This Mother’s Day, Honor Her with Color and Music at the HMNS Processional of Guadalupanas

by Ruth Cañas

Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.

The modern American holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, W.V. Following her mother’s death in 1905, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. Her mother had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers.

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day as a national holiday to honor mothers, held on the second Sunday in May. This year, Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 8.

CEREMONIAL CUSTOMS

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Courtesy Niall Crotty

While Mother’s Day is celebrated throughout the world, traditions vary depending on the country. In Ethiopia, families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood. Thailand celebrates Mother’s Day in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit. In the United States, Mother’s Day continues to be celebrated by presenting flowers, cards and other gifts. Mexico celebrates Mother’s Day on May 10. Flowers are a must, and the day is also filled with music, food, celebrations, and often a morning serenade of the song “Las Mañanitas” from mariachi singers.

THE MOTHER OF MEXICO, EMPRESS OF THE AMERICAS

“Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.”

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Wikimedia

In 1531, Mary appeared to San Juan Diego, a humble indigenous farmer and laborer, at Tepeyac near modern-day Mexico City and asked him to build a church in her honor at the top of Tepeyac Hill, the site of a former Aztec temple dedicated to the goddess Tonantzin. She miraculously left her image on his tilma (a type of cloak), which he presented to the Spanish archbishop as proof of her request which is still on display at the Basílica de Guadalupe, one of the most-visited shrines in the world. Since then, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been a symbol of faith, unity and mercy for people all over the world.

COMMEMORATING MOTHERS

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Courtesy Michele Whisenhunt

Sunday, May 8, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is celebrating Mother’s Day and honoring the Virgen of Guadalupe with a special evening Guadalupan procession with the Our Lady of Guadalupe Association Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. As president, Pablo Guzmán was instrumental in creating an event that is bound to delight audiences of all ages. One of the most fascinating aspects of the Guadalupan procession is the cross-cultural mix of pagan and religious influences featuring elements that demonstrate the great love and devotion for the Empress of the Americas.

Joyous music including everything from mariachis to drummers to singing groups dressed in white and brass bands.

Bearers of bannersicons, treasure, homemade art, statues and other eye-catching items.

Scents provided by flower bearers, censers of incense, and roses.

Skilled performers, such as indigenous dancers known as matachines, marchers, and folk dancers.

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Courtesy Michele Whisenhunt

Special costumes of revelers dressed in Aztec regalia, adorned with feather headdresses and rattles on their ankles, carrying drums or feather shields. Girls dressed to imitate the Virgin of Guadalupe, many wearing red and green attire to resemble the flag of Mexico where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego.

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Courtesy Michele Whisenhunt

We hope you will join us in honoring motherhood with a spectacular experience! Click here to buy your tickets or call 713.639.4629.

FURTHER READING:

History of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day Celebrations Around the World

Our Lady of Guadalupe

San Juan Diego

Words Spoken by Mary at Guadalupe

Editor’s Note: Ruth is Program Manager in the Adult Education department of the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

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Seeing Stars with James Wooten: Exciting Rare Mercury Transit Next Monday!

May Starmap

Jupiter is now high in the south at dusk. It outshines all stars we ever see at night, so you can’t miss it.

Mars and Saturn become late evening objects this month. Tonight, May 2, Mars rises in the southeast at 9:48 p.m. while Saturn comes up soon afterwards, at 10:24 p.m. By May 15, though, both planets rise during twilight, and on Memorial Day both are in the southeastern sky as soon as it gets dark. Mars and Saturn are still above the distinctive pattern of Scorpius, the scorpion. As you watch them rise, Mars is to the upper right and is much brighter.

In fact, this month, Mars outshines all of the stars and even rivals Jupiter in brightness! That’s because on May 22, Earth passes between the Sun and Mars. That alignment is called ‘opposition’ because it puts Mars opposite the Sun in our sky, making Mars visible literally all night long. It also makes Mars much brighter than normal in the sky, since we’re as close to it as we’ll ever get until Earth overtakes Mars again in 2018. Saturn comes to opposition June 3.

Venus is lost in the Sun’s glare and out of sight all month.

A swath of brilliant winter stars sets in the west at dusk. Orion, the Hunter, is still visible in the west as May begins. His two dogs, represented by Sirius and Procyon, are to his left.  Gemini, the Twins, are above Orion. The Big Dipper is above the North Star, with its handle pointing to the right. From that handle, you can ‘arc to Arcturus’ and then ‘speed on to Spica’; those stars are high in the east and in the south, respectively, at dusk. Leo, the Lion, passes almost overhead at dusk.

As Orion and his dogs set, look for Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius, the Scorpion, to rise in the southeast. Saturn and Mars will rise with the Scorpion’s head, above Antares. At the same time, Vega, brightest star of the Summer Triangle, appears low in the northeast. These stars remind us that summer is on the way.

Moon Phases

Moon Phases in May 2016:

New: May 6, 2:30 p.m.

First Quarter: May 13, 12:02 p.m.

Full: May 21, 4:14 p.m.

