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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.

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.

The Adventures of Archie the Traveling T. Rex: Big Bend National Park

by Charlotte Brohi

Well, it’s Archie reporting in….

After my visit to Paris, I thought it high time I went to a place closer to home that has fossil records of some of my friends in the dinosaur world. Can you guess where?

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So, I hunkered down in my suitcase for the short flight to Midland, Texas, my jumping-off point for my adventure to the Big Bend National Park. Don’t worry. I brought sun protection (a hat) and extra water because I was planning to hike as well as learn a few things.

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You are probably asking, “but Archie, why Big Bend?” To be honest, I was totally inspired to go WILD and visit a national park ever since I saw the new Giant Screen/IMAX film at HMNS called National Park Adventure 3D. That’s me in my 3D glasses below. Spoiler alert: this film showcases 13 of the famous parks and it has better music than what is on my playlist!

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Feeling adventurous, and having learned that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park system I just knew I HAD to go! How often do we get to celebrate a centennial? Do you know who is credited with this monumental feat? If you shouted to yourself, “President Teddy Roosevelt” then you would be correct! Sadly, he lost both his wife and mother on the same day but he credited his time in the wilderness as crucial to his emotional healing and thus inspired him to protect the wilderness. I LOVE being in the wild too, don’t you?

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Because I didn’t want to play favorites I also ventured to Big Bend State Park. You can’t tell from this photo, but Big Bend is considered moderate-altitude (between 5,000 and 6,000 feet). I still had to catch my breath and take it slow up the trail. Remember, altitude can negatively affect those who are older and can only use half of their appendages when walking… Like moí! See, I did learn something in Paris.

As I prepared for my hike, I took a look around and remembered that Big Bend has the youngest of all Texas dinosaurs, dating to the end of the Mesozoic, 66 million years ago! I am walking in the footsteps of greatness!

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The next day was pretty hot (100 degrees, to be precise) so I decided to stay cool in my traveling suitcase as I pondered the fact that more than 90 dinosaur species, nearly 100 plant species, and more than two dozen fish, frogs, salamanders, turtles, crocodiles, lizards, and even early mammals have been discovered here. But to most of us, it’s just so darn BEAUTIFUL!

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And because I’m a good steward of the environment, I didn’t pack anything extra to take home with me. It’s important to preserve all cultural and natural artifacts. So I only took photographs and left only footprints.

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Did you know that the Rio Grande River is the international boundary (1,000 miles) between Mexico and the United States, and the “big bend” follows more than 100 miles of that boundary? In fact, the park was named after the area, which has a large bend in the river. I love learning the origins of names. Just like my name, Tyrannosaurus Rex, which comes from Greek and Latin roots that mean “tyrant lizard king.” My friends just call me T. rex, though. Or Archie. It’s less intimidating.

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The Stars at Night are Big and Bright…

Once the sun went down, I gazed at more than 2,000 stars. Big Bend has the least light pollution of any other National Park in the lower 48 states. There’s even a song to celebrate its greatness. I also used this cool app called StarView to identify stars and planets in the night sky. Jupiter, one of the five bright planets, was indeed bright and beautiful!

I didn’t want to leave, so I promised myself I’d come back when it’s a little cooler. Shoot, I may even decide to head to the McDonald Observatory in Ft. Davis (which has nothing to do with burgers and fries). But until then, I’ll get my stargazing fix at the George Observatory in Brazos Bend State Park, another very cool place to see the stars and enjoy the natural beauty of the great state of Texas.

You can find Archie and the whole Adopt-a-Dino family in the HMNS Museum Store. Drop by and take one home!

Editor’s Note: Charlotte is the Vice President of Film Program and Distribution for the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Spectrum of Birthdays: HMNS Celebrates in Any Tradition!

by Rochelle Beckford and Karen Whitley

Birthdays are an event that is celebrated in nearly every culture around the world. Every culture has its own traditions. Some traditions are based on the standing of the family in the community, the gender of the child, the birth order, or religion. Here at the HMNS we have witnessed a variety of cultural birthday celebrations from all over the world. We have celebrated parties from over 35 different countries and even more cultures! Here are just a few:

Singing

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Arghya Banik, Flickr Creative Commons.

