Saturday, November 12, 2011
The Long Walk
It is 4 in the morning here in Alamos, Mexico, and after a late night with friends and fellow musicians, I am dragging myself from the warmth of a pile of quilts to go on a pilgrimage with my Mexicana amigas.
I was awake most of last night in fear of missing the meeting spot. Eager anticipation and fond memories of last year's walk also kept me from sleep.
The bells of our own Alamos church woke me at 3:00, calling to me slowly, beckoning me out into the cold.
The walk to the old silver mining town of La Aduana to visit the church there, begins a week of holy vows for some people who walk from all corners of Sonora to arrive by dawn on this morning. For others it means party for three days straight, with no work and no vows, punctuated with a lot of tequila.
It is the long walk that keeps me coming back.
Under a moon struck sky, my friends and I link arms as we make our way across the rock studded dirt arroyo. One of us will trip and fall, and arms will reach out to help. The language barrier is no longer noticeable as we attempt to converse in Spanish about children, parents, siblings and inevitably, our husbands. For much of the time we will walk quietly, thinking and wondering to ourselves, solving problems, not solving problems, and then, not thinking at all.
The air around us breathes with shooting stars and mysterious shadows dance across the sand. Along the way, several small fires light the path, their embers fleeing the heat, reaching out to the velvet sky.
For two hours we follow this seemingly never ending path, a path that has been followed before by many steps. We will breathe in a bountiful supply of cold air and relish this time of being together and yet, being alone.
At La Aduana, our faces glowing in the pink and golden sunrise, we sit in the church. Open to the elements of nature, Nuestra Senora de la Balvanera, is small and the wind gathers inside, bringing with it the tantalizing smells from the vendor's pots outside.
We sit quietly, nodding and then standing to kiss the cheeks of friends we see. We watch the long procession of people lay their flowers at the altar, cross themselves and kiss the statues of the Lady of Balvanera.
Back outside, on cobblestone streets we pause to watch La Danza del Venado, the Dance of the Deer, and listen to the mystifying notes of the rattles, flutes and guitars that accompany this ancient Yaqui Indian ritual.
Finally, after warming ourselves with cups of creamed corn, laden with butter and lime juice and hot sauce, we will slowly give up this magic, each of us returning to our homes, leaving a small, but significant amount of ourselves in La Aduana until next year.