[the following, a mix of hyperbole, purple prose, fact and only the fancy derived from hoping to inspire, was written at the introduction for the 2001 Design Ranch program. DR, an annual retreat in the Texas Hill Country, consists of a series of hands-on workshops lead by the nation's top creatives, and is attended by guests from across the country and beyond our borders. Locally, Milagros refer to small metallic figures or icons in a variety of shapes, which became a design theme for the retreat materials. This was written directly after reading a book on ritual that had come to the New World via the Spanish, who in turn brought with them themes distilled from their years of Moorish occupation.]
The devout come looking for la promesa - the promise, - that they too can and will remain creative and productive. Pilgrims, with their votive (from the Latin, voto, meaning vow) offerings of precious time and money, as well as candles, food, drink, flowers, and further love and devotion, come seeking the powers of the anointed, the spiritual leaders that will lead the few down the narrow path of creative righteousness. In return, the devout offer promises of their own: costly and difficult pilgrimages, to dance long and hard at sacred shrines, to commission painting that testify to the efficacy of a saint's power.
This is an age-old tradition, an age-old way of life that has crossed oceans and borders and time, merging meaning as it has merged lifeways. With the offerings mentioned above, milagros - miracles - are hoped for. And in turn, the word milagro has been attached to those votive offerings.
Miracles and Milagros are defined, each according to their owner. Health, wealth, happiness? Lucky charms, blessed candle, family photo, sacred soil? All are equal to the promise, to the promised.
And what better time to bare the soul, to reveal the inner being, than when seeking la promesa, when making the vow? This is a time for removing the masks of life. And often a time for donning the mask of wish fulfillment, to combat those forces aligned to keep us from our dreams. These mascaras, these masks, are used to hide, to conceal one's true identity, to impart the identity of another. This other is often one of power: a diety, a warrior, a priest or priestess. A supreme being, a superhero.
So we don our superhero costumes, or at least our masks, so that we may become invincible in our daily struggles, to fight the good fight. We become Batman, Spiderman, Storm, or the popular Mexican wrestler, Mil Mascaras - One Thousand Masks. We wrestle with our demons, we wrestle with good and evil. We wrestle with ideas.
This is the time of year that the ancient Mexico people performed the Festival of the Flaying of Men - Tlacaxipeualiztli. Sacrificial victims were flayed alive, and their still-warm skins, dripping with blood, were worm by priest and warrior alike, in a spring ritual that spoke of re-birth, the living body emerging from the dead body-mask.
Here at la Hacienda de Diseno, we too have opportunity to strip away our dead selves, our past triumphs and failures, and after three days emerge with renewed vigor, renewed sense of why it is we do what we do, why it is we love what we love. We have the good fortune to understand los milagros y mascaras, for we have joned together with common cause. It is hoped that our personal vows, our personal miracles, our personal masks will become surer, steadier, for when we leave here, to quote the Gang of Four, who quoted Nietzsche, "we live, as we dream, alone."
But together, we celebrate. Ceremonies mark the passage of time, mark important cycles and major events in social structure. It is that time of year again: to have made the pilgrimage, to dance the dance, to feast, to revel, to offer milagros, to tear off or put on the mascaras.
Dance, as celebration and ceremony, is full of complexities, of hidden transcripts, hidden meanings. We dance to supplicate the gods, to celebrate the ritual of mating, to honor conquests and reconquests of subjugated people, to welcome a new season.
So it is a new season. We are at the crossroads here, in a land that has been frontier and farmed, Mexican and Texican, Latin American and U.S. American. We continue ancient traditions and imbue them with new meaning. We create anew. Just plain folks creating art. A minor miracle.