(Paper presented at the AMS-SW Regional Meeting, October 2010, TTU, Lubbock, TX )
After settling in
Mexico in the sixteenth century, the Spanish began to expand northward, to what is now New Mexico. As part of the colonializing process, the Spaniards worked to convert the natives to Christianity. In this capacity they encountered a group of people who had their own sacred rites and traditions. Even so, by the early eighteenth century, after the Reconquest, the indigenous people had been convinced to lead Christian lives. Part of this new lifestyle included sacred music.
My goal is to demonstrate that some of the earlier traditions of the converted native New Mexicans and the descendants of Spanish colonists are still alive in the sacred music known today as the cánticos, himnos, and alabanzas and are found in religious folk plays and Nativity songs. The musical tradition includes sacred songs and poetry, versos, pastorelas, and romanceros from the seventeenth century to the present day, including modern popular songs with religious texts.
Tracing the tradition of Spanish Catholic music from the seventeenth century to today is aided by the documented paper trail left the by Franciscans, and also by the way the Spanish-speaking New Mexicans have adhered to the original Spanish influence in creating music and poetry. The old Spanish musical forms and poems are still in use and the new music and poetry are based on the original models from the seventeenth century. Today we can hear traditional ballads from the
Iberian Peninsula performed by both Spanish-speaking New Mexicans and Pueblo Indians of the Rio Grande valley. The Spanish Catholic music tradition has experienced minimal change in over 400 years; subsequent generations reflect the prevailing performance practices (from acoustic to amplified instruments and voices), but it is still a culture dominated by seventeenth-century Spain.