Musica Popular Mexicana; 13
Communication Center the University of Texas at Austin. The programs were given to the culture of these programs with the Department of music and the Center for Internet culture in folklore and oral history at the University of Texas at Austin. And now here are Tom Stanford assistant professor in the U.S. Department of music and John fireman. Tom the subject of this program which by the way is the last program in this series is entitled dances of conquest. And I believe that most of us would
immediately think that it concerned Cortez and his conquest of the Mexican people many centuries ago. But I believe you will quickly redefine the meaning of that term for us. Well this is a term which I found to define a type of dance which is not only indigenous and American soil but also in Europe. It would appear that the Catholic Church from probably the 10th or 11th centuries at least had been instigating the formation of this type of dance in many of the recently conquered parts of Christendom after the conquest of an area at the instigation of the priests the local inhabitants created a dance or representations rudimentary drama which would represent either the conquest of their own soil of their own nation by the Christians or the conquest of some other area which might be known historically to them or to the local
invaders. These dances took many and varied forms in Europe but consistently dealt with the topic of conquest conquest by Christians of infidels and served an important function for the local missionaries in that at the end of the drama the infidels those who represented the infidels in the drama were baptised. It is equally a spiritual conquest as well as geographic. That's exactly right. In Mexico there are many types of dances of conquest. Sometimes apparently dances of conquest and sometimes their true character is not quite so immediately apparent because of the more than four centuries of evolution of this type of dance in Mexico. We have in the chronicles of the 16th and 17th centuries and even the 18th centuries numerous mentions of pageants presented to commemorate Corpus Christi or to commemorate
some saint some patron saints day which were conquests the representation of the conquest of Rhodes or of. The crusades for example which in Mexico are often called the 12 pairs of France dos a palace they frown see on which you have the twelve Knights of Charlemagne. You have the more ish wars the more reason the Christians which of course is a dance which exists in Europe in many parts not only in Spain but also exist for example in England still it has the name was confused and became the morris dance but it's known to have evolved from the same wars of the conquest of Moore's by the Christians. The most common dance in Mexico of this type is the dance which is called Lost conch arrows. It takes its name from a guitarist that the dancers use. It's a guitar that is formed out of an arm of the
shell. The shell is called Concha in Spanish and conch arrows then are those who use these guitarists. In the region to the south and to the west of Mexico City the dance also takes another name which is lost up patches. Referring to the nomad tribes that were driven by American sutlers on the plains of the United States across the border down into Mexico and which gave the Spanish colony and the Mexican government after independence in the mid 19th century considerable difficulty the same is a cause difficulty with the American settlers only planes. This dance however from is mythological perhaps that would be the best way of expressing it mythological origin was instated in the 16th century with the first conquest of the area called Chichi Magnus. The nomad tribes in northeastern Mexico by the Spaniards.
In this particular recording which is from show Shah Kotla in the state of Morelos south of Mexico City. You will hear one single guitar played by the teacher who's directing me dance. You will hear the singing of the young people who are actually dancing. Which precedes the singing you will hear tinkling of numerous small bells Glaston ten arguments of the hanging in their costumes of this particular dance is usually dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe and represents the conquest of northeastern Mexico by the Spaniards.
Differing from our previous program we now are back with some vocalizing and I'm interested in knowing what these words said to us. Will this particular selection that we heard was in Alabama to the Virgin of Guadalupe. And they were singing about the virgin of heaven and so forth and her apparition. There are a number of Alabamans is in the process of the dance that alternate with the dances which are not sung this downs is standardized and for a very unexpected but very simple reason the musicians and the teachers are unionized. There is a union of consciousness in Mexico. The only national basis on a national basis but covering principally the highlands of Mexico with its secret cults even some rather pagan ceremonies two personages a quasi christian Their idea is that they're Christian but things like that ring us thought she too was one of the empiricists of the Aztecs before the
Conquest actually. One of the characteristics of this particular dance is that the dancers are cheap to make us and for this reason have feather head dresses. Now this is a characteristic of those conquests dances which deal with the conquest of Mexico. The next dance which we will hear is the feather Dance Dance of the top Luma from the region a site she lie in the state of Will haka. This would be some 400 miles south of Mexico City. This particular dance is also about the conquest of the heathen in the north the US of A Feather is of course the characteristic of this dance sometimes of feather headdress sometimes a feather in the hands of the dancers. In this particular case there is no feather at all. I don't know why or why this would be I should think that feathers would be available readily to the dancers in any part of Mexico but they were actually using a palm branch instead of a feather.
