24th Annual Living Desert Mescal Roast May 6 - 9, 2010

Celebration Honors Mescalero Apache Culture

Event is sponsored by the Friends of Living Desert

Date April 26, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Author Editor

Publication SantaFe.com

Categories Culture


Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Parks honors the culture and history of the Mescalero Apache people May 6 - 9 during its 24th annual Mescal Roast and Mountain Spirit Dances. This event is sponsored by the Friends of Living Desert.

"The contribution by the Mescalero Apache people at the Mescal Roast is a genuine gift of cross-cultural sharing," said Park Superintendent Ken Britt. "It is a time to celebrate our natural environment and the native heritage of the region."

The Mescal Roast provides a better understanding of the Mescalero Apache people and the importance of protecting the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem. The mescal plant, also known as agave, was a staple for the Apache who once lived in the Pecos River Valley and Guadalupe Mountains of Southeastern New Mexico. Nearly all parts of the mescal plant were used, including the leaves, flower stalks, blossoms and seeds. The leaves and stalks were traditionally roasted in large cooking pits and eaten or pounded into cakes and dried in the sun for later consumption. Agave fibers were used to make bowstrings, brushes, sandals and rope.

The Mescalero Apache were eventually forced to relocate following the arrival of U.S. military expeditions and "Buffalo Soldiers" in the 1800s.

The event begins May 6 with the ceremonial blessing of the agave roasting pit by Apache spiritual leaders. The ceremony is not a reenactment but an actual ritual observance. The agave roasts for four days before it is ready for Sunday's sharing.

Visitors will be treated to a typical feast dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, followed by traditional Apache War Dances and then the Mountain Spirit Dances both nights. The dinner is modeled after traditional feasts served during coming-of-age ceremonies for young women on the reservation. The Mescal Roast draws an average of 2,000 visitors annually.

A schedule of events is as follows:

Thursday, May 6

10:00 a.m. - Prayer ceremony and mescal pit blessing

Friday, May 7 and Saturday, May 8

All Day - Sales of Native American arts and crafts
2:00 p.m. - Interpretive roundtable
6:00 p.m. - Feast dinner
7:00 p.m. - Apache War Dances
8:30 p.m. - Mountain Spirit Dances

Sunday, May 9

11:00 a.m. - Mescal pit opening, mescal tasting, closing ceremony and giveaway

Admission to special daytime activities during the Mescal Roast from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. is free of charge. The park's normal day-use fee of $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 7 - 12 years and free to children under 6 years will be charged to tour the zoo.

Tickets for the feast dinner and dances on either Friday or Saturday are $15 each and include all evening activities from 6:00 p.m. until closing. Advanced ticket purchases are recommended, because tickets are limited to 300 per night. Tickets are on sale at the park, by phone or U.S. Mail.

Getting There - Click Here to View Large Map

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' independent Accreditation Commission. The park is dedicated to the conservation of the plants and animals of the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem. The park conducts extensive public education programs and actively participates in species conservation efforts. For more information on the park or to purchase tickets to the Mescal Roast, contact the park at (575) 887-5516. For more information about New Mexico State Parks, call 888-NMPARKS or visit www.nmparks.com.