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The Yaqui Indian Year

by Muriel Thayer Painter


fiesta food preparation



The people in Pascua attend the Catholic church of their parish, but many native ceremonies occur which center around the church of San Ignacio de Loyola in the plaza in Pascua. San Ignacio is the patron saint of the village. They remember no native gods, but legend and memory remind them of the belief, similar to that of other Indians in the Southwest, that special power was obtainable from the natural world of forests, mountains, caves, and from dreams.


Legends and the ancient poetry of the Deer singers tell us that flowers were valued symbols in pre-Spanish times. Currently, in the Catholic tradition, flowers are offered as tribute to the holy figures. Of even greater significance to the Yaquis is the legend that the blood of Jesus as it fell from the cross was by a miracle of heaven transformed into flowers. The symbolism of this legend is found throughout the ceremonies and it is in harmony with both the old beliefs and the new meanings introduced by the Jesuit missionaries.


Crowds gather for the colorful native fiestas. Religious ritual, processions, and dancing continue through the night and special prayers greet the dawn. Fiestas are run by ceremonial societies whose members serve in fulfillment of vows made to Jesus or to Mary in return for help in time of crisis. The work of carrying out these sacred duties is known as "flower." It must be done faithfully and "with good heart" to merit heavenly reward or "flower." Some of the regalia is also called "flower."

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The members of the church group are under vow to the Virgin and are called Mary's army. Here they kneel for prayers at a station in a procession around the Way of the Cross in Lent. To honor the holy figures and through them Jesus and Mary, a mat covered with flowers is laid in front of the cross at each station.

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The University of Arizona Press, 9/18/1998 7:28AM