When you live in a desert, a river truly is a fount of life. My people, the native ethnic Mayos and Yaquis know that very well.
Navojoa Pueblo Viejo, where my dad’s part of the family comes from, has as their patron Saint John the Baptist.
Is unclear if the Jesuits or the Franciscans brought him to our people. However, we know that his veneration goes back to the 1800’s.
It is traditional to start a pilgrimage from the Church of San Juan on May 1st.
During the day the pilgrims travel through the desert and towns, and sleep under the stars in someone’s property. The people that hosts St. John and his pilgrims provide them with dinner, drinks, and a hearty breakfast the next day, so they can continue with the pilgrimage throughout the region. (Yes, in 100+ degree weather).
My father’s family has hosted St. John and his pilgrims for at least 60 years every May 4th. Regardless of how many hundred’s or pilgrims show up, there has always been more than enough food and drinks for everyone that comes over.
Prayers and traditional dances happen throughout the night, and a shower of blessings come from everyone that has spent the night with us. The main elder, titled Pascola, heads the procession to the next township, and they go on and on until June 24th. Where they take St. John into the Mayo River, and recall the time when he baptized our Lord Jesus.
Then everyone jumps into the river, and thank God for all His blessings. From there they head to the Church where the pilgrimage started 55 days before for thanksgiving Mass, and a party afterwards.
Monsoon is considered to start on June 24th, and rain on this day is seen as a good sign from God. That the crops will be plenty, and the cattle fat.
These traditions might look very different and distant in time and space from our society. The Mayos, and the Yaquis are very resilient tribes. Maybe that is what happens with you live in an inhospitable desert.
They offer their discomfort in the heat, pleading God through the intercession of St. John the Baptist for plentiful rain during the monsoon. So all the peoples can benefit from it.
They also resisted the anti-Catholic government in the early 1900’s. To the point of exile from the state. Many of them walked back thousands of miles back to their land after they freed themselves from slavery in the southern states.
The veneration of St. John the Baptist has pointed the people of the south of Sonora towards the reverence of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And has helped them bear any sufferings and persecution all through time and circumstances.
St. John the Baptist, like you, help us overcome physical discomfort, stand for what is right, and point us towards Jesus!