Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Pasqua in Sonora. Maria's Picture. Update on Mural Conservation. Poetry Saturday in Lamanda Library

Guest WriterVibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin
My Yaqui Pilgrimage, A Manda Fulfilled
Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin

Yaqui rhythmic hand drums and the mourning of flutes lifted my spirit as I carried a yellow-robed statue of Mary, Mother of Jesus, at the Easter Sunday Pascua procession on the reservation’s plaza in Tucson. I took the Amtrak Texas Eagle from Los Angeles to Tucson to visit my Mother’s birthplace. I wanted to understand my mother, Isabel Luna Aparicio’s Yaqui roots.

Isabel Luna Aparicio holds Vibiana
There, at the New Pascua reservation I felt closer to her spirit on this first anniversary of her passing, since the previous April, when my family held her Requiem Mass at St. Joseph’s Carmelite Church, in Duarte, California.

I felt transported to a place where my soul joined with my deceased one-hundred-year-old Mexican Yaqui mother at the Pascua Easter ceremonies. The Pascua looked fervent and medieval in its stoic theatricality, and now forever imprinted in my psyche.

I read that the Yaqui, or Yoemem, practice these ceremonies with complex rituals and bring them to life by crowned masked dancers in prayerful meditation, accompanied by music and songs.

At this April’s Pascua, the ritualized reenactment of the suffering and resurrection of Jesus also told their own Yaqui story of suffering due to enslavement, the slaughter of thousands and the loss of their lands in Sonora and Arizona. This history is found in the book by David Delgado Shorter, We Will Dance Our Truth.

‘Hiaki’ Yaqui people live in the verdant agricultural state of Sinaloa on the Gulf of California, as well as throughout Sonora and along the Yaqui and Mayo rivers in southern Sonora. More communities of Yaqui settled in parts of Chihuahua, Durango and in southern Arizona.

The Yaqui wars also scattered them to Texas and California. For over 300 years, their religious ceremonies are prepared and practiced throughout the Catholic calendar year. The preparations are offered as a joyful penance and are considered ‘dutiful work’. The amazing Easter Pascua story is shown entirely through special dances.

The participants use anthropomorphic regalia for some of the characters, expressing the stories of the Yaqui Easter rituals in a dynamic compelling manner. As a theater director, costume designer, and Chicana familiar with Mexican and indigenous costume I appreciated the designs and construction of the homemade costumes. Ensembles appeared hand-made and rough looking but stunning. They looked powerful because of the obvious lovingly trochi humble nature of the recycled materials.

I was literally floored with the beauty of the colorful Matachine and altar Society crowns with their mirrors, satin fly away baby pink, mint green, and pale yellow ribbons, and delicate multi-hued paper flowers. The mirrors on the crowns reflected all around the plaza and added to the mystery of the area. Masks showed painted symbols of the sun, moon, and stars, as well as exaggerated animal features, on fabric, wood, and cardboard. They were embellished with metallic trim, fur, leather, and horsehair. Haunting music came from musical instruments lovingly crafted of bone, gourds, and moth cocoon shells.

Ceremonies begin and end with the deer dance. The maaso deer dancer transported Yaqui observers to all levels of his multi-dimensional world––past, present, and the physical and spiritual. Readings on the Yaqui religious beliefs tell that all this is revealed in the enchanted dream-like presence of Sea Aniya, the desert flowering world.

On this Easter Sunday, the deer dancer, a middle aged thick built Yaqui was crowned with a deer head. Its antlers were festooned with a jaunty red scarf. The deer head was tied on the dancer’s head with a white cotton scarf that nearly covered his eyes. I was forced to focus on the deer’s proud face as the dancer mesmerized me with his transformation into a graceful and lithe deer. The man became a deer with his every step, glance, and twitch of the head. I was moved even more with this metamorphosis when the music of gourd water drums, flutes, and bone rasps, guiros, and gourd rattles played for the deer dancer.

Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin at Tucson Museum of Art. Note Yaqui motifs.
Later, I sat waiting for mass when an altar lady invited me to be one of the twelve carriers of the three Marias. This fulfilled my manda pilgrimage to the place of my mother’s birthplace. The lady instructed me on my duties and placed a white linen square over my head. It was stitched with yellow flowers and embroidered at each point with a cross. Another lady crowned me with a four-pointed red fabric headdress edged with green ribbon, cascading pastel ribbons, and tiny satin flowers.

On that Easter Sunday at my mother’s birth place––where her umbilical cord is buried as is the custom, I rejoiced to the songs of the flute, the tam-tam of the drum and the wild spectacle of hundreds of bits of confetti raining on us peregrinos. Confetti, symbolizing blessings was tossed at us while we carried the three feet high yellow robed Mary statue around the plaza. The two other groups of women carrying a second and a third Mary statue followed us. Then, little girl angels trailed us. Their presence added to the sanctity of our pilgrimage.

From my crown, ribbons flew about and teased my eyes open to a new world. I saw new life––like the Yaqui of Fuchsia flowers that my mother sang to and cajoled to life long ago in our East L.A. front porch, whenever the flowers showed hints of withering.

Collectors won’t find Yaqui ceremonial masks, headdresses, and musical instruments to purchase at this modest pueblo, because the Yaqui consider these holy. All the masks and red and white striped swords and daggers of the evil Fariseos are burned on the Judas pyre on Easter Saturday.

No cameras, cell phones, drawing pads, paints, and no touching of the sacred headdresses.

And there is absolutely no stepping on the blessed central plaza. Only dancers of the Pascuas could step on this soccer length well-raked sacred dirt area. Cottonwood twigs, placed by the Chapayekas soldiers of the Fariseos, border the no-step zone.

My friend tried to sneak a picture and nearly had her cell phone confiscated. I didn’t dare break the rules. I wanted to learn, to be with my people. I sat by ladies who viewed the ceremonies and explained details to me.

You can see the Yaqui Pascua illustrated in books and online. I’m disappointed that I don’t have a photo of myself dressed in Yaqui regalia and colorful crown while I served as a carrier of the yellow-cloaked Maria, but I will always hold that memory in my heart.

Children and their families, teenagers and guests were invited to take a sewa, a hand made yellow, pink, and turquoise tissue paper flower as a gift blessing from the Yaqui congregation.

These flowers were taped to the entry of the garage-like church. I brought home as cherished mementos gifted to me– several paper flowers, a baggie of confetti, a children’s toy hand drum, and two yarn-tasseled rosaries made of cottonwood.

The end of solemn Easter week rituals culminates with crazy hilarity. The Matachines and the women of the altar society beat up the Fariseos with twigs, and tug at their shirts and trousers. I laughed to the point of tears. I cheered when the child angels smacked the wicked Fariseos with their holy weapons of confetti and paper flowers. To the beat of drums, good triumphs over evil.

For more investigation:
Thayer Painter, Muriel. 1976. A Yaqui Easter. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.
Delgado Shorter, David. 2009. We Will Dance Our Truth. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

The Yaqui community of New Pascua meets in the month of August to prepare tissue and crepe paper sewa flowers for the following year’s ceremonies. The community meets at the Yoemem Tekia Cultural Center and Museum, 4721 W. Calle Vicam, Tucson.

On-line Floricanto: Mary Torregrossa
Today's La Bloga covers Yaqui gente, a re-emerging Indian People mural, work by local poets: Americans all, equally with refugees from the South. Immigration isn't a complex problem--these people are fleeing for their lives. Hear their voices.

La Bloga is honored sharing the following ekphrastic by Mary Torregrossa, accompanied with the drawing by one American who's escaped to safety from the horror she's carried with her. The poet gives voice to the refugee so that others hear, and feel, and welcome the endangered to safety. How could one not?

Pueblo San Raphael
Mary Torregrossa

"These are not windows..."            
Pueblo San Raphael

            A witness narrative out of Guatemala
Epiphany is permission to know for sure.” 

Maria Francisco y Francisco has
no reverence for paper.

She rubs a black crayon over the page.
A purple man appears in the doorway of a building.

