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Monday, January 11, 2016

Did you know?

According to their oral histories, the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona all share a common ancestry, descending from the ancient Anasazi civilization.

Photo: 1200 BCE: Earliest evidence of the Anasazi is found in the four corners region.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Yaqui Curandero

As told by
Mrs. Carmen Garcia

A poor, old Yaqui man had twelve sons. When the thirteenth son came along no one wanted to take him as a god-son. Yaquis believe that the god-parents are obligated to christen three children in a row from that family, and thirteen sons was just one too many.
The father became very angry. "I go now," he said, "and the first person I meet shall be my compadre."
He went toward the mountains and saw a man coming toward him. He was a tall and distinguished-looking person, muy simpatico.
"Where do you go?" the stranger asked the father of the thirteen sons.
"You go in search of someone to serve as your compadre?"
"Yes, how did you know?"
"I am the devil, and I will serve as your compadre."
"I am but a poor man," said the father. "You are for the rich who can make deals with you. Vete." And the devil went off in a whirlwind, which is how he travels, in those dust devils.
The father of the thirteen sons went on traveling and met a second man. This man was tall, slender, and dressed all in black. In his hand he held a sword. This one said to the father of the thirteen sons, "And where do you go, my good man?"
"I go in search of someone who would be my compadre."
"I will serve you, if you give me your son when I ask. He will grow up to a very good healer, the best curandero of all."
The father asked him, "And who are you?"
"I am Death."
"Well, as you take from the rich as well as from the poor, and make all equal, you shall be my compadre." This the father said, "Be at the church this coming Sunday for the christening."
Thus it was that Death appeared at the thirteenth christening.
When the boy reached his thirteenth birthday, his god-father appeared and said to the father, "I told you I would make this boy into a great healer. Leave him to me for instruction, as you promised."
Since that was the agreement, the father had to let his son go. The boy and his god-father entered into a hill in the forest, and into a large room. There were other rooms, all as big, and in each room, there were flowers and rows upon rows of candles burning.
These candles were the lives of all people, the boy's godfather said to him. If the candle was tall, and just beginning to burn, that person had a long life to live. If the candle had burned half-way, that person had only half his life left, and if the candle was nearly gone, that person was going to die soon.
Death showed his god-father a herb. "This herb is used for curing." Death taught the boy: "Each time you visit a sick person, I will be there. When you see my form at the head of the sick one, you will use this herb to cure him. But when you see me at the foot of the sick one, then you know he must die. Give him no medicine."
So the boy went out to cure, and in a short time he was a good curandero, the best. Word of his skill went out and since he always asked a great deal of money, he was rich by the time he was thirty years.
Finally, it happened that a very rich man who was very sick called the curandero and said that if he could cure him, the curandero could marry his daughter.
When the curandero saw Death standing at the rich man's feet, he knew what he must do. But then he looked at the young daughter and, infatuated by her beauty and the thought of being her husband, he quickly turned the rich man about so that Death now stood at his head. The curandero administered the medicine, while his godfather looked on -black and angry.
The rich man got well, and the young girl was very happy. "Now, let us go to the church," she said to the curandero.
The wedding was held, complete with Pascolas, but before the fiesta could start, Death appeared at the door of the church. To his godson he said, "Well, I see that you got yourself married."
"Yes," replied the godson, and he thought within himself, "What can he do to me? After all, I am his godson."
"Come with me," said Death and he held his godson so firmly that the young man could not resist. They went back to the cave of the candles. Some of them were just beginning to burn, others were half-gone;. still others flickered weakly or lay about, extinguished on the ground.
"See, these are the Yaqui men's lives," Death said. His godson begged to be shown his own candle.
"This is your candle," said Death, pointing to one burned not even halfway down.
And Death blew it out.
As printed in Larry Evers, ed. The South Corner of Time. Tucson, Ariz.: The University of Arizona Press, ©1980, p. 209-210.
Go to the South Corner of Time homepage


