November 8, 2023 552 PM
RUIDOSA –– Piping hot tamales, matachines dancers, inspiring art and rocking music are ready to greet visitors to the Third Annual Friends of the Ruidosa Church Community Day on November 11, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Most important, however, will be a celebration of the significant work the nonprofit has done to restore the adobe’s right bell tower, which had long been in danger of collapse.
The Ruidosa Church (El Corazon Sagrado de la Iglesia de Jesus) is a striking, historic adobe structure that sits along one of the most remote stretches of the border between Far West Texas and Mexico. Its adobe brick arches –– widely thought to be the largest in the state of Texas –– frame a view of the Rio Grande riparian zone running through the Chihuahuan Desert. For most of the year, the border hamlet of Ruidosa is quiet. Only a handful of inhabitants now live in the area after the Rio Grande was diverted in the 1950s. When the water left, so did the families whose descendants are now scattered across Texas and beyond.
Friends of the Ruidosa Church, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring and preserving this far-flung sacred space, was given the deed to the Catholic Church after a papal appeal in Rome in 2018. Beyond a faithful historic restoration, the nonprofit is also focused on restoring the church’s status as an active cultural space –– despite (but also because of) its remoteness.
Each year, 150-200 people make the journey to Ruidosa for the event, some from half a day’s drive away. An estimated half of the visitors have family heritage connected to Ruidosa and many contribute oral histories recounting memories of the church and life on the border.
Building on the success of previous years, Friends of the Ruidosa Church is celebrating a significant milestone this year — the right bell tower restoration. To symbolize the progress, the organization is returning the church’s original bell to Ruidosa and incorporating it into this year’s large scale art installation, featuring a painting by San Antonio artist Matt Kleberg. Along with the bell, the Matachines de Santa Teresa dancers from the town of Presidio, Texas, will return to perform in the church. The matachines tradition combines 17th century Spanish dance forms, brought to the Americas by colonists, with Aztec influences from Mexico, including elaborate feathered headdresses, costumes and puppets. The dance has religious associations and is often practiced to venerate Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Presidio High School students led by architecture instructor Rafael Muniz from Ojinaga and Presidio will also be contributing to this year’s art piece. Local Marfa institution Primo y Beebe will perform in the afternoon followed by an intimate performance at sunset by Fared Shafinury, a Persian sitar player who recorded several albums a few miles away from Ruidosa Church.
Ruidosa Church Community Day will be held on November 11, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., in Ruidosa, Texas, about 37 miles north of Presidio on FM 170.