The Comanches are coming.
Listen, the Comanches are coming!
What? What are you talking about?
The muffled sound of drums. Approaching. Listen!
It was our first New Year's Day in our new adobe on the ridge overlooking the valley of the Rio Chiquito and the Rio Grande del Rancho. We were having breakfast with our overnight guests, Merrill and Jeanne Mahaffey, and Thea's sister, Alicia. Our neighbor ran over yelling They're coming. Hear them? The Comanches are coming.
We stepped out the kitchen door, as the drumming grew louder, and down our drive came a group of brightly feathered and painted… Indians? No. These were obviously Hispanic individuals, dressed as Indians.
They formed a circle in front of our house, a band of singers and drummers let out a few yelps and war whoops, then broke into song. The “Comanches” began to dance. A group of spectators, having followed them into our yard, formed a semi-circle on the other side. Our neighbor explained that they were here to bless our house.
Another neighbor, our good friend, CruzValerio, broke away from the group, went over to the pen housing our chickens and two turkeys, and began drumming and chanting, blessing them.
After several songs and dances, the group introduced themselves, wished us a Happy New Year, and drifted up to our neighbor's house for a repeat performance, then back up to the hiway and on to other houses. We could hear them until mid afternoon as they blessed other houses in the area.
We subsequently learned that there were other groups in the area, and, in fact that they also appear as far south as El Paso. None of our group could remember how it all started. They had been doing it longer than any of them could remember. The real Comanches, however, used to come into this area from out on the plains on raiding parties. They would take crops, livestock, and captives, striking terror into the hearts of the Spanish and Pueblo people living between the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the Rio Grande.
Some believe this ritual began as a sort of prayer to keep the raiders away, others believe escaped captives brought back songs and dances from their time living among the enemy. No one seems to know for sure.
Whatever the origin, we feel truly blessed by their visits, and have for a decade and a half, as we've watched some of the children grow into fine adults, with children of their own, continuing the tradition.
After Cruz's son, Alex, the leader of the Comanches succumbed to cancer a few years ago, the dancers became fewer, until, finally, we feared the tradition had died. But today, just as I was finishing my lunch, I once again heard the drums. They were back. Fewer in number, with fewer followers, even, but they were back.
Alex's son appears to have taken over in his father's place, and our house is once again blessed, as we are.
P.S. To learn more about the Comanches, check out Miguel Gandert's book, Nuevo México Profundo, Rituals of an Indo-Hispano Homeland.