The ruins of Giusewa Pueblo and San José de los Jemez Mission shine bright during the holiday season.
Jemez Historic Site hosts its annual Light Among The Ruins on Friday, Dec. 9, and Saturday, Dec. 10. Visitors are welcome back to the event in-person for the first time since 2019, though it has been streamed virtually between then and now.
“It’s a nice night for people to enjoy,” said Marlon Magdalena, instructional coordinator for Jemez Historic Site. “Many people that come have never been here before and want to see what it’s all about.”
Light Among The Ruins features between 1,000 and 1,500 farolitos – also known as luminarias depending on where a person is from. The lanterns decorate the ruins that spread across the historic site. They line the trails, the walls of the village and the old church.
Magdalena said the beauty of the night inspires visitors to return to the pueblo.
“Sometimes they’ll come later on to visit during the day to see what they saw at night,” he said.
Since Magdalena began helping out with the event in 2005, he said it has grown with the help of pueblo marketing and the state’s promotion of the event.
“It just pretty much exploded,” he said regarding attendance. “From a couple hundred, our most was probably 1,000, and after that, one of those years went up to 3,000 to 5,000. So it got really big.”
Magdalena can’t quite estimate how many attendees will come to this year’s installment of the event, especially now that people are once again permitted to visit the historic site. However, no matter the size of the event, the significance and tradition remains.
“We still want to keep the same atmosphere because it is a nice walk during the night seeing all the farolitos lit on the walls and the church and the bonfires,” Magdalena said.
The event will offer more than just the beautiful lights. Both evenings will be full of activity. Traditional Native American flute music will be played and Jemez Pueblo dancers are set to perform between two bonfires set up in front of the church. Magdalena said Cochiti Pueblo dancers will also be included in the ensemble this year.
Organizers have rented a building across the street that will house local arts and crafts vendors, mostly spotlighting Native American art. Food vendors will also have local fare available for purchase.
In addition, both nights will feature contemporary music. Fred Vigil will play on Friday night, and Americana and folk singer Adrian Wall, who is also a sculptor, will play Saturday night. Both musicians are from Jemez Pueblo.
Visitors are asked to dress accordingly for cold weather and to enjoy Light Among the Ruins in its purity. Flash photography, drones, firearms and alcohol are prohibited. Also, if visitors would rather walk to and from the event from a parking station – though there are shuttles available – it is encouraged to bring a flashlight and wear reflective clothing.
The goal isn’t just to draw visitors to the pueblo for a weekend, it’s to promote Native American culture as a whole, and hopefully educate people who are unfamiliar with Native American traditions, history, art and music.
“That’s kind of what we wanted to achieve is to expose more people to what’s here, and not just the event,” Magdalena said. “But the event helps get the word out about what’s here as well, too.”