Summer 2012 : Fight
Sign up to be the first to hear about what we’re doing around the state.
Summer 2012 : Fight
Oregon Humanities: Summer 2012
Celebrants press wall to wall, night after night, reciting the prayers and singing the songs of Las Posadas. Steamy windows emanate light into winter’s deepest dark. Each year, from December 16 through Christmas Eve, posadas reenact Mary and Joseph’s attempt to find lodging in Bethlehem, in a tradition that originated in Spain and was carried to Mexico. With Mexican immigrants who work among the cows and hay of our nativities, who struggle to find open doors, I await the advent of Jesus. Standing shoulder to shoulder with these friends, in rentals that have seen better days, that boast a shrine of mother Mary surrounded by flourishes of icons, I sing along with the “Posada Song,” pretending to be Mary and Joseph at the door of the inn.
As each night passes, I begin to understand: Mary and Joseph were like these Mexican immigrants. They were Galilean, and as such were belittled in Judea. In a reversal of geography, Galileans were the disregarded neighbors from the backwater north, presumed to be superstitious and freeloading and restive. In Judea, where Galileans paid taxes, they were shut out, stereotyped as lawbreakers. Galilee was for renegades, spawning messianic figures whose followers awaited a new day of fairness, whose movements were successful until the Romans got miffed and sent paramilitaries to intimidate them, or turned on them client kings like Herod, who wiled away the wealth of his subjects while sending them to border towns to pay their dues.
Galilee was also a center of economic foment, where Jesus waxed prophetic about how the rich couldn’t make it into heaven any more than they could make it through the eye of a needle, or the Rio Grande, or a few days in the Arizona desert. In his last years, Jesus’s friends and audience were fisher-folk, who dwelt at the bottom of the labor pool, right along with cleaners and cooks and dairy and vineyard workers. As posadas remind us that God chose an indigent, young Galilean girl, we proclaim, “Alegría!”
The children swinging at piñatas glow with hope and call to mind Jesus and his friends running about Jerusalem at Passover, unaware of who they are, merely relishing the songs and traditions, the smell of the tamales, and the community of pilgrims who love them. These children know only that Jesus and his parents were poor, that they stood and knocked only to be ignored and then, finally, let into our peregrine hearts as the queen and kings of heaven.
Links for this page
Back issues of the magazine
If you reside in Oregon and would like a free subscription to Oregon Humanities magazine, please sign up here. You will also be signed up to receive our monthly e-newsletter.
Staff, advisors, etc.
Oregon Humanities magazine examines topics of broad public interest from a variety of perspectives and approaches. Recent issues of this publication have focused on stuff, nostalgia, and civility. Through good and thoughtful writing, Oregon Humanities magazine enriches our understanding of important subjects and stimulates conversation and reflection among readers, their friends, families, colleagues, and neighbors.
For more than a decade Camas Davis has been a magazine editor and writer for national magazines such as National Geographic Adventure and Saveur, and local publications such as Portland Monthly, Edible Portland, and Mix. In 2009, she traveled to France to study butchery. Upon her return, she founded the Portland Meat Collective, a traveling butchery school.
Eric Gold is a freelance writer in Portland.
J. David Santen Jr. has written about books, business, the environment, and communities for the Oregonian, the Portland Business Journal, and other publications. He lives in Portland.
Jill Owens works in marketing for Powell’s Books, where interviewing authors is the most interesting part of her job. She’s originally from the South but has lived in Oregon for eleven years and is here to stay.
Photographer Jim Lommasson received the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for Shadow Boxers: Sweat, Sacrifice & the Will to Survive in American Boxing Gyms. Previous publications include Oaks Park Pentimento. His photographs have been widely exhibited in museums and galleries.
John Frohnmayer is chair of the Oregon Humanities board of directors.
Margot Minardi is an assistant professor of history and humanities at Reed College, and the author of Making Slavery History: Abolitionism and the Politics of Memory in Massachusetts (2010). She is currently working on a history of the nineteenth-century American peace movement.