It had been a long time dream for a group of Terlingua hoopers to take hula hoops to Casa Hogar, a children’s shelter in Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico. So when Cynta de Narvaez told us about Día de los Reyes, the celebration of the three wise men bearing gifts on the twelfth night of Christmas, our interest was piqued. She explained that in Mexico, traditionally, January 6th is the day the children open presents, and she encouraged us to bring hoops to their celebration.
Eight hoopers with 27 custom made hoops of all sizes pulled up to the orange building that is known as Casa Hogar, a house of shelter. As we walked through the door, we discovered a world of warmth and kindness. Thirty-six young people, half under the age of six, were dressed in costumes and were preparing for the pageant that tells the story of the Three Wise Men bringing presents to the newborn king. We were surrounded by farmers and angels and red-clad devils — a crew complete with Mary, Joseph and a peaceful baby Jesus. Eyes were on the hoops as we made our way to the community room where the stage was decorated and where many patrons, friends and family members had gathered.
Excitement mounted as the young actors performed their parts and concluded the pageant with singing and dancing including a unique rap version of “Little Drummer Boy.” After much applause, the performers gathered around a lovely 101-year-old lady who had watched the performance with true happiness. She is the esteemed Teda Neill, founder of the current version of Casa Hogar. Over the past twenty years, Teda, along with many supporters, transformed the shelter from a one-room run-down building to a colorful compound of dorm rooms, a computer/study room, playgrounds, and a fully-stocked kitchen. The smells from the kitchen announced the next activity, a traditional holiday banquet. Trays of tamales, chile rellenos and other delicacies appeared…food fit for a wise king.
The hoops had been waiting under a framed Frida Kahlo print, and the kids were ready. There was no demonstration needed as the kids took to the hoops like pros. A cold morning had turned into a beautiful afternoon, so we stepped outdoors for a hooping frenzy. The good nature of these children shone. They were sharing, helpful and very creative with the simple circles of pipe and glitter tape. If my poor Spanish skills failed, they found another way to communicate. And when it came time for the traditional cake, Rosca de Reyes, many of the kids declined, exclaiming, “No pastel: hoop!”
The immense patience of these children paid off when present opening was announced. Awaiting the kids were bags of presents donated by many of the churches in Alpine, Texas, and many generous locals. We took this time to say our farewells, and they started to hand the hoops back to us. “No, no,” we said, “the hoops are for you!” The looks of joy and thanks were quite overwhelming. Cynta had primed us, “Be prepared to be exhausted from all the hugging and love and good feeling. These kids are totally cool and the place is fantastic.” I couldn’t agree with her more and cannot wait until my next visit.
Our gratitude goes to Cynta for paving the path for our adventure. Many thanks to Casa Hogar directors Victoria Bannister, Silvia Fernández, and Petra Tucker, and the wonderful people at the orphanage for making us feel so welcome. Mucho appreciando to fellow hoopers and hoopmakers: Cindy Burns, Jim Craig, Jeff Haislip, Kimberly Kerschke, kt Misener, Ali Preece, Shawn Shields, Ceil Drucker, Bob Sutherland and Leo. Most of all, thanks to the kids for sharing their special day.
Casa Hogar Orphanage Inc (CHOI) is a 501 (c))(3) nonprofit corporation. You may mail monetary donations to: Casa Hogar Orphanage Inc. PO Box 840 Alpine TX 79831.
[Reprinted with permission from The Big Bend Gazette. Photos by Crystal Allbright.]