Showing posts with label desert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label desert. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

An Eternal Blending

An interesting facet of living in "the borderlands" and in an area where three distinct cultures -- Mexican, U.S., and Native American -- existed, is to see the blending of those cultures into a new, hybrid culture.

The "ghost cow"  (<--link) of a previous post stands right outside the cemetery in Old Mesilla. It's a fitting sentinel, as it prepares the visitor for the juxtaposition of beliefs within.

In the cemetery for members of the Basilica of San Albino, the strong Mexican Catholic culture is evident.  Most headstones are in Spanish, and many are extremely modest, yet all richly illustrate the deep faith of the "gente humilde," the humble folk.

san albino cemetery in the blazing sun

Without romanticizing poverty and lives impacted by prejudice, I will say that whenever I have been lucky enough to interact with such individuals, I have been touched. These are the people who have what I call "natural class" and sweet, clear, glass-like hearts.

While our house here was being built, the first time I lived in Las Cruces, I rented an extremely modest house of perhaps 600 square feet in a very tumbledown neighborhood. One next-door neighbor was handicapped with scleroderma and extremely poor, yet she loved to invite me over for coffee in thanks for rides to church. These dear kaffee klatches consisted of a cup of Taster's Choice (because I was company), and a carefully split flour tortilla, with me somehow always handed "the big half." A little saucer of cinnamon sugar was placed between us, and the rolled-up halves were to be stuck in the mixture with each bite. She would barely touch her tortilla to the sugar, eager for me to have the lion's share. Every movement caused this gracious lady pain, yet move she did, to fuss over me. And I have yet to see the match of her hospitality.

san albino graveyard mesilla new mexico

But back to the graveyard. Doesn't that sound strange? Who says that? The ghosts, as the sun nears rising? "Ah, back to the graveyard, my fellow spirits. Day is nigh." I imagine these spirits never being into mischief, but gathering peacefully at the Basilica to say the Rosary for their brethren.

I do have to smile at the designation "Basilica." It was actually declared a "minor Basilica," after much imploring, but they don't use the "minor" part of the name. I do not think God frowns at such an innocent pride.
shrine grave

Mexican tradition has joined with some uniquely U.S. aspects in the San Albino cemetery. There are no typical restrictions of a cemetery here, and free reign is given to the families, yielding a gravesite where a four-foot Virgen de Guadalupe stands guard over silk flowers and little angels playing with pretty pieces of glass. A huge "wall rosary" has been draped on the headstone, and the gravesite has been neatly tiled. The idea of family is taken very seriously here. La familia is tantamount. When I first saw this grave, I thought it had plaster squirrels on it, due to poor eyesight. But no, they are angels with arched wings. But squirrels would not have been a surprise.

If you'll excuse a pun, the grave poverty of this area shows in this cemetery. There is no room for strict codes here.

Virgen de Guadalupe at san albino graveside

Nearby, a patch of outdoor carpet sets a comfortable tone. The yellow-and-green color scheme of a devoted John Deere Tractor fan is seen.
outdoor carpet and john deere theme of grave

A few yards away, a grave is decorated with "calaveras" (skulls), spiders, angels, and crosses intermingling freely. Instead of changing out seasonal decor, some choose to just keep adding more throughout the year.

old world meets new san albino cemetery

Pocket rosaries are everywhere, often simply laid at the base of the crosses. There are many homemade wooden crosses marking graves, with handpainted names and nicknames on them.

simple graves at san albino

Some graves have all wording worn off. Nothing remains but a simple wish it be remembered that here lies a Christian. 

simple worn headstone

So many of the old names are here, the gentle, devout settlers of the region, the original farmers of the valley. These are the same names you will see on the war monuments, including so many on the monuments devoted to those who were on the Bataan Death March, which hit New Mexico very strongly. The people of the area are very patriotic.

I hope these pictures from a desert cemetery have not depressed you, but have cheered you with the knowledge that God has sprinkled the "humble people" among us like gems among the dust.

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly