Message #109
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'"

Date: Tue, 17 Mar 1998
Subject: Yaquis become Fariseos 

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

Yaquis become Fariseos 
Francisco Miguel, 18, is spending Lent suffering
for the Lord. On Ash Wednesday, he left his
parents' home dressed in white pants and a white shirt with a
goatskin mask covering his face and head, rattles laced over
his ankles and a belt of clattering animal hooves. Miguel is a
Fariseo, or Pharisee, for Lent. He is one of several hundred
Sonoran men -- Yaqui, Mayo and Yori (or non-Indian) -- who
follow the punishing Indian tradition. 

http://www.azcentral.com/news/0317goatface.shtml

Yaquis become Fariseos
At Lent, men don goat masks, leave families to find
where Jesus has gone 

By Graciela Sevilla 
The Arizona Republic 
March 17, 1998 

HERMOSILLO, Sonora
 -- Francisco Miguel, 18,
is spending Lent suffering
for the Lord. 

Francisco Miguel, 18 (left), of
Hermosillo, is spending Lent as a
Fariseo. Here he portrays a soldier
trying to find Jesus.

On Ash Wednesday, he
left his parents' home
dressed in white pants
and a white shirt with a
goatskin mask covering
his face and head, rattles
laced over his ankles and
a belt of clattering animal
hooves. 

For 40 days he cannot eat or talk between breakfast and sundown,
when he takes off his mask. All day long, the crucifix of his
homemade rosary is in his mouth as he prays silently. At night, he
sleeps under a cold desert sky on hard-packed earth. Guarding
him, Yaqui Indian elders make sure he doesn't seek the comfort of
a blanket. 

"He is fulfilling a promise to God," says Antonio Badilla, a Yaqui
elder. "From the first moment when he put on the mask, he lost his
mother, his father, his family. He belongs to God." 

Miguel is a Fariseo, or Pharisee, for Lent. He is one of several
hundred Sonoran men -- Yaqui, Mayo and Yori (or non-Indian) --
who follow the punishing Indian tradition. 

Some might call it a big sacrifice, but Fariseos consider their ritual a
blessing. For them it's devotional payback for an answered prayer. 

"I was hit by a car while crossing
the street when I was 15. My
mother prayed for my broken leg
to be healed so I could walk
again. When it did, she promised
me to God as a Fariseo," Miguel
explained one evening after
sunset. 

Like all Fariseos, Miguel made his
own ritual attire, crafting a mask
from goat hide, painted wood and
cardboard. He also carved and
painted a walking stick and a
dagger that he clacks together and
uses as pointers to "speak" to his
fellow Fariseos. 

This year, Miguel is completing a
three-year vow, but some
Fariseos make a lifetime promise. 

Jose Ubaldo Chavez, a 38-year-old construction worker, has been
a Fariseo for the past 23 years. When he was a child, doctors
wanted to operate to cure him of a stomach ailment. But when his
grandmother prayed, the swelling and pain disappeared. At age 15,
he was handed over to a Fariseo "capitan" for training. 

"My vow is for life. As long as I'm in good health I can't break my
promise," he said. 

Only men can be Fariseos.
When most Indians were
farmers, hunters or shepherds, it
was customary for them to
abandon their work to carry out
a 40-day pledge. But many
Fariseos today work for wages,
and increasingly tradition bends
to necessity. 

Chavez has a wife and two daughters to support,
so he is a full-time Fariseo only during Holy
Week. That's when he leaves home to join a
Yaqui ceremonial camp. 

"We live off charity," Chavez
says, explaining that most
Fariseos must beg for coins to
buy food or depend on donated
meals. 

In the city of Hermosillo, a band
of 20 Fariseos from the Mayo
Indian communities in Sinaloa
state stand out from the crowd as they pair up to work the
downtown shopping district. 

Outside the municipal mercado, Manuel Padilla, a 58-year-old
farmer, wears an all-fur mask and shakes red-painted gourd rattles
while his sandaled feet stomp-dance to a drumbeat played by his
Fariseo companion, Ubaldo Valenzuela, a 53-year-old truck
driver. 

Padilla holds out a plastic container to the shoppers who pause to
watch. Some send their awe-struck children to drop coins into his
collection cup. 

"On a good day we collect 50 pesos," less than $6, Padilla says
through his mask. "The people in Hermosillo are kind and
generous." 

An old man passing by accuses Padilla of being a fake. "Fariseos
are supposed to be silent," he scolds. But Padilla explains that
Mayos don't follow the Yaqui rule of silence. 

There are other differences. Yaqui Fariseos don't dance, and they
are also forbidden to visit the cities of plenty. 

"We're not allowed to go downtown because there are lots of
women and temptations. There are sidewalks that would make
walking more comfortable. We have to stay in our community
where there is no pavement. We have to rough it," Chavez said,
sitting in the dirt-poor Yaqui settlement Ejido Sarmiento. 

But there is more than one way to keep a holy bargain. 

Fariseo traditions vary from one community to the next, but all
follow Friday afternoon rituals when they meet at ceremonial
grounds and re-enact the Roman soldiers' search for Jesus. 

There are three such ceremonial sites in and around Hermosillo,
where perhaps 100 Fariseos will participate. 

For the ritual the Fariseos are accompanied by a ceremonial
battalion that includes flag bearers, soldiers, a drummer, a flute
player and the captains. 

On a recent Friday at Ejido Sarmiento, a group of two dozen
women sang solemn prayers as they walked the Stations of the
Cross. Following 20 paces behind were Miguel and a second
Fariseo who stopped at each crude wooden cross to dig at the
ground and sniff the dirt as if looking for Jesus' fresh footsteps. 

"It is a very sacred ceremony that we follow very diligently based
on the Bible," Jose Matus, a Yaqui from Tucson, explained of the
ritual. "Every Friday, we trace the Stations of the Cross in a
procession." 

For Miguel and the other Fariseos, their days of sacrifice end on
Holy Saturday, when they will burn all traces of their ritual in a
bonfire that consumes their homemade masks and colorful wooden
staffs. 

"It's very beautiful tradition, and it feels very good to have all evil
erased from one's thoughts," says Chavez. "We make a promise to
suffer for the Lord."