By Elías González Gómez
DAY ONE AT THE LAST UNIVERSAL MULTICULTURAL DIALOGUE (2012)
The Universal Multicultural Dialogue – an international interfaith festival – was launched in 2012 in Guadalajara, Mexico. As TIO reported last month, UMD II will be held this coming May 6-9. Elías González Gómez joined the Carpe Diem Foundation sponsoring the first UMD as soon as he heard about it. He has written an extended article about the experience. Excerpted below is his story of the 2012 festival’s opening day.
* * *
It was the second time I had visited the museum. Days earlier I had gone to see it, and felt a strange energy. Hours before the event got underway, the Museum of Archeology of Western Mexico needed cleansing. It seemed like an old tree that had witnessed much, far too much hatred and violence; there was a heaviness, an overwhelming gray atmosphere.
When I arrived, I ran into Manuel, my pragmatic meditation teacher, together with a marakame (spirit guide) and other people in a line, carrying out a cleansing ritual in the dark, old building. I joined them. If the energy I had felt was dark and old, when I opened channels to carry out the cleansing, a surge of feeling rose up in me: the place had been a seminary, and then a military headquarters.
Lord knows what went on in this space, but the energy was clear enough. It was Mexico in miniature: its wounds and sufferings were concentrated here, and that’s what I felt as we filed into the library and I saw an encyclopedia of the history of Mexico. The atmosphere was suffocating, I couldn’t breathe, and only the strength of all of us together could cleanse and heal something like that.
We finished the cleansing ritual. I put away my things (I had arrived in such a rush) and got to work. We began just a few minutes behind schedule. The drum beat intensely, vibrating through the walls of the timeworn museum. The heart of each of us began to beat in time, and the feeling spread that something big was at hand. Dancers from the ancient past, purifying the stage with divine, ancestral movements, their meaning lost and recovered generations before. Their feathers fluttered through space as we moved outdoors, under a tent.
Hundreds of people had gathered in response to the call for a change of consciousness – fewer than hoped but more than I expected. It was the right number. The sound of the drum ushered in the guests of honor – government officials, representatives of the Parliament of Religions with its headquarters in Chicago, and members of Carpe Diem Foundation walked up onto the stage one by one to take their places.
One of our indigenous sisters, of the Purepecha people, of universal blood and voice, spoke first. She gave permission, expressed her emotion and gratitude, on her own behalf and on behalf of the indigenous of this earth … she gave permission to gather here. And then a deluge of rain was on us. The tent where we gathered was of no use. Enormous hailstones tore through the plastic, and water flowed freely everywhere. People ran and shouted, and the volunteers jumped into action with a mix of frustration and rapid response as we set about controlling the people and saving the electronic equipment.
I spontaneously hugged a friend of mine and laughed, laughed for joy: this wasn’t “bad luck” or cause for frustration. It was the necessary purification. Our cleansing ritual had not been enough: Tláloc (the Aztec god of rain) himself had intervened to finish the purging of the premises. It was a beautiful spectacle, a display of humility in the midst of so much paraphernalia and superficiality with which we had surrounded ourselves. The message was that this event was to be simple, without so many flashing lights, without so many exterior things. The inauguration took place in an adjacent hall while a chorus of angel-like voices sang “En son de paz” (“In peace”) with all their strength, without microphones and without background music, just nature’s amplifiying an unmatched symphony of rain and hail.
The rain stopped – it hadn’t lasted long, just enough. It had not rained all week, but the impact of the words of our Purepecha sister and the Aztec dances made the clouds want to attend our event as well, and they came in for all they were worth. We let them sing and dance – who can say no to Pachamama? She gave us a lesson in humility, and once it was over, the purple shirts ran to dry off the chairs, one at a time.
The festival’s inauguration resumed in the main courtyard: children sang, young people sang, and at the end we moved our the chairs back, leaving the courtyard open. The Xipe Totec dancers, with whom I have had the privilege to dance, did the most beautiful prayer: the dance of Quetzalcóatl, the “feathered serpent” deity first celebrated more than 3000 years ago.
Many people had run from the museum when the rain came; nevertheless, the dance drew a crowd. We all took hands and shouted, “Eia eia a a a! Eia eia a a a!” Energy and ecstasy flowed through each one of the participants. We became a single feathered serpent dancing and flying over the Earth, purifying the building and the place where the event would truly take place, transforming the hearts of one and all.
Day one came to an end, but not for the volunteers. I went to sleep at Compostela, along with Robert – who sleeps two or three hours a day at most but has more energy than the Sun itself – and with Mickey, a new friend and companion in this adventure. The cleansing, the shouting and the rain had taken their toll on me, and my throat started giving me trouble. During the entire event, my throat was killing me – it burned intensely, and the congestion and coughing didn’t help matters. But that made no difference; or to be precise, it only served to heighten the experience.
The full text of Elías González Gómez’s story of the 2012 Universal Multicultural Dialogue is here.