Last Quarter: May 29, 7:12 a.m.

Mercury Transit:

On Monday, May 9, 2016, Mercury overtakes Earth on its much faster orbit. This time, though, when Mercury passes Earth, the alignment is almost exact, such that Mercury appears in silhouette against the sun’s disk. This event is known as a transit of Mercury. Keep in mind that the planets are almost, but not exactly, in the same plane. Indeed, Mercury’s orbit is the most inclined — tilted up to 7 degrees from Earth’s orbital plane. That’s why Mercury does not usually transit the sun when it overtakes Earth. Monday’s event is therefore rare and special, occurring only 14 times in the 21st century (the next one occurs Nov. 11, 2019).

Transit_of_Mercury_May_9_2016_path_across_sun

Thus, weather permitting, the Houston Museum of Natural Science has arranged for volunteers from local astronomy clubs to set up solar telescopes outside our museum’s main entrance, near the sundial, to show you the transit. Mercury, already in the sun’s disk by sunrise in Houston, takes until 1:42 p.m. to cross to the other side of the sun’s disk. If skies cooperate, we’ll observe the transit from 10 a.m. until 1:42 p.m. on Monday, May 9. If there are sunspots on the sun’s disk while Mercury is there, Mercury will stand out because its disk is fully round and because Mercury moves noticeably across the sun’s disk during the hours we’re watching.

We will observe the sun (and Mercury in silhouette) through telescopes with filters especially designed to filter the sun safely, and by projecting the sun’s image onto a screen. These are the only two ways to observe the Sun safely. Please do not try to observe the sun directly or through an unfiltered telescope, as this will lead to permanent eye damage or blindness. Our common sense tells us this because we always avert our eyes when we accidentally turn towards the Sun. When something cool happens on the sun, some of us try to override our common sense, and there is no reason to do so. Come observe safely with us.

On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory, you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer. As of now, George is closed which Brazos Bend State Park dries out from last month’s floods, and is scheduled to reopen May 10. If you’re there, listen for my announcement. 

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Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 5/2-5/8

Last week’s featured #HMNSBlockParty creation is by Dylan (age: 9):

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Want to get your engineering handwork featured? Drop by our Block Party interactive play area and try your own hand building a gravity-defying masterpiece. Tag your photos with #HMNSBlockParty.

Cultural Feast – Amazonian Culinary Adventure
Wednesday, May 4
7:00 p.m.
During the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese explorers searching for gold and other valuable commodities in the Amazon often suffered from food shortages. They had little or no interest in the exotic flora on which the native population thrived. With more scientific exploration by scholars beginning in the 18th century, the value of many of the native Amazonian plants and trees was soon recognized, as reflected in their impact on industry, medicine and cuisine. Chef David Cordúa will create innovative dishes featuring ingredients native to the Amazon, while culinary historian Merrianne Timko places the edible Amazon in historical context.

Cabinet of Curiosities opens Friday, May 6
As an homage to its own history, the Houston Museum of Natural Science will be presenting an interpretation of the cabinet of curiosity. Visitors will have the unique opportunity to peruse various objects of curiosity and wonder, up close and in a personal way.

Class – Virgen de Guadalupe Procession
Sunday, May 8
6:30 p.m.
The vibrant troupes of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Association will perform a special Mother’s Day procession in honor of the Holy Mother with music, dancing, elaborate costumes and Aztec feather headdresses. Live commentary will describe the symbolism unique to each troupe and traditions of Guadalupana processions.

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Under a Gold Blanket: Discovery Guide Tours Famed Mine in Minas Gerais

by “Cretaceous” Chris Wells

The City of Ouro Preto, “Black Gold”. It was the largest City in Latin America for a while in the 18th Century, during the Brazilian gold rush. Today the city is famous around the World for it’s preserved, Baroque Architecture.

The city of Ouro Preto, “Black Gold.” It was the largest City in Latin America in the 18th century during the Brazilian gold rush. Today the city is famous around the world for its preserved Baroque architecture.

Brazil is a beautiful country, but not in the same way as the Florida Keys, Hawaii, or Aspen. Everywhere in Brazil you have a wonderful dichotomy between the grotesque and the graceful. The entire country is like an impressionist painting — up close you see sloppiness and imperfection, but if you stand back, all of the colors and textures come together to create a stunning portrait, a portrait based in reality, not contrived. Throughout my July 2015 trip through the state of Minas Gerais, in the mountainous interior of Brazil, I had been awed by the natural beauty of the country, and also with the artificial splendors. I was always amazed by what people who have so little can create with what they do have.

The scenic train ride to the city of Mariana, where the mine museum was. Minas Gerais is famed in Brazil for its natural beauty

The scenic train ride to the city of Mariana, where the mine museum was. Minas Gerais is famed in Brazil for its natural beauty.