In her drawing there are many trees 
standing randomly in her Mayan village.

What are these sticks on the ground?I ask.

Maria has no nostalgia of runes or letters 
that slant and curve; hers is a living God.  
The ‘named thing’ displaces written words 
except for tally marks of how much or how many.

What are these rows of windows here?

What is for certain is the Aztec marigold – 
el pericon– a dye that turns the weaver’s woolen 
thread to yellow. She plaits together the inseparable 
myth of resurrection with Ah Xoc Kin. 

She scrapes lichen off rock which
turns the yarn a lilac hue - water from a stone. 
Fire leaves charcoal in its wake - for rendering 
the blackened history of Pueblo San Rafael

in a picture made with crayons 
on a desk in a classroom in Los Angeles.

Maria says, The church is black with ash, 
burned with everyone inside.These sticks 
are scattered arms and legs. And these 
are not windows – these are graves. 

Picture by Maria M. (Maraquin) also known as Maria Francisco y Francisco.

"...these are graves."
Maria was my student last year at the adult school where I work. Maria had no schooling in her country having lived in the interior of Guatemala in a town called Pueblo San Raphael. It is likely that the start of her education was interrupted by the circumstances described in the poem, as she related to me through our Whole Language drawing lesson. The Whole Language Approach is when an illiterate student learns to read by reading their own words back to them. In other words, the student tells the story and the teacher writes it using the student's own words. The student then recognizes the words that they already have access to.

I could not speak or translate much in Spanish because the student did not learn Spanish until she came to Los Angeles and lived among Spanish-speaking neighbors. So we were both very limited in our basic use Spanish. Therefore Maria and I spoke English with each other.

Maria's final story and the more completed picture for the project were returned to her to keep as part of a class portfolio to show process and achievement.

The poem is based on that final picture of the project which very closely resembles the above. I asked Maria if I could keep the picture and someday write a poem about it. I explained that someday I hoped to publish it and that I, being only a regional poet, was unlikely to receive any money for either the picture or the poem. If ever I did I would donate the funds to a charity that services immigrants (House of Hope in Nogales).

Update: Pola Lopez Restoring Daniel Cervantes Mural in Highland Park Los Angeles
Michael Sedano

At a distance shade concealed what my eyes thought were two figures laboring at the wall. The short walk from the Gold Line Southwest Museum stop hugged the curb preventing a clear view until hailing distance when "Hey!" and "Hey!" confirmed the presence of two people at the mural restoration site.

As I reported in La Bloga last Tuesday (link), artist Pola Lopez had started the painting stage of the immense restoration project working alone under the open sun.Spotting a second silhouette in the distance, I rejoiced to see the muralist has assistance.

As it developed, my first site visit was with Angel and Mario Guerrero. That had been Angel's interview with the artist. One hundred fifty feet of prepped surface curved around that eight to twelve foot high cement expanse. Angel wasn't fazed by the scale of the work, so there she worked.

Two artists now share the shady side of the work.
The object near the mural figure is Lopez' ergonomic adaptation to rugged working conditions. 

If I'd returned a second day last week, I could have met a third artist who's volunteered to lend a skilled hand on the project. Seeing a foto of the new painter, a Facebook commenter observes, "It's got to be very hot out there glad you are getting help awesome job on the painting keep up the great work."

One by one, the community responds to the need for skilled labor on the job. Lopez wonders what the work would be like if she could employ original artist Daniel Cervantes to join the restoration effort.

The restoration effort is only the visible evidence of a massive effort by unseen committee people liaising with the city councilperson, the arts commission, the state arts council, and the artist working the job. These hard-working volunteers wrote the grant, got it funded, and now face the task of ongoing site development like unexpected crises.

A Facebook commenter to last week's La Bloga column expressed dismay that their efforts remained in the background because Pola Lopez is the only person working on the mural itself in the hot sun. La Bloga is pleased to share the committee's own efforts as it develops strategies to protect the work site and fund raise. The effort remains in its nascency and finds itself dealing with budget-busting vandalism. Pendejos raise a serious long-term security issue that was probably in the committee's "worst-case contingencies" unsolved problems list. As it develops, the worksite's needless hardship should be urgent.

