- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - Patrick Narvaez became the cacique (spiritual leader) of La Corporacion de los Indigenes de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in a special blessing ceremony held in August on Tortugas Mountain attended by members of Tortugas Pueblo.

“It’s a tradition that dates from the 1500s when we came here and it’s a blood line that is passed down,” said Lupe Dominguez-Flores, a member of the corporacion’s board of directors.

Patrick’s father, Henry Narvaez, a lawyer who lives in Albuquerque, has served as cacique for the group for more than 20 years, attending ceremonies and important occasions here, such as the annual Guadalupe Festival and pilgrimage, held every Dec. 10, 11 and 12 at the Tortugas Pueblo.

“Before Henry, my father, Ernesto Dominquez, was cacique. It is a spiritual leadership thing, more from the Indian side of our heritage,” said Dominguez-Flores, who is Henry’s cousin.

“The cacique - or chief - is thought of as the spiritual leader and chief of the tribe,” Henry Narvaez said. “As spiritual leader, the cacique carries out the Native American ceremonies in the kiva, and provides leadership to uphold traditions, customs and spiritual values.”

Narvaez said passing the title down to his son brought a complex range of emotions.

“It brings me joy, pride - there is some sorrow at the passing of the moment, and the joy that comes from seeing a future for the tribe,” he said. “There is also a little apprehension, of course, as any father would feel in a moment when he is passing on the responsibilities of the position that the father has held for many years.”

The role of cacique has held by members of Narvaez’s family “for all of recorded history - for hundreds of years,” he said.

Reflecting on more than 20 years as the tribe’s cacique, Narvaez said the role was at times challenging, but he feels honored to have served the pueblo.

“It’s a very solemn obligation and it bears many responsibilities,” he said. “It’s not an easy role. It’s challenging on many levels - personal and otherwise. I’m glad I did, but I’m also pleased and proud to be passing it on to my son.”

The occasion is marked with a traditional blessing ceremony that began with a gathering at Casa de Puebla in Tortugas Village, near Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine and Parish in Mesilla Park. A procession on foot and a motorcade culminated in a mountaintop ceremony.

About 20 celebrants participated in the ceremony, which took place in the drifting smoke of a small, ceremonial creosote fire nearby. The tribe’s elders, or capitanes, watched as the elder Narvaez passed the responsibility to his son, who knelt before him.

“When you rise, you will rise as cacique of the pueblo,” Narvaez said.

Patrick was then greeted as cacique with hugs from members of the corporacion, followed by a traditional dance which encircled a capitan who sang and played a large drum.

After the brief ceremony, Patrick Narvaez, 39, said the emotional ceremony was significant to him - as a member of the pueblo, but also as a son and a father.

“It has a lot of symbolism, but mainly it’s a ceremony of change,” the new cacique said. “It’s the circle of life. I see it on our walk up here, in the traditional dance that we did up here - transitioning from the old to the young, passing along the traditions that we know, so that Tortugas may continue on with our traditions and our beliefs.”

Patrick said the occasion was bittersweet, but he felt a great responsibility to assure the tribe is able to carry out its customs and traditions.

“With all of these homes that are moving into the area, we’ve got to make sure that we’re still able to come up here for the next 100 years - to instill this heritage in our young children - otherwise they’ll lose it,” he said.

Bill Acosta, one of the corporacion’s capitanes, said the on what is more commonly known as “A” Mountain, brought him a sense of unity and family.

“It also means promise for the future,” Acosta said. “I see that progressing, and I see people letting go of the personal self, and keeping the spirit alive.”

After the ceremony, the members visited around the fire. Some strolled away for a moment of quiet reflection. Many of the elders rode down the mountain in pickup trucks, but Patrick, the new cacique, insisted upon walking.

“I want to walk down,” he told his father. “It’s important to me.”


Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, https://www.lcsun-news.com

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