There are 4000 Now those are four different melodies to this particular dance and we'll hear the second of the four here. It's a play on flute and drum. We don't have the dancers accompanying us here we have just the music itself. This particular dance drama is about a war which now is not even the heathen of Mexico though they dance that up Luma would normally be such This just shows how these different kinds of dances become confused. It's between the Christian Santiago on the one hand and punches Pilat to some the other. If you can imagine this would be the Latin authority who persecuted Christ and sent him to the cross. And I hear they have him represented as a Moore who's fighting a war against Santiago the patron saint of Spain who appeared on horseback from a cloud at an crucial point in Spanish
history when the tides of battle turned against the Moors and at the end of this dance drama there is a wedding. I'm not exactly aware what is the significance of this wedding. My informants when I'm able to explain it to me. But here we have them an amalgamation of many strange traits into a dance which is very widespread in Mexico at the present time and it is spreading still. It started in the north of Mexico about the Chichi make us and has spread into one Haka in the highlands of the haka it's already spread down the coast and now it's going back up into good Redell going north up the Pacific coast. It's area of dominance is apparently being spread by the public schools which chooses dance frequently for the representation and scholastic activities.
There appeared to be some quite definite artistry on the flute in that recording. Yes the flute player was a very fine musician. They aren't always such fine musicians but I think that has been the tendency of many times of folklorist to overlook the aspect of artistry in his music. I think that it's notable the average artistry of the Mexican artist and whether he be a musician or somebody who's making pottery or painting or whatever he be doing. I would like to ask you this. You mentioned a while ago the term conquest as if it because we were speaking at a day for the dances of conquest but then you also said conquest from a standpoint of Mexican history. Do the Mexican people consider conquest in historical light a pivotal point on are things viewed in perspective as before conquest and after conquest. No I think not so much. I believe that this concept of conquest was important most of all the missionaries.
And the dances which were so unstated were based upon very largely upon previous panic announcers say the missionaries told the local inhabitants as it were that they could create a dance which would have the very important function of representing First of all the process of Christianisation of a group of people not necessarily of the Mexicans It could be of the MORs or the Jews in Jerusalem during the crusades or some other area. At the end of the dance the infidels those who had represented the infidels in the dance would have had their catus ism as it were by having danced and would then be baptized as the final ceremony in the dance itself. So I think it's important to note that the Catholic Church was not taking a set dance to different groups but rather allowing the each group to institute a dance in its own tradition.
It should also be noted that Pope Gregory one of the one of the early popes in the Catholic Church had commented that for the Christianisation of heathens the best thing was to capitalize upon everything within their own culture that might be of use not to try and destroy their culture but to try to build upon it. And I think you can see this very clearly in Mexican dance traditions because there are so many elements of Priest back dance which have been conserved down to the present day not in function but in in fact they have a new function now but the overall appearance aspect of the thing still remains pretty faithful to the accounts that we can find in the chronicles of the 16th century for example. The next dance we'll hear is about the Morris wars and this particular dance has four names among the local inhabitants of Harmeet the Pickens in the state of the haka This is the mystic group again they call it yah cha tail shot
ale referring to Charles which are the Mexican Cowboys with a wide brimmed hats. Yeah son Thiago which would be the game of someday I will be the patron saint of Spain. The other two names are what I get out of the war or lost morals the movers. This again is accompanied by. Life of food and drum with its son Thiago who is the patron saint of Spain is the one Christian who is singled out here his battle with the wars around he is represented by a dancer who carries a sort of a wooden hobby horse that fits around his waist.