Singing Happy Birthday is a relatively new tradition in our world. While birthdays have been celebrated for well over a millennia (in fact, it was originally considered a pagan tradition!), the singing of happy birthday is less than a hundred years old. While the original song was originally written in English anonymously in 1911 and set to the tune of an American song, Good Morning to All, written for a Kindergarten class in 1893, the song has become immensely popular and has transcended borders. Some countries have translated the words into their own language while others have created their own version. Here at HMNS, we have had a lot of families sing the birthday song in English and then sing it again in the families’ native tongue. Happy Birthday has been sung in Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Swahili, Hebrew, Greek, French, Hindi, Polish, German and more! We have even sung it in ASL, or American Sign Language.

Did you know that the Happy Birthday song has been a hotbed for debate regarding its copyright? In 1935 the original publisher of Good Morning to All songbook was granted the copyright to the song (later bought out by Warner) and has held the copyright for 80 years! It wasn’t until last year during a lawsuit regarding its unlawful use in a documentary film that a federal judge declared the song public domain. So go ahead and sing away!

Cutting the Cake

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Melissa Wang, Flickr Creative Commons.

Unlike the birthday song that originated in American, the tradition of a birthday cake dates to the eastern hemisphere to early Roman times. Traditionally, the flat cakes sweetened with honey were only baked for the most important people, but by the mid-1880s a large population of the eastern hemisphere had adapted it for everyone. Of course birthday cakes have changed dramatically throughout the centuries, to where now it is hard to distinguish them from a wedding cake. In many cultures, including American, the cutting of the cake symbolizes good luck. The birthday person makes the first slice into a new birthday cake to physically signify the beginning of a new birth year.

At HMNS, we have also seen more traditions involving the cutting of the birthday cake. Many Indian families will either have the birthday child a piece, or even a few pieces, of cake and the family takes turn coming up and feeding the cake to him or her. Sometimes this is extended to only the child’s parents and grandparents, but occasionally we have seen extended family feed the birthday child as well. We have seen South American parties touch the birthday child’s shoulder and head following the singing and right before the cutting, or even pulling on the ear lobe of the birthday child for each year of their life.

Money

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Moyan Brenn, Flickr Creative Commons.

Now a days it is a very common practice to gift money or a gift card at a birthday party. Quite simply, for many people it is easier than dealing with the stress of picking out a present that the birthday recipient will like. No one wants to buy the dud present. However, there are cultural traditions regarding the gift or money that you may not even be aware of! Everyone has probably seen a person with money pinned to their shirt. If you are like me, you probably thought this was a pretty modern tradition that sprang out of nowhere. In fact, this is a tradition heavily rooted in the Cajun culture in New Orleans. From there, many link it back to West Africa and Nigeria. Like many traditions, this one has been adopted and can be seen being practiced by many people, not just a person of African descent.

Another tradition that is found in multiple cultures is the act of throwing money in the air as participants dance and sing. This is more oft than not seen at a wedding, however we have seen this adapted to birthday parties as well. The roots for this are widespread, with countries in Europe, Africa, South America, and North America all having their own take. In China, money is not thrown around but wrapped in red paper, the red symbolizing energy, happiness, and luck.

Food

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necopunch, Flickr Creative Commons.

Food can be a very important part of many families’ celebrations. At HMNS, we allow families to bring in their own food or have it delivered for birthday parties, so we are treated to a wide variety of cuisine from around the world. Some traditions we have seen are that families from the Philippines bring pancit, long noodles that signify long life. Indian families dine on dudh pakh, curry, and chutney. Korean families bring rice pudding for the entire party. Brazilian families create an elaborate dessert table for their guests to enjoy. The taste and the smells of the different foods add to the excitement of the day.

No matter what traditions that your family has for birthdays, we welcome them at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and look forward to celebrating your special day with you!

Editor’s note: Rochelle is the Birthday Party Coordinator and Karen is the Birthday Party Manager for the Houston Museum of Natural Science.