I was basking in the adrenaline and the charm of exotic travel, but the grotesque crept back into my perception as I sat in a rickety old mine car, suspended above the mouth of a mineshaft on a track with a forty-five degree slope. The rusted mining equipment and dilapidated offices and supply sheds had blended nicely with the mountainside when I first viewed them from across the valley during the train ride over, but up close it was less than dazzling. The only thing keeping us from sliding hundreds of feet into the earth was a steel cable hooked up to a winch probably as old as my grandfather. There were no seat belts in the cart, and the angle of the tracks was so steep, I had to press my feet against the seat in front of me to keep from sliding off. There were no other people visiting the mine — it was only Fernanda and I — and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a sinister reason for that emptiness. I was a bit nervous as the little old lady manning the craft announced in Portuguese that we were about to descend, but then the buttons were pressed, the car slipped slowly and smoothly into the darkness and it wasn’t that bad.

he entrance to the mine. Until only a couple decades ago, miners would make this descent every day.

he entrance to the mine. Until only a couple decades ago, miners would make this descent every day.

The trip down was noisy. The wheels of the cart screeched against the steel tracks, and every once in a while the cart would jump on a connection between two rails and snap back down loudly. The sound would bounce off the solid stone walls around us and pound our eardrums. The shaft was dark. Lamps, bare bulbs budding from a ragged wire that crept like a vine along the walls of the shaft, emitted a honey-colored glow that lent the place a very intimidating and volcanic atmosphere. But it was actually quite cool down there. The earth insulated us from the sun up top; we were no longer subject the conditions on the surface.

Our descent into the earth, in a simple old cart that used to ferry the miners down to their work.

Our descent into the Earth in a simple old cart that used to ferry the miners down to their work.

Beside us, embedded in the rock walls of the mine, ran a sliver of milky white quartz. The shaft followed it until we reached the bottom of the mine. At the bottom, the path flattened out and the rails ended. Men were laboring with shovels, loading rocks into a pile for transport back to the surface. The mine was not active anymore; these were simply employees of the museum that owned the mine clearing debris for the safety of the guests. Their store-bought, not-too-dirty clothes belied their fortunate position as men who did not permanently work in a mine. Still, they looked tired and unhappy, and generally ignored our presence, which I don’t blame them for. I have often said that I can do physical labor or customer service, but not both.

Milky-white bands of quatz running through the stone walls of the mine.

Milky-white bands of quartz running through the stone walls of the mine.

The vein of quartz that we had followed down was thicker at the bottom of the shaft.  Here it became apparent that it was not just a small sliver of quartz we had seen, but a thin cross-section of an entire layer blanketing the Earth for who knows how far in every direction. Originally, it would have formed as a flat layer, but like a massive, restless sleeper, the Earth had shrugged its silvery blanket during bouts of tectonic activity. The quartz layer had been folded into the Earth’s crust, resulting in a slumped, angled descent beneath the surface. This is why the mine goes so deep. It follows the descent of the quartz vein. The Portuguese had mined near the surface in the 18th century, but with their limited technology, they didn’t go very deep. The shaft we visited was dug much more recently.

Bands of quartz, along with other minerals, lined the walls.

Bands of quartz, along with other minerals, lined the walls.

The mine wasn’t a quartz mine. The reason this vein was so important is that very often gold is found in quartz. Down in the mine, we could see no gold, but it was there, trapped in the quartz. The mining companies had cleared the shafts with explosives, creating a maze of passages spreading in all directions. To keep these shafts from collapsing under the millions of tons of sediment above, they left columns of rock standing, like pillars in an Egyptian temple, throughout the galleries. Like the walls of the mine, these pillars had diagonal layers, alternating between rock and quartz, like a layered cake. In these columns, quartz and gold still rested, impossible to get to without collapsing the mine.

At the Bottom of the mine, passages like this one meandered in every direction. There were some passages that went deeper, but those had been flooded.

At the bottom of the mine, passages like this one meandered in every direction. There were some passages that went deeper, but those had been flooded.

And although the gold itself was invisible, pyrite (fool’s gold) was everywhere, so in places the mine shafts really did look like they were covered in gold. There were also tourmaline and garnet, a menagerie of natural splendor, though none of them were of gem quality. The good stuff would have been plucked out and sold. Museums around the world buy specimens from Minas, even our museum. A notable portion of the pieces in our Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals came from the region. Our hall is what inspired me to travel there in the first place. Our great collection of gold does not come from Minas, but like the mine I visited, our gold was found in quartz veins. We have a wonderful, natural gold “sculpture” called “the dragon,” a sliver of gold that actually looks like a rearing reptile with spread wings. We have other pieces of gold in all sorts of abstract, contorted shapes as well. Since gold doesn’t grow (unfortunately), the way it acquires these weird forms is by being trapped in quartz. As the quartz grows, it manipulates the gold inside into all sorts of interesting shapes. So originally our gold was trapped in quartz crystals, and was extracted by dissolving the quartz in a mild acid that does not harm the gold. A similar process is used to extract gold from quartz in mines like the one I visited.

My girlfriend and I.

Fernanda and I, overlooking the valley.

Editor’s Note: “Cretaceous” Chris is a Discovery Guide for the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

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