You don't have to wait for the committee to ask for help, the committee has a web presence here (link) to contribute money.

You do have to wait for Pola to ask, you can't just show up and paint. If you want to rake and level up the worksite a seven some morning, that'd probably be OK. If Lopez shows up Saturday after 130 and finds the ground safe to walk and work on, I'm almost certain she would be happy.

Watching the skilled hands of the two artists painting straight clean lines along the old ones, not covering any space but the intended, is impressive. These hands work hundreds of times, laying down those yellow and black sawteeth, every one the same as the next one and the one before. In the never-ending sun.

Right now there's an immediate need for people with rakes and trash bags to clean up the ground at the base of the mural to the street.

Trash and uneven footing not only make for treacherous ground, the hazards add fatigue to working there. With no shade canopy and bad footing, the place is an unmitigated industrial hazard. Back when I was a corporate safety officer, I would have raked a plant manager over the coals for allowing employees to endure these conditions.

Lopez and crew work out of love for the arte, for their community, for this particular mural of indigenous faces and tableaux. The artist is incredibly patient and tolerant of interruption. She's informative and giving in explaining her process to some metiche, as in the video.

Using the existing design and a photograph, Pola explains she starts by black-outlining the contours of thematic elements. Cervantes utilized the black outline technique when he first laid down the story, so the restoration duplicates the process.

After outlining contours, Lopez matches colors and repaints what has faded and re-creates what's been power washed away. This wall weeps, causing constant stress in surface areas covering the weep channels.

La Bloga will be following the process of restoring this mural through completion, then the big dedication. On my next visit, I've promised to drive instead of train, so I can bring some supplies. I'm thinking cold birongas and tacos de nopales con blanquillos.

Poetry Saturday At Pasadena's Lamanda Park Branch Library

In a Pasadena, California poetry tradition, Don Campbell and J.T. Foster host a Saturday poetry reading. Regularly scheduled for the Santa Catalina branch, the event moves to Lamanda Park branch Saturday afternoon. Today's iteration brought joyous laughter to the stressed-out gente--aren't we all?--and indelibly thoughtful moments.

Maria Elena Fernandez shared a work-in-progress she wrote for Enter the Goddess Portal an exhibition at East L.A.'s Tonalli Studio. The' narrative poem, "So How Was Your Week Last Week?" combines raucous humor with sobering thoughts about surviving what Fernandez calls "the roller coaster ride that was the week after the El Paso shooting." 

Lalo Kikiriki revives the spirit of the sixties, she avers, offering living proof the sixties are still with us, hasta playing a keyboard according in one presentation.

Jerry Garcia and Tanya Hyonhye Ko Hong are masterful readers of their own masterfully crafted lyrical work. Hong reads bilingually in Korean and English. In their own manners, Garcia and Hong command their place in that spotlight with the kind of confidence a poet displays when they know their stuff is really good. Readings like this are a constant reminder that you have to be in the right time and place to experience brilliance. It was there, then it was over. Had to give over the room.

The Features
Maria Elena Fernandez, Jerry Garcia, Tanya Hyonhye Ko Hong, Lalo Kikiriki

Maria Elena Fernandez

Jerry Garcia

Tanya Hyonhye Ko Hong

 Lalo Kikiriki

Open Reading

Some Open Mics turn chaotic. This "Open Reading" period follows its rules. One title per reader or N minutes. Only once do the co-hosts need to remind the readers to honor their allotted time today. The entire event is well-managed and well-mannered.

Calokie opens with a 3-voice reading, enlisting "cold" reading from Mary Torregrossa and co-host J.T. Foster as New Testament Jesus.

When her spot arrives, Mary Torregrossa stuns the audience reading the poem shared in today's On-line Floricanto.

Some readers signed up first-name only, hence their foto ID.
Lori, John Gilbert, Norman, Sylvia Malesko
Joshua, Bill Cushing, Co-host Don "Kingfisher" Campbell, Co-host J. T. Foster

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