Feast of San Estevan

San Estevan, Feast of

September 2
The Feast of San Estevan is a harvest dance and annual feast day in the Indian pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico. Acoma is a cluster of adobes atop a barren mesa 367 feet above a valley. It was established in the 12th century and is the oldest continuously inhabited community in America. Only about 50 people now live there year-round, but Acoma people from nearby villages return for feast days and celebrations.
The mesa is dominated by the mission church of San Estevan del Rey, which was completed in 1640 under the direction of Friar Juan Ramirez. All the building materials, including massive logs for the roof, had to be carried from the valley below. Supposedly Friar Juan had gained both the confidence of the Acoma people and access to the mesa by saving an infant from a fall off the mesa's edge. His delivery of the child back to the mother was considered a miracle.
A mass and procession begin the feast day. The statue of the patron saint, St. Stephen (San Estevan in Spanish) is taken from the church to the plaza where the dances are performed from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There are 15 or so different dances—Bear, Butterfly, and Rainbow are some of them.
Acoma also has two rooster pulls, one in June and one in July. These are religious sacrificial ceremonies, during which prayers are offered for rain, for persons who need help, and for the country. Animal rights activists have protested the sacrificial aspect of these rites.
CONTACTS:
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
2401 12th St. N.W.
Albuquerque, NM 87104
866-855-7902 or 505-843-7270
www.indianpueblo.org
SOURCES:
IndianAmer-1989, pp. 288, 294
RelHolCal-2004, p. 100
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