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Desert Diary


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Inns throughout the Southwest and into Mexico often bear the name "La Posada", which means, reasonably enough, inn, shelter, or home. In much of the Southwest and Mexico, though, it has a further meaning—a time of friendship, family, festivity, wrapped together with religious meaning. In the gospel of Luke, Mary and Joseph are required to travel to Bethlehem to be counted. The inns of that crowded village are filled and, as the story is told today, the couple is turned aside time and again until they finally are allowed in to an inn's stable.

In one version of the festive posada, family and neighbors, carrying candles and miniatures of Joseph and of Mary, will go to three houses, asking for shelter. The first two (arranged beforehand, of course) will turn them away, but at the third house, the hosts (the "inn keepers") will welcome the peregrinos (the pilgrims seeking shelter). First, the ceremony at the nativity scene, and then the festivities.

Each night, a different host, and ties of friendship within the neighborhood are knotted ever more firmly.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.