Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 26
Mission docents enact the past for 'Purisima People's Day'
BY JOE PAYNE
Hardly anyone in our society is walking around in clothes they sewed together with fabric they wove, from wool they sheared from sheep they raised. Automation has brought much convenience to our lives, yet many have forgotten just how things were done for the majority of human history.
The La Purisima Mission State Park is a regular venue for informational events and programs about California mission history, as well as local indigenous history. One program, especially, “Purisima People’s Day,” highlights how life was lived way back in 1822, with the help of the mission’s volunteer docents, who portray the people from long ago and what they did.
“People’s Day is really my favorite program,” La Purisima docent Terry Thompson said. “I really enjoy it because it takes you back in time and it’s first-person interpretation.”
Thompson—who has volunteered at La Purisima since 1990—explained that the first-person interpretation aspect of “People’s Day” sets it apart from all the other historical events held at the mission.
“First-person interpretation is where you tell people, ‘I do this’ rather than, ‘they did this,’” she said. “If you are good, you are pulling them into that time period so they are living that history with you, and hopefully that will open their eyes to another way of life.”
La Purisima docents will be showcasing many of the talents that mission-era people needed to simply survive, such as cooking over a fire, churning butter, or stomping grapes for wine. The activities will include a grape-stomping barrel for members of the community to take part in the traditional winemaking process.
“With this event, we are celebrating the grape harvest,” Thompson said. “We let the people see how it feels to stomp grapes and have grapes between their toes.”
Thompson also explained that, unlike other California missions, La Purisima actually looks like it did in the 19th century—if you don’t count the parking lot.
“Most of the missions today have been engulfed by the cities around them,” she said, “but La Purisima gives you a wonderful glimpse back.”
“Purisima People’s Day” is a perfect family event, especially for young children, Thompson said. Just exhibiting how simple things like string or rope are made has an impact on youngsters and parents alike, she said.
“What I do is I … [make] a little bracelet for them to take, and I twist a piece of yarn and twist it, and their eyes light up like I’m doing magic,” she said. “I’ve had people just gasp because they are amazed at the things that we do that are relatively simple.”
Another great aspect of the event is that it connects people with their environment and all the possibilities that come with it, Thompson explained.
“People have sort of lost touch today with their environment, I think,” she said. “It makes them realize that in those days you had to pick crops when they were ready, you had to actually know what was going on around you and utilize the environment.”
Arts Editor Joe Payne likes to be aware of his environment. Contact him at email@example.com.