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The year and decade ended for me in an awesome experience of reconciliation in two outdoor ritual folk plays in Alcalde, just north of San Juan Pueblo, on Dec. 27.
The Matachines dance and “Los Comanches” play were performed back- to-back in the brilliant winter sunshine on the icy ground of the Camino Real, below the snowy peaks of the Sangre de Cristos.
The folk plays reminded us how badly our new decade needs respectful truces. Democrats and Republicans, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, modernists and traditionalists, badly need to reconcile.
The beautiful, enigmatic dance of the Matachines portrays the clash of Christianity and Native religion. It’s based on the narrative folk drama “Moros y Cristianos,” brought here by the Spanish in the 1500s to show the native people how the New World Order would be laid out.
The dance as we know it today, however, is the only one performed in both Indian and Spanish villages, seeming to celebrate a cultural partnership as well as conflict.
In Spanish villages the Matachines demonstrate that Christianity triumphs over Native religion. At Pueblos, although formally similar to the Spanish version, the dance shows that Native religion did not die but survived and accommodated.
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