The Annual Blessing Of The Fields Celebration Has A History As Old As New Mexico
Written and photography by Bud Russo
Mark your 2018 calendars now! May 15—the Day of San Ysidro, patron saint of farmers—falls on a Tuesday and, once again, Bishop Oscar Cantú will lead school children from Las Cruces Catholic School and other participants in the Blessing of the Fields procession at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum.
The Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces has led this ecumenical celebration for the past 19 years—a procession whose roots date to the very beginning of New Mexico, and even farther back.
Ysidro was a farmer who lived near Madrid from 1070 to 1130. He worked for Juan de Vargas, a wealthy landowner and ancestor of Diego de Vargas who reclaimed New Mexico for Spain after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
During story time following last year’s Blessing, Ricardo Ramirez, bishop emeritus, told the children, Ysidro was a very devout man, who prayed for hours each day. His fellow farmers complained to de Vargas, saying he was lazy. When de Vargas checked up on him, he found that instead of falling behind in his plowing, Ysidro was finished before anyone else, and his field yielded three times as much. The reason, the farmer said, is while he prayed, angels plowed for him. It was one of several miracles attributed to him.
Ysidro was canonized in 1622. He is celebrated with the blessing of fields, orchards, and livestock at the beginning of each year’s agricultural season to assure a bountiful harvest.
The Blessing of the Fields at Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum begins at 10am with a ceremony predating even Spanish Conquistadors. For thousands of years before the Spanish arrived, indigenous people prayed for a good harvest. Henry Narvaez, cacique (or chief) of Tortugas Pueblo, leads the Puebloan prayer to the four directions: to the spirit of the east which brings sunrise and creation; to the south, the source of warm winds and healing; to the west, the place of sunset, death, and letting go; and to the north, the source of silence, wisdom, and creativity.
Following the opening prayers by the bishop, the procession crosses the Rio Hondo bridge toward the livestock pens. At several stops, Bishop Cantú blesses the cows, horses, sheep, and goats. The procession then moves to the newly tilled fields of the museum for a sprinkling of holy water, and a procession of girls in white dresses lining the acequia to bless the water by dropping flower petals in it.
Once the blessing has been completed, the procession again crosses the bridge to the gathering place, where bread just baked in the horno is distributed as a communion rite.
Last year, Bishop Ramirez engaged the children in thinking about where their food comes from. He talked about how the Spanish brought horses, cows, and fruit trees to the Southwest and how tomatoes, potatoes, and chiles, native of the New World, were not available in Europe. “There’s a lot of work that goes into your favorite cheeseburger,” he notes. “Think about where the meat, bread, lettuce, tomato, and pickles come from. We have to thank God for the farmers and the food they grow for us.”
Mark Santiago, director of the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum says, “In an increasingly urban environment, we work to preserve this aspect of our four-centuries-old agricultural history and the Hispanic culture in which so many New Mexican traditions find their roots.”“Through Blessing of the Fields, we help 21st century Las Crucans understand our historic connection to the land, the source of their food and clothing.”
Blessing of the Fields 2018
Tuesday, May 15, 10am
New Mexico Farm &
Ranch Heritage Museum