On Wednesday, August 15, 2018 in Mesita, New Mexico, the village of Mesita, a village within the Laguna Pueblo, held its feast day, Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. A feast day is an intriguing celebration hosted by most of the pueblos in New Mexico and pays tribute to the patron saints of the pueblo or village. However, pueblos often blend facets of their Catholic faith and their indigenous religious traditions. Shrines are built in celebration of the blended faith practices, incorporating both the Spanish and Indigenous beliefs of the community. Feast days usually include day-long dances. People of the village often dance for the earth, for rain, corn, animals, and the people.
Mesita, which means small table or plateau, is one of the six villages that make up the Pueblo of Laguna. The village’s native name is “Tsé Ch’ ééhii,” which means “Red Rocks Pointing out Horizontally.” Their feast day is a lesser known celebration, as the village is made up of only about 800 people, 200 households and 200 families. As of the 2000 census, 26.9% of the population were below the poverty line. Mesita village’s feast day is a humble one, focused mainly on the ceremonial dances. Along the main dirt road, members of different pueblos, especially Acoma, sell jewelry, pottery, crafts, and food. Mesita is a unique village because it was established on the southern bank of the San Jose River in 1870’s by a faction of the Laguna people who split from the large population. The split is thought to have been the result of disagreements over Presbyterianism and Catholicism.
Many of the dances during feast days at the pueblos are not allowed to be photographed, as is the case at Mesita. This is an interesting quality because it is one of the few events that can only be experienced in person. Feast days are typically held on the same day each year and can be open to the public or by invitation.
A listing of feast days can be found at https://santafe.com/article/native-american-pueblo-dances-feast-days-festivals-and-special-events-in-ne. If you plan to visit a feast day remember, find out if you need to be invited, be respectful, and don’t take photographs or sketches unless you are certain they are allowed.
Israel Chávez is a third-year law student born in Doña Ana County and currently living in Albuquerque, NM. Before law school, he was an LGBTQ civil rights activist, serving as Political and Development Director of Equality New Mexico, the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization. He has a B.A. in English-Philosophy and Political Science from the University of New Mexico.