San Geronimo Feast Day

By the time you read this, the Harvest feast of Sept. 30th, 2014 at the Taos Pueblo will have ended. As I write this, we are just busting out for the preparation of the feast. Mud plastering the ancient walls, the race track being cleaned, the ceremonial pole of life are all being prepared as we speak. The faint savory aroma of baking bread, prune pies, roasting chili is reminiscent of days gone by like a nocturnal instinct taking you back to childhood when we would ditch school and help with the chopping of cedar-wood for the baking.

Men young and old start to think of the sprint, pulling muscles, pounding earth and giving up the breath of life.

The grandmas and aunties baking bread.

Things in Taos, whether some want to admit it or not, are bound to each other here in northern New Mexico villages and pueblos. Our  annual events fused together by many gods. This is the San Geronimo Feast Day. As you walk into most pueblos, you will see a church dedicated to a particular Roman Catholic saint; Santo Doming (Kewa), San Juan (Oke Oweengeh) or Taos Pueblo to St. Jerome church in all its glory and dogma for whom the day of commemoration honors. You will also see the old English/ French trappers, Southern Plains/ Pueblo Indian trade fair that grabs and reaches back to the frontier era. The one I prefer is the old time, older than dirt times when this originated with the seasons, climate and the seed. I like this event to be the ancient annual harvest – the celebration of the end of summer into fall and for survival through the winter. San Geronimo Feast Day a celebration and honor rooted in the ritual life of the Taos people.

The tops of San Geronimo church.


My Grandma and Grandpa would say, “Whatever you believe in doesn’t matter as long as you believe in something…”

Some claim the church and never set foot inside the kivas, and others complain about the church. However, many still don’t go to the kivas. Sometimes I think, as I look on the emptiness of the village, that the church and kiva are in a race where nobody wins.

The feast day begins with an afternoon Catholic Mass, Sept. 29, in the San Geronimo church in the Pueblo’s Plaza which is invaded and followed by a mass of pueblo men dressed in their finest, singing a song of the aspen’s.

On Sept. 30,  traditional foot race in the morning on the north side of the historic village, then into one of the houses for the first of several feast day eats, corn this and that, chili this and that, green jello, watermelon, etc…. This is a feast day, like you won’t believe – family and friends from afar are invited to various homes.

Somewhere in the mid-afternoon, the society delight-makers (known in Tiwa as “Tsee-pu-nah”) will appear in the village plaza to joke with the vendors and tribal members. The watchers are instructed to harass tribal members if necessary in proper, humble behavior or discipline. This can apply by getting thrown in the river for misbehavior or talking back or messing with them. I’ve never been thrown in..heehee

A painting depicting the day as a whole.

The intricacies of the day and the complexities of age old rituals of the delight-makers are known to a few of the people. As the day goes, on people walk around the different booths of native art. This is where the Grandmas would buy the beaded moccasins and blankets. It’s where my momma would buy me a present for my birthday…hint hint…

The rituals of the day continue with crazy antics by the clowns underlining humor that can only be understood at times if you know the language. They will gather at the base of a tall pole in the center of the plaza atop which are a variety of goodies. Looking up into it, they will try to climb the pole to get the harvest gifts. The one who gets to the top will then set about lowering all the items.

We don’t have a religion because we don’t have a dogma. We have a way of life. I heard my uncle say, “If you want to believe in this way, it’s in front of you. I’m not going to look for you and force you to believe in it. We are the chosen few – you either walk it or stay out of the way…”

This was a small writing caption of the day of harvest and feasting. Wonder, wonder, and if you ever get to see my world, the pueblo world, leave your cameras, cell phones, recorders, attitude behind or get disciplined by the ancients..

Have fun with your harvest..