Wednesday, January 6, 2016


One fine snowy day, Bear was walking through the snow in the forest. When he walked up on a little hill and stood up on his hind legs, he was so much taller than anything else he could see, that he was very proud. Bear loved to brag about how splendid he was, so he thumped himself on the chest and roared, "I'M THE BIGGEST ANIMAL IN THE FOREST!" And nobody made a sound because Bear was terribly big.
Bear got an itchy spot on his back, so he walked through the snow to a little tree, leaned against it and wriggled around. While he was scratching, the whole tree broke with a snap! Bear was so impressed with how strong he was, once more he roared out, "I'M THE STRONGEST ANIMAL IN THE FOREST!" And nobody said anything because Bear was unyielding.
Bear began to run down off that little hill. Now, every human child learns very early that you can run like the wind downhill. But Bear was so impressed with how fast he could run, he skidded to a halt by a little-frozen lake and roared, "I'M THE FASTEST ANIMAL IN THE FOREST!"
Then Bear heard a little voice pipe up from the edge of the lake, "No you're not, Bear! I'm a lot faster than you!"
"WHAT?!" Bear couldn't believe his ears. Then he couldn't believe his eyes! Because that voice came from a little green water turtle, who was sticking his head up through a hole in the ice.
Turtle said it again, "Really, Bear, I'm a lot faster than you are." Bear and Turtle began to disagree, then to argue, and then they began to make so much noise that the other animals came to see what was going on. An excellent argument was in the making when it was decided that the only way to settle the question was to have a race between Bear and Turtle. The animals reached a general agreement: the race would be around the lake. But then Turtle said, "I am a water animal, so I'll have to race in the lake."
Bear objected, "You must think I'm pretty stupid! You can just dive under the ice, then come back up and say you won!" Though the animals did think he was pretty stupid, he had a point. Finally, they agreed upon a solution. Bear, who was a land animal, would race around the lake while Turtle would swim from one hole in the ice to another, put his head up and say something, then swim on. Fox, who had no reason to cheat in this case, was chosen to be the starter and judge, and the race was scheduled for the next day.
The next morning, Elk, who had the biggest feet, was chosen to punch holes in the ice every few feet. All the animals had heard about the race and had come to see it. Almost all the spectators were making bets, and because most of them were so tired of listening to Bear brag, the bets were heavily favored Turtle.
Fox called the contestants to his side. "Are you ready, Bear?" Now Bear had been warming up, doing exercises, and getting in some last minute bragging, so he yawned and said, "Yeah, I'm ready." Fox asked, "Are you ready Turtle?" And Turtle, at his first hole in the ice said, "I'm ready!"
"Alright," said Fox, "once around the lake and back to me. Now ........... RUN!"
Turtle dived under the water, and Bear began just to walk, waving casually to his friends, just to prove how easy this was going to be. But Bear had only taken a couple of steps when Turtle's head came up in the second hole in the ice.
Turtle said, "Come on Bear, catch up with me!" And Turtle dived under and went on. Bear was flabbergasted! This turtle was faster than he thought, so Bear began to jog a little faster. But only three steps farther, Turtle's head popped up at the next hole. He said, "Come on, Bear, catch up with me!" then dived under and went on.
Now, Bear knew he had to run! He dropped to all fours and began to run as fast as he could. But before Bear passed the third hole, Turtle came up at the fourth hole and said, "come on Bear, I'm way ahead of you!"
Bear ran and ran as fast, his tongue drooping further and further out of his mouth, so out of breath he thought he would drop. But, that turtle just kept getting farther and farther ahead, each time popping out of a hole to say, "Come on, Bear, catch up with me!" Until finally, when Bear was half way around the lake, Turtle finished the race!
A great cheer went up from the other animals, "TURTLE IS THE FASTEST ANIMAL IN THE FOREST!" Even those that hadn't bet on Turtle came down to congratulate him and shake his clawed foot and pat his shell.
And Bear? Well, Bear was so exhausted, and so humiliated that he didn't even finish the race. He turned and went to his house, which was a cave, and slept the rest of the winter. And to this day, bears sleep all winter, so they don't have to remember losing that race to a turtle!
There were a big party and feast in Turtle's honor, and then, finally, everyone went home.
Now, Turtle looked around carefully, making sure everyone was gone. Then he crawled down to the edge of the ice, stuck out his clawed foot and rapped three times on the ice.
Suddenly, up through the holes in the ice came Turtle's brothers and sisters, his mom and dad, his aunts, uncles, cousins near and distant, even his grandma and grandpa turtles were there, and every one of them looked exactly like Turtle! They nodded their heads at each other and said, "Yes, we are the fastest animals in the forest!"
Turtle said, "Thank you, my kinfolks. Today we have proved that though we turtles may be slow of foot, we are not slow of wit!"