Farolitos cast a soft glow among the ruins in Jemez.
Visitors can see the historic area, as well as a good view of the night sky.
That’s part of the allure of the Light Among the Ruins, which will host its second and final display for the season on Saturday, Dec. 14.
“It’s a wonderful thing to experience,” says Matthew Barbour, regional manager for Coronado and Jemez historic sites.
“I’ve been doing it now for the last six years. I think it goes back to the 1990s, and there’s a debate over who started it and when. I can say it was a homegrown thing with the villagers in Jemez Springs and now is a larger event promoted to people from across the state.”
At the event, the ruins of Gíusewa Pueblo and San José de los Jemez Mission are decorated with hundreds of farolitos – paper bags with sand and a candle in each.
The evening’s program will include traditional Native American flute music and Jemez Pueblo dancers’ performing between two bonfires.
The historic site will also host an arts and crafts fair and have food available for purchase.
Flash photography, drones and alcohol are prohibited.
Those planning on walking to and from the event are encouraged to take a flashlight and wear reflective clothing.
Barbour says this year is the first year the event has been broken up into two weekends. The first was held on Nov. 30.
“It has grown, so that splitting it into two dates seems to work,” he says. “We also sell tickets to the event with a certain time to enter. This is to ensure the safety of all guests.”
Barbour says about 2,000 farolitos are set out each night.
It takes a group of about 30 volunteers to complete.
“Everyone helps out with the event,” he says. “The landscape has been sacred to the Jemez people since the establishment. … It’s really beautiful to have these ruins in this beautiful valley. There are the standing walls of the old structures that give a glimpse into a time that is now passed. Visitors can learn the story of the Jemez people and see a bit of it with their own eyes.”
Barbour says that in recent years, the site has gotten anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 people, and that’s why entry is timed.
“By letting in little bits of people, it can ease the tendency to see overcrowding,” he says. “We do this so that you’re not stepping over anyone. We try to make it so people have a sense of place.”
Barbour says there is an admission fee because the event is a fundraiser for New Mexico Historic Sites.
“This means we can have some money for exhibits and for ruin preservation,” he says. “It also pays for and helps us run our other events.”
More information can be found at nmhistoricsites.org.