By Helena Rodriguez
As a child, I remember summers at the North Portales Community Center, weaving bright strands of yarn around the frame of two crisscrossed popsicle sticks, forming a woven diamond called “Ojos de Dios.” Eyes of God.
As an adult, I’ve taken up another cultural craft: stringing colorful beads together, by the decades, to form prayer links known as rosaries. I’ve been attending classes on how to make mission rosaries, which are sent by the boxfuls overseas to military personnel and missions around the globe.
Once a month, a group of ladies and I get together to make rosaries. Over sweets and sodas, and testimonies — some women testify to smelling roses (the flower of Our Blessed Mother Mary, a.k.a. Our Lady of Guadalupe) while making rosaries.
According to historical accounts of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Mexico City, in Tepeyac in 1531, Castilian roses, only found in Spain, unexplainably appeared in the frigid conditions of winter on that hill.
We ladies chat and “chismear” as we tie knots to separate the Hail Marys from the Our Father beads as the colored plastic ovals slowly form chains of what I call “Biblical beads.”
This is a sharp contrast from the stereotypical images of rosaries that conjure up at the back of my mind. I picture my Grandma Chaya, or Grandma Emma, with nimble fingers and moving lips as they sit in the front pew at church, fingers rolling over each beaded prayer and mouths curving softly with each monotonous “Ave Maria,” as monotonous as the venial sins that often escape our memory.
Sometimes I picture one of my great-grandmothers, with heavy drapes of wrinkles on their fingers, their small figures weighed down by the weight of the wool rebozos sheltering them from the cold world.
And then I picture the crystal clear beads linked together on a silk chain, joined at the center with a Virgin Mary medallion and a crucifix hanging at the tip, the set of Biblical beads I placed in Uncle Nacho’s stiff hands that were folded in prayer during the rosary on the night before he was buried.
My prayers united with his.
October is the month of the rosary. To some people, rosaries are a symbol of sadness. To others, they represent the jewelry of a pop culture. To me, rosaries are not mere symbols of tradition. They are beads of light that project into the heavens, telling the story of our past, present and future.
Helena Rodriguez is a Portales native. Contact her at: Helena-Rodriguez@hotmail.com