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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Festival Offers a Taste of Apache Tradition

LAS CRUCES -- Sounds, sights and tastes of authentic Apache rites that predate the arrival of European settlers will be part of the 12th Annual Mescal Roast and Mountain Spirit Dances. The festival will be held May 14-17 at the Living Desert State Park in Carlsbad.


"The mescal roast celebrates an ancient tradition among the Mescaleros by cooking and then eating the white, bulbous mescal hearts after they've been cut from mescal plants," said Mike Cook, technical writer with New Mexico State University's Rural Economic Development Through Tourism (REDTT) project. "The mescal plants, also known as agave or century plants, are cooked in an underground pit for four days."

REDTT, which is part of NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service, promotes tourism through agriculture, he said.

The festival will include a feast, mountain spirit dances, displays of Mescalero Apache and native Chihuahuan desert art and a drawing for a buffalo robe.

"Apaches of the Chihuahuan Desert were so dependent on the mescal plant that when the Spanish arrived 400 years ago, they named the Indians Mescaleros or mescal makers'," Cook said.

The Apaches have the mescal roast each year to help promote a better understanding of their traditions, he said. "Their mescal roasting pits are among the most significant and best known archaeological sites in the area."

The cost for daytime activities is $3 for adults, $1 for children ages 7-13 and free for children under 6. Tickets for evening activities, which include dinner and all dances, are $12. Seating is limited to 500 people.

For more information about the festival, call the Living Desert State Park at (505) 887-5516.