By Helena Rodriguez
PORTALES — Sylvia Baca’s great-grandfather, Nicolas Baca, participated in Las Posadas, a Mexican reenactment of the birth of Christ, as a young man and told her of the long Posadas processions in Encino.
Last week, Baca not only attended her first Posadas, she and her sisters also played host to one at their home on North Main Street.
Las Posadas means “inn” or “lodging” and is based on a Mexican Catholic tradition in which people reenact events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. Las Posadas is observed in Mexico as well as the Southwest United States, beginning nine days before Christmas and is held nightly, up until Christmas Eve, at a different location. In Portales, Las Posadas ended with a ceremony at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve at St. Helen’s Catholic Church.
“It just touches you so much when you have Las Posadas in your home,” said Petrita Baca, one of the hosts. “I’ve never been to one before. You hear about it in your culture. It is sort of dying out. It’s something we need to pass on to the younger ones.”
During this historical reenactment, people dressed like Mary and Joseph and, along with a procession of singers and musicians, went to a series of designated places, knocking and asking for lodging. Sal Bara and Angelica Gonzales played the parts of Joseph and Mary one evening.
Joseph and Mary are continuously turned away for lodging until the final procession of Las Posadas on Christmas Eve. It is all done in song form, with Mary, Joseph and the musicians asking for lodging and then a group of participants inside the house, who act as innkeepers, also responding in song form, saying they have no room.
Following the reenactment, participants go inside the designated houses to pray, sing more songs in Spanish and English and then enjoy refreshments.
In some places, real donkeys and other livestock are used for this reenactment, and local organizer Inez Rodriguez said they hope to use a real donkey in next year’s Posadas.
“The purpose of Las Posadas is to relive a tradition our fathers and grandfathers practiced,” Rodriguez said. “But even more important than that, it’s about understanding what Christmas is really about and remembering what happened that night.”
Rodriguez said Las Posadas has been a long-time tradition at St. Helen’s but organizers are trying to get more participation. She said this year’s crowd has steadily grown each night since it began at the Orlando and Celia Ortega home.