The next dance represents a different kind of conquest. This is the conquest of the tiger you might say. It's a type of dance which is has a very wide distribution in Mexico. The type of dance which at least in name existed before the Conquest. In that the particular town was recording comes from it's called. Let's take one e s take one if that would be the tiger's expressed in the Aztec language and I walk and the dance actually represents a tiger hunt. The hunt of a very mischievous Tiger who is causing great damage to the crops and to the livestock of the local inhabitants. And in this drama there are many personages there is a man whose call a vehicle a local of the old fool. There is the hunter who is called One class of thought and there are other personages that are represented by actors who take on bit parts periodic like and on one occasion they
represent a horse or a cow on another occasion they represent a dog. There is another one who will accompany one class of the lot of you suppose be a small boy accompanying him. This has all the elements of a staged drama with its comedy and its serious aspects. The drama itself is presented to propitiate the crops. A variant of the same dance is presented during the months of August and September when the local and habitants are worried about rainfall to try to propitiate rainfall. I think the important thing to note here and you can hear it in the recording is the participation of the spectators in this drama. This is a ritual Yes but it serves a double function of entertaining to those who are aware of what's going on it's highly entertaining. It's really a time when people can take down their hair and enjoy themselves and forget about this tremendous battle which is
eking out and existence in such a place as this particular town high in the mountains in the state of Gabriel to the south of Mexico City.
Well Tom we have just heard the last recording in this program series and I am bothered to think in this world of expanding technology what is going to happen to this indigenous music in the next few decades. Well a lot of investigators have been very seriously concerned about this point and I think that probably there is room for some concern. But I think that there is also a missed concept regarding folk tradition persay held by many people and some of them investigators who have the idea well this dance for example is not what it used to be. They're losing the old customs they say. And for those who have told me regarding Mexican dance that the dances are not what they used to be I have a pat statement with which I answer them. I say well they never were. Because these are not crystalline traditions These are traditions that have been evolving like the time the more is within bounds of the Christians in town in the isthmus of to want to pick
one year had a telephone set up between the two camps so that they could speak to Christians and by telephone. These are all elements of improvisation which are very active and very live part of all of these dances in Mexico so that you can speak about the music or the dance as a crystalline thing that has existed from the 16th century or even from the 19th. Probably there are elements yes things are still evolving and I don't think that they're in immediate danger of disappearing though the invasion of the transistor radio in the jukebox of course is causing serious inroads into such traditions. But I believe that they can defend themselves for a while longer. Well in 13 programs we have wondered from the Noro Norse 3000 miles to Chiapas in the south. And of course we've attempted a brief survey of the ethnic music of Mexico and we've chosen to call it the real music the popular music of the people. And
Tommy made these recordings on the scene and we have heard examples of the song on the parade Oh the decimal day and then just music of Chiapas and of course today in this program the dances of conquest. Yes I would hope that this material will have been interesting to the audience. And perhaps may have stirred a curiosity and interest in the subject a desire to know a little bit more. I think it's necessary to comment here at closing that this field work which I did during my 12 years in Mexico was done under the patronage of the National Museum of Anthropology and Mexico City and the recordings are property of the archive at the National Museum in Mexico City. Our thanks to you Tom Stanford. This is John Fryman. Goodbye.
- Musica Popular Mexicana
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Musica Popular Mexicana is a series of programs which explores traditional regional music and dance forms of Mexico, with a special emphasis given to the history and culture of the Mexican people. Each episode focuses on specific regions and forms, with commentary from Mexican musicology expert Thomas Stanford. The program is produced in cooperation with the Department of Music and the Center for Intercultural Studies in Folklore and Oral History at the University of Texas Austin, and is distributed by the National Education Radio Network. Sound recordings are provided by the Center for Intercultural Studies as well as the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-26-13 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Musica Popular Mexicana; 13,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 4, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-4b2x775m.
- MLA: “Musica Popular Mexicana; 13.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 4, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-4b2x775m>.
- APA: Musica Popular Mexicana; 13. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-4b2x775m