The Village of Tortugas located in southern Las Cruces, will be hosting their annual event, Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta on December 10-12. This celebration is a cultural mix of Native American (Piro, Manso and Tiwa ancestry) and Hispanic customs and traditions.

The 3-day event celebrates the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Virgin Mary) to the Indian San Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill, near Mexico City. This tribute has been celebrated at the village pueblo for more than 100 years. Records show that celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe have been held in Las Cruces since the 1880’s. The present day event was moved to Tortugas in 1910 but was previously held at the site of the old St. Genevieve’s Church on what is now Main Street in downtown Las Cruces.

The event begins on Monday evening as the “mayordomos” (village sponsors) take the “anda” (an image) of Our Lady of Guadalupe from la capilla (little chapel) to la casa del pueblo (community house). A “velorio” (wake) is held throughout the evening and into the night, as prayer of the Catholic Rosary is interweaved with “matachine” dancing by Los Danzantes. The ritual continues into the early hours of the morning.

The following day, a pilgrimage begins at 5 a.m. as two columns form, one for woman and another for men, as the faithful ascend to Tortugas Mountain also known as “A” Mountain by the locals. Participants, young and old, take a four-and-a-half mile walk up the steep terrain to the summit. A mass with prayer and song is held at the top of the sacred mountain. The faithful and devoted remain there for the entire day, making “quiotes” (walking sticks) and “coronas” (head bands) for their return trip at sunset. Participants build bonfires in the shape of crosses, to light the mountain side as the villagers find there way back to the community house for another ceremony to conclude the day’s events.

The celebration continues on Wednesday morning with a final tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The day begins with a church mass at 9 a.m. followed by dance performances from four distinct dance troupes. The groups are dressed in formal ceremonial attire and perform traditional Native American dances. Los Danzantes and Los Indios perform on the church plaza, where the Azteca Chichimecas dance to the right of the church and Guadalupana Aztecas dance behind the church.

The dance festivities are interrupted at noon as festival organizers provide a free homemade meal for everyone to enjoy.

The festivities resume after lunch with a ceremonial procession for Our Lady of Guadalupe. The “anda” of Our Lady of Guadalupe is taken from the church and the procession proceeds into the village with a quick stop at la casa del pueblo (community center) for an official change of guards, as new “mayordomos” are installed for the coming year. The procession resumes and the “anda” is accompanied by performances from the four dance groups. The celebration concludes at the church, where the “anda” is returned and remains until the first of January. On that date, through a ceremonial procession, the “anda” is returned to la capilla (little chapel) for the remainder of the year until the 2019 festival.

Contact the Tortugas Village at (575) 526-8171 for more information. The village is located south of Las Cruces on Main Street. The event is free to the public. For more a schedule of times, visit the Tortugas Pueblo - Los Indigenes de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe Facebook page here.