The Spirit of La Manda Endures in the Sonoran Desert Stan Maliszewski resides in Tucson, Arizona. “La Manda” has existed for generations in Mexico and on boarder lands in the United States. Those who believe in the folkloric culture along the border often describe La Manda as a promise of intentions in exchange for divine intercession. Many participants view La Manda as a spiritual pilgrimage that is manifested by walking, sometimes crawling during part of their journey, or riding a horse to sacred ground. Horseback riders who participate in a Manda have personal intentions, which often include praying for family needs, expressing appreciation for healings and good health, or advocating for a united community that cultivates sustainable neighborhoods. A horseback Manda, recently took place in Tucson, Arizona, last October. With a quiet hint of excitement in the air, cowboys, ranch owners, construction workers, educators, laborers, gardeners, business owners and others of all ages gathered on horseback and rode from “Rancho Chuk Son” (historical site of the first settlers), along the Anza Trail in the Santa Cruz River to San Xavier Mission. The San Xavier District Council, Tohono O’ Odham Nation, and the Mission Clergy have granted permission for riders in La Manda to journey on their sacred ground. Mission San Xavier is located on the Tohono O’Odham Nation Reservation. Approximately fifteen riders saddled their horses and rode into the riverbank at dawn. As river rocks and sand tumbled beneath the horse’s hoofs, other riders converged with the group by maneuvering their way
down steep embankments without trails to the Santa Cruz River. Midway through the four hour Manda, a massive cabalgata-horseback gathering-of faith swelled to a band of over eighty riders. During the pilgrimage, it appeared that riders settled into a kind of saddle-weary meditation. Either intentional or unintentional, the here and now was the rhythm of the ride together; a manifestation of La Manda prayer. Differences among riders were blurred by living in the present moment. Indeed, La Manda is another form of contemplative prayer. After being escorted on to the Tohono O’ Odham Reservation by rangers, the riders assembled in front of San Xavier Mission for a rest, welcome address by tribal officials, and blessing by a Franciscan priest. Even while drinking water, and tending to horses, the stillness of the riders continued. It was due in part to reverence, part exhaustion from the ride, and part not wanting the present moment to be missed. The smell of horses, sweat, and smoke from the Tohono O’ Odham vendor’s fires, preparing fry bread for tourists, all seem to add to the ritualistic blessing. The architecture of San Xavier depicts seashells embedded in the walls, and fountains in the shape of a shell are evident inside the Mission. Perhaps it touches on syncronicity to remember that the shell is symbolic of pilgrimage. Often when a personal activity is shared, and strangers almost become friends in a brief period of time, ritual parting includes expressions of “let’s stay in touch,” and perhaps an appreciative warm hug. After the blessing at San Xavier, riders almost immediately started to turn their horses in the direction of their homes, horse trailers or nearby ranches. Staying in the moment was still evident as riders simply gestured to each other or said, “See ya or Adios,” as they departed.
Dead Men Walking Steve McKenna is a retired Middle School Science Teacher, in Albion, New York.
In the darkness of my nightmare, skeletons dance across the jungle floor. They’re grotesque movements ever beckoning me to join them. I resist, moving restlessly in bed. Half awake, I lie there remembering minute details as though it were yesterday. Gone is my youth, stolen when I became a killer of men. Vietnam, ever present, surfaces in my sleep and during my waking hours. I survived in bodily form, but much of me was left behind like so much leaf litter scattered about the forest. Gone are my friends; the men that I once new. They left their lovers and children behind, off to a distant war, to a place and a cause whose cost would be their lives. Others would return, heads held low, knowing that they had done their best to serve their country, only to realize that their sacrifices were for nothing. My demons stand at the foot of my bed each night, creeping closer as I take my last breath before drifting off to a restless sleep. Stirring in my mind like a witch’s cauldron are the memories of what was and what is. Each is mixed into a brew as deadly as a napalm strike. Each bursting and streaming forth thoughts that bring on panic until I am awakened. I lay there unsure where reality starts and where my fantasy begins. I ask myself, “Was it only a dream?” I know better. It is my life, for the rest of my life. Once shot in the helmet just above the right eye, I was shaken but otherwise okay. By all accounts, I was a dead man walking. Others weren’t so fortunate. The AK-47 bullet entered the helmet, ricocheted off my helmet liner, then exited at the rear. Nothing made sense. They silently stand there, just out of reach at the foot of my bed. They are my friends; they are my enemy, always waving, as if to say, “Come with us. Death is easier. We will lead the way.” Then I close my eyes and lie back down. In my mind, I search for the strength to survive. I temporarily push the demons aside, knowing full well that there will be other restless nights, other demons and skeletons that will do their grotesque dance upon my bed.
Needs Among the Nations Paloma Nazaraghaie is a student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. My paternal grandmother was married at age seven. She gave birth to her first of seven children at age fourteen, but she never learned to read or write. When she came here a few years ago, I was not able to make conversation with her, because unlike many Iranians, she does not speak English. Looking at her life in Iran is like looking into the pages of a history book. She lives the life that American women lived a century ago. My grandmother does not own a corporation, she does not engage in political affairs, and she has never graduated as Valedictorian of a university. She has, however, raised strong and intelligent sons, and for that, she has fulfilled her duties as an Iranian woman. What women want varies by culture, but the better question is, “What should women want?” Women everywhere need self-knowledge, a sturdy education, and determination to help their fellow women. Unlike men, women do not start at the starting line. We begin our journeys in life five steps back, and we have to work harder and longer to catch up to men in education and the workplace. In a world where we are still told that we aren’t strong enough, smart enough, or fast enough, an unshakable sense of confidence is crucial to become a motivated, determined member of society. The only way to gain the right amount of confidence is to learn about our predecessors. Women fought, screamed, clawed, cried, and even died for the rights that we take for granted today. It was because of courageous women that I am able to earn a higher education and attend this university. Shortly after, more brave women fought for my right to vote. These women’s actions were far from selfish; they knew that the consequences of their protests would reverberate throughout time. Things are much different across the globe in Iran. Women still have to cover their hair with veils, and only recently were they granted the rights to walk down the street without an escort and to wear makeup in public. However, Iranian women do not appear to realize how they gained these privileges. My grandmother, for example, does not know her history. She doesn’t take advantage of her newly-established rights to vote or earn an education, because she does not understand what
Published on May 18, 2009
Stan Maliszewski 104 resides in Tucson, Arizona. Spring 2009 105 Fine Lines 106 is a retired Middle School Science Teacher, in Albion, New Y...