19 thoughts on “San Geronimo Feast Day”

  1. Good Morning Robert. You have such a Beautiful way of life. I love reading about it & hope one day I will get to visit your world. & see the Beauty of it. Have a Great Day & Thank you for sharing your world 🙂

  2. Mirabal_Man,

    Thank you for sharing about San Geronimo Feast Day, it would have been an honor to attend. I wonder if any of my ancestors were trappers that attended historically. I know there are some from England among my ancestors, and perhaps some French too. The native ancestor I have called herself “French Canadian” as then natives were treated horribly. She may have been Iriquois or Algonquin.

    It is good that I studied French in school. Too bad I didn’t study both languages that were in high school. C’est la vie. Spanish was the other class. However a Filipino teacher taught us some Spanish in Grade School. I took one semester of Spanish after high school, perro no entiendo mucho. (I hope i said but, instead of dog)

    An Apache friend told me about the religion of his ancestors. He said there are many names for creator and different ways of honoring him/her. Traditionally his ancestors were very accepting of people who followed different religions. May we revive that practice. Perhaps we should be cautious about accepting those from a religion teaching people to kill any who do not believe the same as them. (For example the beheadings) Weren’t the “Crusades” about violently asking people to change religion. May Creator show us how to get along peacefully, but defending ourselves is good. Historically missionaries often were brutal to people who did not convert. Thankfully there are some who were caring and helpful. Example: Father Duncan of Metlakatla Alaska, he asked both the Canadian and the United States Governments for a place for the Shemalyack he befriended to relocate.
    (Because the Canadians in Prince Rupert decided to shoot cannons at them.) Father Duncan got them permission leave the small beach that the Canadians forced them on. In Metlakatla carpenters from Europe were brought over to teach them their skills. They also were asked by the Queen of England to perform their dances in London.

    As for your hint… I put the gift in the mail yesterday. (bought part of it at the farmers market Saturday.) The card was ready Friday, however the poem took extra time. I also was at work some of the time I would have been getting it ready.

    When I attended Heritage Days (a native festival here) I asked permission before taking pictures. I am often one who forgets to take pictures anyway. Guests should respect those that they visit. (At heritage days, they let us dish our own plates. Because I did not know they were bringing more buffalo, I only cut a small piece so more people could have some.) After the food, I brought over a couple chairs for some of the teenage jingle dancers who were standing and watching. They were pleasantly surprised. 🙂

    It may take me longer to learn languages at my age, however I am very interested in learning more Tiwa. Thank you for singing songs in the language.

    in honor, respect, and compassion,

  3. Thanks for taking me back to a time when my mother was still alive (she died way too young back in 1993). It’s almost like I can hear her talking while reading this. My mom attended a Catholic school and this religion was forced upon her by the nuns running it. She told me they hit the kids on the knuckles with a ruler.
    As a result of this we grew up wild and free, my mom couldn’t stand religion. She followed her own path always giving thanks were it was due and balancing right and wrong.
    She let us pursue any religion we wanted and we all did check out different believes at times, but it somehow never felt right. Specially not for me because I was always the one with the questions about things. I wanted to understand things not just be told.
    Mom taught us all to be responsible and respectful, without being someone who just blindly follows. Always will be grateful for her insight and wisdom and still miss her, even after so many years.
    Your uncle’s description of having a way of life fits like a glove.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Funny thing when I visited Taos Pueblo I had nothing to declare, no camera, no cell phone nothing. The gentleman at the table looked up at me and said “you must be Indian” I laugh at that because my ancestors are not Native Americans but Native Europeans, so now I tell people we are the Indians of Europe. Happy Feast Day Mirabal and happy October! To you and your beautiful family.

  5. Hello Robert,
    Welcome fall in all her glory! Cooler weather, fresh apple or pumpkin pie. Mmmm,mmmm! Wood piled up for the cold weather to come. The trees are showing their autumn splendor. Golden, crimson and sienna flush. Rustling, dancing to the earths music. I close my eyes to listen closely to this special melody. It pulls me in and envelopes me in warmth and nurturing. I am at peace, one with nature, where I belong, where I long to be!
    Here’s to a beautiful harvest, time alone in nature enjoying falls splendor and of course some warm stew.

