MESCAL ROAST & MOUNTAIN SPIRIT DANCES
Carlsbad, New Mexico: Sponsored by Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park. Held in May - Call for exact dates. (505) 887-5516.
For the price of admission to the park, your family can enjoy a number of very special traditional Mescalero Apache activities and learn more about the Living Desert and her people.
What is a Mescal Roast?
The Mescal Roast demonstrates a traditional method used by the Apache people to survive in the harsh desert environment of the Southwest. Historically, both the Pecos River Valley and Guadalupe Mountains were traditional hunting and gathering territories for the Mescalero Apaches. It was the Apaches' dependence upon the mescal plant, better known as the familiar spiked-leafed agave or century plant, for food which led the early Spanish explorers to call these people the "mescal makers" or Mescaleros. Their mescal roasting pits are the best known archaeological sites in the Guadalupe Mountains.
Mescal was a very important and nutritious staple food for the Mescaleros. The roasted mescal was sun dried and used in much the same manner as the Plains Indians used dried meat or jerky. Recent tests by New Mexico State University found that dried mescal leaves contain 85% soluble carbohydrates, 1% protein and 14% insoluble fiber and are roughly equivalent in food value to oats. The dried mescal had the added advantage of being easily stored over long periods of time.
Traditional Counselors of the Mescalero tribe come to Carlsbad on the day before the formal opening of the Mescal Roast to harvest and prepare the mescal plant. Approximately 16 to 20 agave heads are harvested annually. Of this number, one half are returned to the Mescalero Reservation by the Traditional Counselors. These are used by the Feast Givers at the annual girls' puberty ceremony in early July. The other half are distributed during the mescal tasting event, held on the last day of the Mescal Roast.
Beginning at about 10 am on Thursday, the first day of the event, a brief prayer ceremony will bestow a traditional blessing upon the mescal, the participants, visitors and the community. This ceremony is open to the public and the community is invited to attend. As part of this centuries-old practice, the pit blessing is done by Apache Counselors with prayers spoken in the native language. Included in this blessing are prayers for the mescal and the people who will share in its bounty. The mescal is then placed in the pit, which is covered with damp gramma grass and 3 feet of soil to seal in the heat and moisture for the 4-day cooking process.
Four days later, on Sunday, starting at about 11am, the mescal pit will be opened. The roasted mescal is removed and shared among those in attendance. If it's been a good year for the spring rains, the fibrous, stringy mescal is juicy and tastes sweet, like a combination of squash and sweet potatoes. The tasting is followed by short closing ceremonies which end with a traditional Apache give-away of candies and fruits.
MESCALERO APACHE CELEBRATIONS
Beginning at 11am on the second day of the event, a Mescal Roast interpretative presentation begins, covering Mescalero Apache traditions and beliefs and the concepts behind the Friends of the Living Desert Mescal Roast and Mountain Spirit Dances.
On both Friday and Saturday a group of Mescalero Apache singers will be conducting traditional Pow-Wow dances in the courtyard. This activity will provide an excellent opportunity to see and hear a broad range of Apache and other Native American dances, songs and music.
A Mescalero Apache Feast Dinner will be hosted on both Friday and Saturday evenings at 6pm. In the finest spirit of the Mescal Roast, these dinners will provide an opportunity for guests to meet and share a meal with the Mescaleros and other visitors. These Feast Dinners are traditionally served each summer during the coming-of-age ceremonies for young women on the Mescalero Reservation. The dinner at the Roast will be prepared in the same manner as for feast ceremonies held on the Mescalero Reservation. The food will be cooked over an open fire and served outdoors at the Park. The menu will include Mescalero beef stew, pinto beans with salt pork, red chili and hominy, salad, fry bread, drinks and desert.
A special performance of the Apache War Dance will be held for dinner attendees only. The War Dance features Apache children as well as adults dressed in historic costumes and brandishing rifles and spears in preparation to defend their homes against invaders.
Following the War Dance will be the Mountain Spirit Dances, the most traditional and sacred of the dances conducted at the Mescal Roast. The Mountain Spirit Dances are actual blessing ceremonies carried out by Mescalero Apache spiritual leaders in their ancestral homelands. These ceremonies are not re-enactments or staged pageants, but actual ritual observances held to benefit the Apaches, residents of Carlsbad and the guests at the Mescal Roast.
LIVING DESERT ZOO & GARDENS STATE PARK invites you to join the Friends of the Living Desert, come to the Park and enjoy the events being sponsored. For more information, call (505) 887-5516.
[Editor - This is truly a remarkable opportunity for you and your family to become acquainted with the Apache culture. It is vitally important that "respect" be the key word throughout. Please call and get all the details before finalizing your plan, and enjoy!]|
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