ballpark, Image courtesy of ‘visitmadridnm.com’.

Madrid quickly became a model for mining towns across the country. Baseball teams like the Madrid Miners popped up around country, and the sport grew into a popular pastime for laborers on their days off. The Madrid Miners were instrumental to the development of baseball in our country, and the Oscar Huber Memorial Ballpark can still be seen today.

After World War II, the demand for coal diminished, and by the late 1950s, Madrid became a ghost town. Still, the houses and cabins that were built during the boom still remain. In the 1970s, the town started to repopulate again with artists, artisans and other “free spirits.” Along with the new influx came new art studios, bars, galleries, and restaurants.

Just a 45-minute drive from the Inn on the Alameda, Madrid offers a fascinating piece of New Mexico history. Shop, eat, drink and experience the architecture and community spirit that has revitalized this important historical gem.

The perfect end to the perfect day!

After you’ve finished touring historic Madrid, it’s just a short drive back to the Inn on the Alameda to relax with a nice dinner and a comfortable bed.

The Burning of Zozobra (a.k.a. Old Man Gloom)

The Burning of Zozobra (a.k.a. Old Man Gloom)

The Burning of Zozobra (a.k.a. “Old Man Gloom”)

Every year on the Friday before Labor Day, Santa Fe celebrates Fiestas, a tradition dating back to 1712. The Fiestas were originally a solemn remembrance of the reconquest of the City in 1692 by the Spanish, led by Don Diego de Vargas. In 1680, an organized all Pueblo coordinated revolt against Spanish rule over the native Americans’ life, culture, practices, religions and their enslavement culminated in the massacre of approximately 500 Santa Fe residents, a large portion of the population in Santa Fe at that time.

zozobra celebrationBurning of Zozobra. Image by Gabriela Campos, Santa Fe New Mexican via The Associated Press.

The martyred were taken to what is now known as the Cross of the Martyrs. The remaining residents fled south to El Paso where they waited 12 years for Spain to send a small contingent of soldiers, friars and tradesmen to retake the town. While branded as a peaceful reconquest, it was in reality a pay-back massacre of many Pueblo children and parents. A few years ago, protests from the native American people about the white washing of the event forced the dropping of the misleading and false title of the Peaceful Reconquest.

From 1712 until the 1920’s, Fiestas was a very solemn and sad celebration, focused on the revolt and its impact and consequences to the Spanish inhabitants at that time. By the 1920’s, Santa Fe’s art colony was well established. Will Shuster was one of the Cinco Pintores (5 painters) of Santa Fe’s early 20th century art colony. The other 4 were Fremont Ellis, Walter Mruk, Jozef Bakos and Willard Nash. They all agreed that the Fiestas was too dire and gloomy, so at a Fiestas party at his home, Will Shuster unveiled a 6-foot effigy of an old man that was ceremoniously burned in Shuster’s back yard to signify the burning of all the past year’s gloomy thoughts and disappointments. This heralded a new theme for Fiestas. Soon pets were costumed and there was a pet parade, another tradition added to Fiestas on Saturdays after the burning of Zozobra. By mid-20th century, Zozobra had morphed into a 50 foot tall puppet whose arms and head move when he is set ablaze in the evening in front of 50,000 residents and tourists. Through gigantic speakers behind Old Man Gloom, as he is set ablaze by costumed dancers, Zozobra’s moving jaws boom roars of pain and terrible moaning.

The Burning of Zozobra is part of “Fiestas”, a Santa Fe tradition dating back to 1712.

People scream “Let him burn” in excitement as the Old Man Gloom effigy is set ablaze and the scariest moans and groans only get louder and louder! The burning of Zozobra is now a high point of the Fiestas as is the Pet Parade (Desfile de los niños) around the Plaza. Young and old parade with their pets in costumes, every pet from donkeys, dogs and cats to reptiles and parrots.

Fiesta Queen in white with her court.Image by Gabriela Campos, Santa Fe New Mexican via The Associated Press.

Then the historical/hysterical parade (Desfile de la gente) was added for Sundays, a hilariously fun parade around the Plaza making fun of Santa Fe’s politicians, prominent residents, including marching bands, mariachis, floats, and show cars!

Now that these 3 more light-hearted events have been added to Fiestas; the weekend is kid, locals and tourist friendly, an eating extravaganza of local cuisine at food booths on the Plaza and just good vibes. The burning of Zozobra is a must and a fun way to experience our town during its most celebratory weekend. This is one of the many reasons we are known as “The City Different.”

Make The Evening Even Better

Remember to stop by the Inn on the Alameda before or after attending your event for wine, cocktails and dining!

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