Alamo brings community together for Indian Days
By Colleen Keane Special to the Times
ALAMO, N.M., Oct. 17, 2013
(Special to the Times – Colleen Keane)
As far as neighbors and relatives are concerned, no matter how long it takes to get to the Alamo Navajo community for Alamo Indian Days, the trip is well worth it.
"It's pretty isolated; in the middle of nowhere," Ray Yazzie said as he watched the Saturday morning parade that began at the Alamo rodeo grounds and ended at the Alamo Indian Day park near the Alamo Navajo community school.
From Albuquerque, it takes about two-and-a-half hours driving south on Interstate 25, west through Magdalena and then north for about thirty miles on an uphill, windy road.
From Ramah, Yazzie said it could take just as long, if not longer.
But, he took a short cut.
"It's a dirt road off of Interstate 40," he said.
Yazzie, an emergency firefighter who lives in the Ramah Navajo community, said that he brought his family to Indian Days to visit his great grandmother, 89-year-old Ellen Apachito.
Yazzie said that Alamo may be remote, but he likes it that way.
"It's peaceful. It's great to see the stars at night," he said.
During the 33rd annual Indian Days parade last Saturday, about 46 floats trekked slowly down the one paved road in Alamo for about a mile carrying children from the local head start program, elders, health clinic staff and contestants for Miss Alamo and Mr. and Mrs. Elderly, along with royalty from To'Hajiilee, Zuni, Ramah, UNM, and the reigning Miss Magdalena from the neighboring town.
All the while, the Cha' Bii' Tu Apache Crown dancers walked along side of them and Miss Rodeo Queen and the Socorro Sherriff's department officers rode their horses, while other floats brought attention to breast cancer awareness and veterans' causes.
Gilbert Anaya from Socorro said that Alamo Indian Days is one way that the Alamo Navajo people show that they are good neighbors.
Socorro is located about an hour drive time away from Alamo.
"They are great people. They do a lot for our community. They have always treated me very well," he said.
Anaya, a New Mexico Activity Association certified official, noted that he referees volleyball, basketball and football games for the Alamo Community School.
"Some of the kids here call me uncle or grandpa," he said as Alamo Community School student Zach Abeyta walked by carrying plates for a family food booth. "He's a good ref," Abeyta said.
According to one estimate, more than a couple thousand people attended the three-day event that began on Friday and ran through Sunday.
The event included performances by Apache Crown dancers, a horse race, horse shoe and chainsaw contests, a traditional song and dance, gospel singing, the Miss Alamo and Mr. and Mrs. Elderly pageants.
And for kids, there was a candy throw, face painting, a fun walk and run and educational booths.
Sarah Apache, station manager for Alamo's community radio station KABR, dressed in a long, red skirt with a silver Concho belt and wearing a squash blossom necklace, said that Indian Days attracted friends and relatives from as far away as Kansas.
Holding her 4-year-old daughter's hand, Apache said that KABR, which carries two FM channels that broadcast to surrounding communities, is another way that Alamo shows that it is a good neighbor.
"We help bring out people. We were announcing the event," she said adding that KABR regularly announces regional events in Navajo and English and provides news updates on topics important to families like health and education.
And, for people who want to learn the Diné language, Apache noted that KABR announcer Ruby Herrera produces the Diné Language Show.
"You see all of your relatives here. My cousins from Kansas are here. It's like family. It's a good chance to catch up," she said.
Bringing his family with him, Mark Apachito, who attended the Alamo Navajo Community School, and now lives in Mescalero, N.M. with his family, said that he is always welcomed back to Alamo with open arms.
"It is a treat for us. I come here and it's like I'm a celebrity," he commented with a smile.
Kim Nance, from the nearby Field Ranch, parked her truck by the side of the road to watch the Saturday morning parade along with dozens of others.
She was there with her two young children, Virginia and Jim.
"The turnout is amazing," she said.
Nance said that her husband's family, who has lived in the area for more than 25 years, provides horses to the parade for the Socorro County Sheriff's Department.
"I'm looking forward to watching the horse race on Sunday up the Rio Salado, too," she added.
Alamo Indian Days does something else for the community.
It brought together youth leaders from several tribal communities.
Miss To'Hajiilee, Miss Ramah, Miss Zuni, Miss Native UNM, the Rodeo Queen, and former Miss Alamos rode in the morning parade and were on hand to give their support to the 2013 Miss Alamo contestants who included Stephanita Apachito, Shyla Vicente and Nannette Ganadonegro, who presented themselves in traditional dress.
April Lupe, Miss Alamo 2010-2011, said that as Miss Alamo she was required to care about community and family.
"I have to help the community and the elders and have a lot of respect for culture and language," she explained.
She said that the biggest challenge Miss Alamo 2013 will have is developing new goals that will help the community.
The Miss Alamo 2013 contestants were required to answer several questions about community and culture in front of hundreds of people seated around the Indian Days shaded dance grounds.
After extensive deliberation, 16-year-old Ganadonegro won the title.
Vicente came in as 1st runner-up and Apachito as 2nd.
Manuel Guerro, the Master of Ceremony, told all of the young women they had great fortitude and they did a good job.
To take on the challenge of becoming Miss Alamo 2013, Ganadonegro told the judges that her platform would focus on youth and elders.
"I would encourage those who do drugs to stop and tell them they are hurting themselves and their families and that is not good for the elders or the children," she said.
Referee Anaya from Socorro said that's something for everyone to respect because Alamo people know what it means to be a good neighbor.
"If people haven't been here, they are missing great things!" he exclaimed.