North of the Borderby SARAH GERTRUDE KNOTT
Last September, I joined Clinton P. Anderson, managing director of the Centennial, and other members of the staff to arrange for a series of pageants and folk festivals from May on throughout the year. The special Coronado pageant has been written by Thomas Wood Stevens, poet and stage director, author of the narrative poem "Westward Under Vega." [See Survey Graphic for December 1937 and January 1938.] Jerome Cargill of New York will furnish the production staff. The small group of professional actors will be supported by the local people of each community. My particular job is the supervision of the folk festivals to be held almost everywhere throughout the state.
At the end of two weeks we had visited practically every community in New Mexico, in Panhandle Texas, and southern Arizona, winding up in Albuquerque, the Centennial headquarters. I felt like a real adventurer. Coronado never found the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. I was on the trail of something more elusive, something intimately tied up with the souls of the Indians whom he found there, and the Spanish-Americans who have come sincetheir songs, music, dances, and age-old legends, which reflect their hopes and despairs, their triumphs and defeats.
I shall not soon erase the vivid memory of the great cactus and piñon-covered plains, of unchanging deserts stretching out to meet soft clouds in the blue sky, and ring mountains which have stood sentinel through tying civilizations. The more I felt the stern beauty all the better I understood the imprint it has made he people and their traditions. The great spaces, the isolation, have given the Indian a chance to study nature's laws and learn her secrets.
Here he found faith to pray for fertility of the soil in spring ceremonials and for needed rain in summer ceremonials; a grateful heart is reflected in his harvest ceremonials today as a thousand years ago, The Spanish-American has made this our fiesta land. With his love of and exuberant spirit, he needs song and dance to offset the splendid austerity of the land to which he is so closely bound.
The earthen-colored adobe houses and the pueblos, the mud-daubed Navajo hogans, seem to have sprung from the soil as naturally as the, wild flowers, the mesquite and juniper that grow by the roadside. The colorful blankets and the gay velvet blouses of the Indians, the serapes and fiesta costume of the Spanish-Americans are brilliant against the fascinating drabness of the country.
In Albuquerque I felt like the foreigner I was. "Natives," as the Spanish-Americans are called, and Indians milled through the streets. The Anglos, the term for all those neither Spanish-American nor Indian, were lost in the crowd. However, I did not feel foreign in spirit to the gracious, hospitable people. We had a common bond of love in the folk traditions. At the end of three months, more than two hundred festivals were set in Indian, Spanish-American, and Anglo communities throughout the state. I soon saw there was a vast difference between the traditional expressions of New Mexico and any other I had known. There are three distinct racial groups, three different philosophies of life, three sets of folk traditionsconfusing, yet challenging.
Coronado returned to Mexico to report failure, not realizing that his exploration opened the way for Oñate to make permanent colonization in this region in 1598, establishing Hispanic language, religion, laws, and customs. From that day, the Southwest has felt the influence of Spain in its folk songs, music, dances, arts and crafts.
Under Three Flags
THE SPANISH-AMERICANS AND THE INDIANS HAVE LIVED under the laws of the United States for almost a century, but they lived under Spain and Mexico for three centuries. For hundreds of years they have struggled to eke out a meager livelihood from the arid soil. Each has borrowed from the culture of the other, but in the more fundamental traditional expression each has held to his own. In the old days, life was simple, outside entertainment impossible; the folk traditions of the two races flourished side by side. But with the coming of the Anglo, a more complex civilization with a faster tempo affected the traditions of both.
One of my first visits was to Santa Fe, the Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis, Spain's first capital in the new country and cultural center of the Southwest in 1610. Three flags have waved over Santa Fe. Each has left its mark in the traditions of the town and the countryside.
The Santa Fe Folklorica Society is cooperating in the Spanish American festival to be held throughout the state. We decided to make our program of Spanish and Anglo folk songs, music, and dances a part of Santa Fe two hundred and twenty-eighth annual fiesta, which commemorates the triumphal entry of Diego de Vargas who recaptured the village and province from the Pueblo Indians in 1692. Each year at harvest time, descendants of the first conquistadores join the Pueblo Indians, who were defeated and the Anglos, who came later, in festivities and religious observances which last three days.
This fiesta, like all others in the state. begins with early morning mass. Then the mood changes: Zozobra. "Old Man Gloom," is burned so that the holiday spirit may reign supreme. Music of the conquistadores band, marimba band, tipica orchestra, and guitars fills the air. In front of the Old Palace the historic pageant of the recapture of Santa Fe is reenacted. Then follows the "hysterical pageant," directed by the artist colony, which caricatures events of town life. Pottery, silverwork, Indian blankets, and all kinds of handicrafts are exhibited in the native markets.
