My spiritual journey began when I was about five or six years old. I remember going to the Morada in Cordova with my mom and grandma every Wednesday and Sunday of Lent and participating in all the ceremonies and rituals of Holy Week. I remember wanting to become an Hermano when I was about six years old, but was told I had to wait till I was eleven. Every year that passed I went faithfully to all the scheduled services at the Morada. I as got older an was able to stay alone at home, there were times that I opted to stay home to watch TV. Really the only time was when the movie “Jesus of Nazareth” came out. Usually the week before Holy Week. And of course the Sundays I was visiting with my dad.
The years before joining the Morada I would try to mimic the Hermanos at home by pretending have processions. I would gather my cousins and line them up like the Hermanos did. I had a small cross I had received one year at catechism. I would try to pray (sing) the alabados the best I knew how. I we would process around my grandma’s living room and kitchen. At that age I really didn’t understand what all this meant, but for some reason it was calling me.
Finally, I turned eleven and Lent was coming to a close in 1989. Easter was about 10 days before my eleventh birthday. My time was missed to join the Morada. Yet I didn’t get discouraged, I knew that next was going to be the year I would join the Hermanos as one of them. I was exited to turn eleven. I remember Her. Ricardo Lopez telling us year after year that we didn’t join the Morada by choice, that we were called by God and Christ to be members of this Hermandad. We were chosen to carry on the traditions of our ancestors forward teach the life of Christ. Yet, at eleven I had no clue what I was doing. I was there from some reason that I could not figure out. All I knew was that becoming a member was for life and full commitment was a must. I have committed to the Morada fully.
2014 marked 25 years of service to my beloved Morada. In those 25 years I have grown to be a many of deep faith and extremely knowledgeable about the faith given to us by our grandfathers and grandmothers. A faith that was rooted in simplicity and humility. In those same 25 years I was elected as celador and hermano mayor of my morada. Both at a very young age, I was in my teens to yearly twenty’s as celador and mid twenty’s as hermano mayor. I was also a member to the Mesa Directiva. This was the board that is in place to unit all the Moradas of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. In my twelve years of service I was the secretario and the hermano mayor secundo. I have about 1000 years of experience that has guided me for the last 25 years in my spirituality. Keep in mind that when first joined the Morada Her. Jorge Lopez and Ricardo Lopez had each been in the Morada over 70 years and both were in their 90’s.
In 2007 I was celebrating my graduation from nursing school from Northern New Mexico College. I had invited co-worker Ana Cisneros to my graduation party, which was on a Friday night. Ana spent a little bit time at my fiesticita and enjoyed some food. Then, she excused herself and on her way out she invited me to the Santuario (de Chimayo) the next day. She told me she and some Aztecs would be dancing. The next day I got up and made my was to the Santuario with camera in hand. I starting shooting a few photos and caught up with Ana. I thanked her for the invitation. Ana then told me that they had been there since the night before praying and singing and today they were dancing and offering there prayers. Ana suggested that I come the following year to the night serve. I told Ana to remind me. The stage was set, my spiritual journey was to take on a new path.
Between 2008 and 2011 I participated in both the velacion and the ceremonia with Ana. In that time I met Jacobo Dimas and his wife Mayahuel Garza and Beatrice and her husband Tomas Vigil. All five of these individuals taught me about the ceremonia and the velacion. Jacobo always made sure that i was able to share an alabado during the night ceremony. This a great honor for me. I was able to represent my ancestors in this sacred ceremony. I was told that the ceremony being observed was in honor of El Senor De Chalma, an image of a dark crucified Christ and the image was in a town in Chalma in Mexico. One of the reasons the group had chosen the Santuario as the site to celebrate this ceremony was to also honor El Senor de Esquilupas, another image of a dark Christ.
By 2011 I had been in a relationship with my girlfriend, Amanda for about three and a half years. 2011 was a bitter sweet year during the time of the Velacion de Nuestro Senor de Chalma. In 2011 Amanda’s mom was getting married that Saturday, we were unable to participate in all of the velacion or the danza. Yet, as faithful as we had become to the velacion we still went to greet our friends and spend a couple of hours with them.
As we were getting ready to leave I had permission to address the group to let them know we had to leave. At that point Jorge Garcia Atilano and his wife Virgina Necochea were about to address the group that their time as padrinos of the cendal has come to an end. They were in the process of choosing the next set of padrinos for the cendal. Being the padrino of the cendal is a three year commitment. As we were getting ready to say our good byes, Jorge stated that after discussions with the elders of the group they were going to ask Amanda and I if we wanted to be the padrinos. I discussed with Amanda and we accepted the honor. ((read story here)).
During this time Amanda and I had a lot of negative energies testing our relationship. Two members of my family were being mean to Amanda and it caused us to fight a lot. The negative energy was strong. I believe that God knows when he needs to add some extra help in peoples lives. The timing of us becoming padrinos of the cendal came at a critical time in our relationship. During those three years we here padrinos,especially in the beginning things were rough. The annual velacion and ceremonia was our saving grace. This was the one time every year we prayed together with the help of our friends. There prayers were our strength. I don’t think they know this, but after reading this they will.
Now its 2014 our commitment has been fulfilled. The negative energy is slowly making its way out our lives. The spiritual powers of the Danza and the Morada have combined in me and helped me be a bit stronger in my faith. In 2013 Amanda, Esperanza, Isabella and I were asked to become Danzantes. We participated in the Danza for the first time as Danzantes not just as members of the community. Jacobo and Mayahuel have been big supporters of us becoming part to this ancient and beautiful tradition. This year we passed on the obligacion of the cendal to David Martinez and Pilar Trujillo. It was a decision that only made sense. The connection between El Senor de Esquipulas and El Senor de Chalma needed to maintained for a least three more years. The bond that was create is now being strengthened.
Amanda and I were given our trajes de la Danza. Amanda got her blouse (not sure the actual name) and I received my tilma. Jacobo stated that he and the Jefa Helga Garza had worked on it. They felt that the symbol on my tilma needed to reflect who i was and were i came from. The symbol they gave was the Sacred Mountain with La Cruz de la Conquista in it’s summit and the Sacred Heart in the Center. Jacobo and Helga stated this represented where i was from, my faith and my commitment to La Cruz de la Conquista. I was deeply humbled by this gift and by the honor of becoming part of an ancient tradition.
In conclusion, my spiritual journey has a new path for me to embark on. I will take to ancient traditions and learn from them the story of my ancestors. I will learn the faith and pass it on to my children and hope they pass it on to their children for generations. Being a Penitente and Danzante are two obligacions that are life commitments. I believe the God has brought this two forms of spirituality in to my life to learn about humility and simplicity in this modern world. What i have learned in 25 years as an Hermano and the last 7 years with and now as a Danzante is the respect is a most, humility is something we need to practice daily and faith will get us through the rough stuff.
Here are some photos of this years Ceremonia.
Photos used with permission by the Danzantes. Always keeping in mind that Danza is a sacred ceremony and a prayer. Please respect the photos by not downloading if you are not a danzante or do not have their permission. Thank you for understanding and respecting this sacred tradition.