    Your uncle was a beautiful man, I am so blessed to have two of his ocarinas. I think about him often, I really do.
    Taos is in my soul, it has a hold on me. I can’t describe it, you know what I mean.

    May you have a wonderful birthday, filled with joy, love, nature and peace!

    With much love and respect always:)

  6. You are so fortunate, Robert & your family< that you live in the same homes as did your ancient ancestors! I really envy you that. I've been to your lovely pueblo at Christmastime, and it's like taking a step back into time. It is lovely. Thanks for allowing all of us to the experiances that we would never have the opportunity to see otherwise. Also, I remember your birthday is coming up and so Happy Birthday!!

  7. Robert – I was there for the Feast, although I got a little late start, I was there for the 2nd year in a row. The weather was breath-taking and so were all the booths with their art, the smells of the food, the antics of the clowns and the pole-climbing. I was invited into the home of Tony Reyna by his daughter, Marie, and we all had a wonderful time. I didn’t see you unfortunately but I did enjoy the experience once again. When I experience such special occasions, I try to find one little special memory to take with me so that when the days grow short for me, I’ll have a bunch of special memories to draw upon for comfort and joy. I feel blessed to be able to live here in the Taos area and make some new memories for myself and I plan to pass them on to others so that they can see the Beauty of Taos Pueblo the way that I see it. Thank you again for your words and talk-story. As Julie said you are so fortunate to live in the home of your ancestors and that is probably why so many people today don’t feel grounded. I know some of the old stories that my great-grandma used to tell us when we were kids and I truly cherish them. My great-grandpa died in the field beside his tractor at the age of 40 and left Grandma with 12 children (3 boys & 9 girls) to raise plus a large farm in south-central Texas. So he didn’t tell me any stories but she did and without me knowing it, she taught me a thing or two about gardening also. I cherish those memories and those of that old house too. It is still in the family and now we are talking about having a family reunion there next year. The last family reunion that I went to was when I was 13 or 14 years old and I’m 60 now so it’s been a while.
    Thank you again Robert for sharing and may you have a very blessed Happy Birthday.

  8. Hello again,

    Celebration sounds simply joyful and healing….

    I am only part native but I have so so much to learn….

    You all have been and are my best teachers for that
    I am eternally grateful.

    My hope is to be apart of the Celebration and union.
    Seen through these eyes are world is a wonderful place.


  9. Mirabal_Man,

    Feliz cumpleanos!

    joyeux anniversaire!

    Amma halle gedden!

    Happy Birthday!

    con respecto, felicidad, y amor


  10. Happy Birthday Mirabal-Man!
    Go for a beautiful run early this birthday morning, watch the sunrise over your magnificent land. Listen to the birds sing your songs of joy and blessings. Feel the earth under foot and the cool wind in your hair.
    Maybe you will find a wonderful pool to soak in the earth’s love for you, allowing the water to wash away all that isn’t truly important. Today is a new day, the start of a new year in your precious life. May it be filled with great joy, nature, love and all that is beautiful.
    Love and respect always!

  11. Robert, thank you so much for sharing your life, it means a lot to me. I remember the prune pies my Mother-in-law brought home from their trips, delicious!
    I also wanted to share with you the success I had with the blue corn and the white corn from your concerts. It was magnificent, taller than any corn I ever grew and beautiful ears, big white shiny kernels, glossy blue kernels, and some that bore both from being too close together, but showing us that differences can get along.
    I plan on making my green chili, jalapeno cheese cornbread with some of it, maybe for Yule.
    Thank you with love,

  12. Sad watching the white corn from 1,000 yr. lineage dumped on stage. Knowing the gesture is reflection. Searching for words or symbols that might explain. Realizing long distance, visual only might be too much for me to translate.
    Happy Birthday? Absolutely, Roberto. But what to say to Mirabal_farmer who’s compelled to dump last year’s white corn? Heavy sigh leaves me. Perhaps there are no words & for now, at least, even symbol seems insufficient.

Comments are closed.