There are balls to meet any mood, the Conquistadores Ball, a stately affair with colorful Spanish Colonial costumes; the Baile de la Gente, in native style. The fiesta is not static, it reflects every generation since de Vargas, holding the best of the old and adding new features.
Sunday after vespers, all join in a religious procession o the Cross of the Martyrs. On a hill on the outskirts of the town, there is a huge cross to the Franciscan padres who gave their lives that the Cross might stand in the Indian's land. Thousands of devout men and women march in a winding column, carrying lighted candles up the hillside between bonfires. This year the procession will include hundreds of school boys and girls and people from throughout the state, who are reviving alabados, and other traditional religious songs through the cooperation of Archbishop G.A. Gerlien of Santa Fe. They will be sung first in the village folk festivals. Had no cross been raised to these martyrs in Santa Fe, those that dot the countryside, on every little adobe church in village, pueblo, on the reservations, the still-living religious songs and dramas they brought and taught would stand monument to them.
A Living Faith, a Little Theater
THE FOLK DRAMAS MOST OFTEN FOUND IN NEW MEXICO today are Las Posadas (The Shelter), Los Pastores (The Shepherds), Los Reyes Majos (The Magi Kings), El Niño Perdido (The Lost Child), Los.Moros y Cristianos (The Moors and the Christians), Nuestre Señora de Guadelupe (Our Lady of Guadelupe), and Los Comanches (The (Comanches). Many of them are based on biblical stories or have religious background, though some are secular. Most of them originated in Spain, some in Mexico, a few in New Mexico. They have been an important part of the life of Taos, Los Lunas, Tierra Amarilla, Las Cruces, Belen, Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Questa, Santa Cruz, Mora, Las Vegas, and many smaller places.
The religious folk dramas in New Mexico have not only met the need for religious expression through generations, they have been New Mexico's "little theater." Professional theaters could not serve the widely scattered villages and small towns, which until few years ago were isolated. Often these traditional dramas are crudely done, on improvised stages with homemade stage props and costumes. The directors do not know or care about the new methods in theater. Their only guide is handwritten, thumb-worn manuscripts, which are not replaceable as often in New Mexico today as they were in the past.
Los Posadas belongs to Old Mexico as well as New. In most villages for nine nights before Christmas a procession of young and old, sometimes with lighted candles, follows the images of Mary and Joseph from house to house, singing old religious songs of a Gregorian type to the accompaniment of stringed instruments. In song, they ask shelter for Mary. Each house refuses admittance. On the ninth night, the Blessed Pair are recognized; doors are thrown open and all are admitted. The piñata, a gay, colorfully decorated jar of candy, is broken for children, and general merrymaking follows. At midnight everyone goes to mass. Some villages now present Las Posadas only on Christmas Eve.
Many Spanish-Americans have seen Los Pastores, a nativity play of Spanish origin, almost every Christmas of their lives. While each community has its own version, all follow the story of the shepherds on Bethlehem's plain. There is humor of the type always found in the miracle and morality plays.
One cannot consider only the Spanish-American New Mexico, in dealing with the Spanish-American folk traditions. At Las Cruces, Los Reyes Magos is presented at Christmas not only by Spanish-Americans but by the Tortugas Indians. Here, too, the Indians join the Spanish-Americans in Las Posados and Los Pastores, and take part in the San Ysidro procession which carries the image of the patron saint of the farmer out to the field to pray for abundant harvests. The Indians have their own version of Our Lady of Guadalupe. At the San Juan Pueblo, they present Los Matachines, of Spanish origin, and boast they do it better than the Spanish-Americans in the nearby village.
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe originated in Mexico. In New Mexico, the legend of the marvelous apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, upon which it was based, is widely known. On a barren hill near the city of Mexico, an apparition appeared to Juan Diego, an Indian. A Spanish chapel was built on a site designated by the apparition. Thousands of Indians took part in the first procession in 1531 when the image of Nuestra Señora was transported to the clay chapel at Guadalupe. Now in many villages and cities throughout New Mexico, chapels are dedicated, fiestas and processions are held, honoring the protectress.
Families still sit for hours watching the unfolding of these old dramas. But in Taos and Santa Fe, so long strongholds of the truest Spanish-American traditions' players and audiences are no longer as interested in them as they formerly were. These dramas will be presented in many villages this year, as they have been for the last four hundred years. Through the encouragement of our folk festival program, they will be revived in places were they are dying out, especially during New Mexico's folk-theater season around Christmas time.
