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Leslie Marmon Silko’s story “The Man to Send Rainclouds” looks at the difference between the spiritual cultures of Native Americans from New Mexico and Catholic Christians. Leon’s thoughts after the burial help show how these cultures differ.
When the old Indian Teofilo dies, the other Native American characters Leon, Ken, Louise and Teresa give him a traditional Indian burial. This clashes with the Catholic beliefs of the priest, Father Paul. The use of holy water demonstrates how they look differently at the burial process. The priest wants to use the holy water in conjunction with a proper Christian burial. The Indians, however, perceive its use differently: at one point Louise says that she wants the priest to sprinkle holy water on Teofilo’s body so “he won’t be thirsty.”
At the funeral, Father Paul sprinkles holy water on the body because he feels it will aid Teofilo in the afterlife in a Christian way. Leon, however, is grateful for the sprinkling because he believes it will enable Teofilo to help them, even though he is deceased:
. . . he was happy about the sprinkling of the holy water; now the old man could send them big thunderclouds for sure.
The theme of the story, that the two cultures cannot really understand each other spiritually, is demonstrated by Leon’s thoughts. Although he is friendly toward the priest, they do not worry about conforming to his version of spirituality.
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