Our mattresses are once again stacked floor to ceiling, the bunk beds disassembled. Michigan State and Virginia Tech students departed early Saturday morning after two last days of fun in Cholula. Thursday at the Ermita de Silencio (see previous post) everyone helped to clean sediment from the large water tank, and back at the casa we spent an evening singing songs with a team of fabulous guitar accompanists: Arturo, Olivier, Eric, and Andrew.
Fortunately we were able to squeeze in a few more hours of work in Tecuanípan on Friday morning, and in the afternoon we all had the chance to participate in a traditional sweat-lodge ritual called Temazcal. Patti, the director at Calpulli, built the lodge on her organization’s property and teaches community members and visiting groups about the ritual and its ancient roots in Mexico. Interestingly, it was reintroduced to Patti’s grandparents’ generation by Lakota tribe members who came to Mexico in the 50’s to share traditions which had once been practiced across the Americas. Rituals such as the Temazcal are very useful in promoting cultural preservation and cultivating recognition of a continued indigenous identity. However, it is also interesting to trace the reentry of the Temazcal via the Lakota in order to note the active process by which Native peoples have ‘reacquired’ the knowledge ‘forgotten’ in the colonial period—the continuity imagined here is less about fixed tradition or stagnation, and more about the redefinition and reimplementation necessary to introduce such practices today, while still remembering them as a powerful lesson from the past.
Sitting on the dirt in the dark, round room, the heat mounting after every hot rock was brought into the center, we dripped sweat and began to measure our breathing. The four parts of the ceremony represented different parts of the life cycle, and most of us were proud to make it through ‘old age.’ At the end we crawled outside and lay sprawled on the grass. The general consensus from the students was one of gratitude for being exposed to something so divorced from their past experience and worldview. After cleaning off, the groups spent their last night in Cholula and Puebla, shopping and dining together. What an end to the week!