New Mexican Saint's Day
ON EVERY HAND I RAN INTO THE BLENDING OF THE SPANISH-Americans and the Indian tradition. In September, just as the sun was coming up over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, we left Santa Fe for the San Geronimo fiesta at Taos. Here both the Indians and Spanish-Americans have celebrations honoring their common patron saint. We reached the Taos Pueblo in time for early mass. Many cars and covered wagons had brought Indians from neighboring pueblos. The altar of the little old church was elaborately decorated. The place was filled with kneeling Indian women in high white boots and colorful shawls. There were a few men in blankets. At the close of the service a small choir chanted the songs the mass to the accompanist of the organ. The image of San Geronimo was carried to both made of green branches at the end of the plaza, to stay there throughout the day.
One of the most important events was a foot race. The racers impersonated the gray clouds of winter and the red clouds of summer in a contest or supremacy between the dying summer and the coming winter.
We looked down from the sixth story of the pueblo. Wild plums were scattered on a flat roof to dry in the sun. Red strings of chili pepper decorated the other pueblo across the tiny stream. Below us were Indians in festive dress. Soon the racers came from the kiva at the left, assembling to meet those on the right. Bodies were bare to the waist, painted gray, some covered with down or feathers. Some were barefoot, others wore sandals. The older Indians, wrapped in gay blankets, their long hair in braids, carried green branches which they waved to keep the crowds back, but the Indians were silent and orderly. After the race all the Indians assembled into two lines. With rattles and drums accompanying their songs, slowly their bodies began to follow the rhythm. From the roof tops, cloth, candy, cigarettes, and different kinds of gifts were showered on the dancers.
At Ranchos de Taos the Spanish-American fiesta had nothing in common with the pueblo celebration except the mass. There were Spanish colonial, wedding, and other types of folk dances, as well as folk song contests in the plaza. Native markets, art exhibits, and old and latter day Spanish customs formed a part of the program. Some of these traditions were known to Oñate's men. They were used in Taos when Popé, the San Juan Indian, went there to incite the Indians of the pueblo to rebellion. Kit Carson and the "Mountain Men" who lived here knew them. They have come down as "living history," the connecting link between early and modern Taos.
This year, as part of the Folk Festival's program, the still remembered folk songs and dances of all types will be used. Music, dance, and physical education teachers in most of the schools and communities of the state arc teaching those folk songs and dances not generally known, to be used in school festivals, rural and city, with a final festival in most counties. The best from these festivals will be brought to a large Coronado Country Folk Festival in October.
Music and dance are interwoven into the daily life of the Spanish-American in New Mexico. No other race in the United States, unless it is the American Negro, sings as much as he does. There are songs of many moods, with roots deep in the soil of the state. Many, transplanted from old Spain or Mexico, have been adapted, better to express life in the new country.
Four Centuries of Song
THE ALABADOS (SONGS OF PRAISE) TAUGHT BY FRANCISAN padres in early mission churches, most of them now in ruins or restored, are used today alike by Indian and Spanish-American, as they were then. The padres were recreational leaders and teachers, as well as spiritual advisers. They used the song, as they did the religious drama, in converting the Indian as well as meeting the spiritual need of early colonists. The Pueblo Indian accepted the story of Christ as a part of his own religion. Many are Catholic, nominally at least. Some of the alabados which have served both races since those days are Perdon o Dios Mió, sung during Lent; Santo Dios, a hymn of solace; Madre Maria; and Del Cielo Bajo.
One occasionally comes across sixteenth century traditional Spanish ballads, used by the trovadores. Usually only the older people in New Mexico know La Zagala, La Niña y el Pastor and Delgadina, the form is too cumbersome for the song loving race. So the décima, a more simplified form of the old ballad, came into being, resulting in such songs as Décima de la Vida, Décima del Pobre, and Tu mi Pretención Sabrás. Then came the corrido relating deeds of valor, Macario Romero and Ruperto Gonzales. The songs one hears everywhere today are the cancions, popular songs. Almost any time the strains of the guitar can be heard accompanying singers in La Paloma, Lupita, Cielito Lindo, La Cucaracha, Adelita, Las Golondrinas, and Las Mañanitas.
Many villages have their bands or tipica orchestras with their many stringed instruments, who sing the folk tunes or accompany others. At Albuquerque, we heard an orchestra made up of sixty children from ten to twelve years old, who played like veterans under the direction of a Federal Music Project director. Folk songs are still in the making in New Mexico. The new ones are taken up and passed on from singer to singer, but the old ones are not forgotten. Most singers have an amazingly large repertoire, with a more amazing number of verses for each song.
