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'The food comes from the earth'

At farm and ranch museum, the fields are blessed


The drums are first — thump thump-thump thump! — as members of Tortugas Pueblo lead the 24th annual Blessing of the Fields at New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum on May 17.

The voices of the pueblo join their drums with resonant sing-chanting. The sound of many feet moving out onto the bridge to cross to the animal enclosures follows. People are chatting as they walk, children are laughing. Birds talk back from the arroyo under the bridge.

The voice of Bishop Peter Baldacchino of the Diocese of Las Cruces can be heard telling the Las Cruces Catholic School students accompanying him, “If somebody feels a little bit weak, look for shade. Ask for water before you get dizzy.”

The drums get a little more distant, then stop for a minute as Baldacchino pauses to talk about San Isidro Labrador, also known as San Ysidro, and his wife, Maria Torribia (known as Santa Maria de la Cabeza), who were farm workers known for their piety toward the poor and animals.

“God loves them as he loves each and every one of us and they loved the land they worked on and loved the animals that were part of the land, so let us pray,” the bishop intones. “Help us to love and care for all you have created.”

We follow this procession, which includes a wooden statue of San Ysidro, around the grounds of the museum as Baldacchino pauses at various pens to bless the different animals there, the cows and bulls, the sheep, horses and burros.

The first communion girls in their white dresses and the first communion boys, who accompany the girls holding umbrellas against the sun over them, are closest to the bishop as he sprinkles holy water at the animals and sometimes, to their delight, over the children.

They arrive at the head of a field, where a ditch full of water awaits release to signify the beginning of the growing season. The girls line both sides of the water entryway and the bishop blesses the water. He touches the cool wave as it releases, still mumbling the blessing and the girls toss rose petals into the water as it moves to spread across the field.

Fourth grader Marcelle Chiffoleau tells me, “Blessing the fields helps the cows and helps crops grow.”

“Water gives things life, helps plants grow,” adds Eric Ray, another student.

“They are blessing the fields, the cows and the sheep, the water in honor of – I can’t pronounce his name – San Ysidro,” Marko Benigni, also a fourth grader, chimes in.

At the end of the event, the crowd goes back to the beginning, with Baldacchino blessing homemade bread to be shared. Everyone, with the children going first, files past to share in the bread and leave happy, nibbling on their slices.

There is clapping, music with children singing, then puttering out back to the parking lot.

Sister Mavis, who works with Las Cruces Catholic School, is fairly new to the area. 2023 was her first year experiencing the blessing event. She has served in Zimbabwe, Italy and Bangladesh yet she said she has never seen anything like this.

“I think it’s a very important event,” she said. “When we get through the blessing of the water, it’s so crucial here, magnified, in this area.

“In our world today, in our culture here, many times we are removed from our sources of our food. This is not only for the children, but the adults to remember the food comes from the earth; so the blessing of those things is crucial.”