Since the days when Santa Fe was the "end of the trail" from Independence, Mo., and the connecting link with Chihuahua in Mexico, fandangos or as later called the bailes, or dances, have been popular. There is no definite dividing line in this section of the country between the folk and others in their love of the traditional dance. There are folk dances of earlier Spanish origin, as well as later ones that have crossed the line from old Mexico. The polka, schottische, and quadrilles are found there. Some dances are much like those used in South America.
Almost every school and community of the state will have its folk dance festival this year. Groups danced for us in almost all the places we visited on our ten-thousand mile tour of the state. One night we passed the little village of San Ysidro a few miles from Albuquerque. On the tops of the flat-roofed adobe houses and the church we saw glowing luminaries, paper bags filled with sand in which a lighted candle is placed, signifying prayers to the Virgin. It was a fiesta and the baile was going on. As we neared the hall, we heard the strains of modern jazz, instead of the folk we had hoped to find. The small hall was decorated, in Mexican style, with gay-colored crepe paper flowers and streamers. Though they said folk dances would come later, we saw only the modern ones, with a version of the "Big Apple" thrown in. With better methods of communication, modernity is taking its toll.
On my way to Lincoln County, the next day, to make plans for the countrywide festivals in Billy the Kid's country, we stopped at Socorro, to see another fiesta There, too, we found the modern dances, but a number of folk dances were also included. Later in the evening we were invited to a home where a special dance group did El Jarabe Tapitio, which was popular in Mexico during Maximilian's reign. They also did El Jilote and La Raspa, Indian in influence. A group from cello school greeted us at Hot Springs with Chapanecas and Los Viejitos, the Old Man's Dance. At Bernalillo we attended a wedding dance. Everywhere we saw the effect of Spanish-American dances on the Anglo, especially in the use of the popular Varsoviana.
One day I met with the teachers in the city school of Albuquerque, to talk over plans for the festivals. Twenty Spanish-American girls were chosen from hundreds of others to do the traditional dances. Practically all of them know them.
The Spanish-American Normal at El Rito will be the center for the Spanish-American Folk Festivals of the northern region of the state. One day in December, Gilbert Miera, my assistant, and I drove two hundred miles to an eight o'clock meeting with the teachers of Rio Arriba County. In the auditorium the girls were dressed in lovely old Spanish colonial costumes. An old Mexican fiddler started a tune, playing a while, then added verses in Spanish. I caught my name. The interpreter told me that he was thanking me, in improvised song, for coming meet them. He knew Turkey in the Straw and a number of our tunes. Though he could not speak our language he understood our great fiddle tune.
The Spanish-American Boy Scouts, whose principles based mostly on Indian lore, the lore of the race their forefathers conquered, carried the American flag which had supplanted theirs. All joined in singing the Star Spangled Banner. Then came folk dances, most of m of Spanish origin, La Cuna, with its rocking-like figures; Las Cuadrillas, without the calls; La Polka Doble; and an interesting handkerchief dance.
The mixture of the traditions seemed simple and natural that day, but how many struggles and how much shedding of blood had gone before. We were all bound together by the universal language of folk song, music, dancing under the American flag.
For the last few years, since we have turned our minds Pan America, new emphasis is being placed on the Spanish language and culture throughout the country by statesmen and others interested in educational and cultural relations. The Good Neighbor policy might well used not only to create closer relations with Canada and Mexico and between the two Americas, but to develop better understanding of the Spanish-American within our borders. The Coronado Cuarto Centennial celebrations will undoubtedly contribute to this.
However, the Spanish-Americans in New Mexico generally care little about the significance of their traditions for either national or international purposes. They love and use them, as their fathers did, because they need them. Although New Mexico has been touched by modern influences, there can be no doubt that the state, taken as a whole, still has more survivals of traditional expressions, and they are more generally used in everyday life, than any other. There can be little doubt that these traditions will be continued in the state when many of the seedbeds of American folklore in other sections shall have passed from the scene. What does it matter if ribbon-like highways now bind together many of the isolated communities? The Spanish-Americans in New Mexico, who live in the small villages, 51 percent of New Mexico's population, are economically bound to the land. Until that condition is radically changed, the traditions will be a necessity; they will survive and others will grow.
THIS YEAR THE PUEBLO INDIANS WILL HOLD THEIR REGULAR ceremonials, as they do every year. They refuse to be excited about a celebration commemorating an event only four hundred years old, which honors their conquerors.
Some day in the future, when folkways shall have given way to standardization, men will try to piece together the fabric of song, dance, and legend, better to understand this great mystic race. But the spirit will be lost. Now, while the traditions endure, is our opportunity.