SPANISH HISTORY IN THE UNITED STATES
"If Spain had not existed four-hundred years ago, the United States would not exist today...Because I think that every young American-Saxon loves justice and admires heroism as much as I do, I have decided to write this book. The reason why we have not done justice to the Spanish explorers is simply because we were not properly informed. Their history is unparalleled...We love bravery, and the exploration of the Americas by the Spaniards constituted the greatest, the longest and the most wonderful series of heroic deeds recorded by History. "
The foregoing words were by American Charles F. Lummis (1859-1928), explorer, archeologist, historian, novelist, journalist, editor, anthropologist, and founder of societies and museums, in his book Los exploradores españoles del siglo XVI (Spanish explorers of the 16th century).
With the exception of Lummis, the period in United States history which exactly corresponded to the Spanish presence in the years before Anglo-Saxon domination has been left obscure. It was the period prior to the time usually chosen by Americans as the true start of the history of their country. Thus, most of them jump from the Indians to the pilgrims of the Mayflower of 1620, forgetting about the Spanish "conquistadors" or "adelantados" (governors of border provinces under Spanish colonial rule). Fernández-Shaw subtly points out that this forgetfulness was not exclusive to Protestant historians, who might not have wished to highlight the exploits of Catholic Spain, but was also common to Catholics, although for a different reason. Today's intellectuals and leaders sympathetic to the Roman Catholic church still act as if they were a persecuted minority and try to avoid any coldness on the part of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. They fear that recognition of the Spanish contribution to the history of their country (conceived today from an entirely Anglo-Saxon and Protestant perspective) would be equivalent to introducing suspicious elements of anti-patriotism.
The reiterated exclusion of Spanishness from the history of America is less justified if the abundant historic sources confirming its presence is considered. The Spanish monarchs' concern that conquests should be clothed with the proper legal trappings is well known. The date on which clerks recorded the taking of possession or the designation of a particular territory in any colonizing expedition was always noted. At the same time, the bureaucracy which contributed so greatly to Spain's decadence on account of the slow pace of solution of urgent problems was nonetheless the cause of the plentiful sources of information. The first known reports on the geography, the Indians and the aboriginal languages of the United States were written in Castilian. The first birth certificate registered in the country was that of a Spaniard. Spaniards founded the first city St. Augustine in Florida, in 1565 The first Westerner to set foot on American soil and to remain on it was Ponce de León, as of April 2, 1513. The first book to be written in the country, in 1569, was by Brother Báez, a Jesuit of the Georgia missions, while Spain was the first to take a theatrical performance to North America.
Curiosity predominated in Spain's epic of expansion, not only with regard to extension, but also in depth. With boundless vitality it covered all of what is now the United States during the first fifty years following the discovery of America. The outline of North America as far north as Labrador appears in Diego Rivero's 1529 map; the Pacific coast had been reconnoitered as far as the current state of Oregon; and some years later Spaniards would also reach Alaska. Consequently, more than 2,000 American place names are Spanish, as proof of Spain's passage through this country. But this expansion along the coastlines was also accompanied by inland exploration during the first half century. In this short space of time Spanish discoverers had explored most of the present states of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
As Nicolás Toscano has pointed out, this initial flow of exploration and settlements from the 16th to the 18th centuries, by Juan Ponce de León, Menéndez de Avilés, Hernando de Soto, Juan Vázquez Coronado, Cabrillo, Fray Marcos de Niza, Juan de Oñate, Pardo y Boyano, Espejo, Domínguez y Escalante, Father Kino, Fray Junípero Serra, and so many others, was followed by a flow in the opposite direction that brought about the systematic loss of the Hispanic territories during the 19th century, and with it a forced transformation of their identity, their laws, their civic and cultural institutions, thereby replacing the Hispanic physiognomy of the north and of the Mexican heartland with the myth of the American Southwest, the "Wild West" of Hollywood.
The duration of Spanish sovereignty in North America has, in some regions of the country, been long-lasting and centuries-old. Spanish banners fluttered in the breezes of the Union from the time that Ponce de León arrived on the coast of Florida until the Spanish flag was lowered in California in 1822. The Spanish colours flew above the land to the north of the Río Grande for 309 years. We ruled in Florida until 1821 and it was from Alabama that the Spaniards left in 1813. We possessed extensive territories in Louisiana (900,000 square miles) until 1803; while we stayed in Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Eastern Montana, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma and Arkansas from 1763 to 1804, and in Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Texas until 1821. In short, in the second half of the 18th century, Spain possessed approximately two-thirds of the current surface area of the United States, without including Alaska. During those years, from 1775 to 1783, Spain's vital and effective aid to North America in its War of Independence should not be forgotten. This mainly took the form of diplomatic and military activity by the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez.
Throughout its period of sovereignty Spain had military forts in the states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and California - 71 in all. As for the missions, at the high point of missionary activity along the length of the Florida and Georgia coasts and in the land to their west, there were 66 Franciscan missions in 1675; from the 17th to the 19th centuries there were 44 missions in Texas; 51 were founded in New Mexico, and 19 in Arizona. The chain of missions founded by Fray Junípero Serra in California as of 1769 numbered 23. It should be mentioned that the rights, languages and identity of the indigenous Indians were upheld in the Hispanic territories.
An interesting fact is that Spain also contributed with its currency, the dollar, to the greatness of the United States. In the 18th century there was a Spanish dollar, a "piece of eight" or "real de a 8" and Jefferson proposed the "Spanish dollar" as the unit of currency. This was passed by Congress in 1785. The $ sign for the dollar is none other than that engraved on the columns of Hercules as part of the Spanish coat of arms, with the motto "Plus ultra" on the ribbon that encircles it.
The Spaniards who settled in what is now the American Southwest or in Florida, were colonists emigrating to the recently-discovered and conquered territories in the hope of improving their lot, missionaries moved by religious zeal, and soldiers of fortune all tireless and daring men. There were great differences between them, but all knew the songs of their mother country, the verses and stories around the campfires at night, and also the rich repertoire of sayings and proverbs. Those Spaniards left behind them a true treasure trove of folklore wherever they went. Moreover, Spaniards have never been given to racial discrimination, and so wherever they went they made contact with the natives. This process caused the Spanish folklore to gradually become indigenous, and for this reason nobody is surprised that the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, for example, sing or recite traditional 16th century ballads as if they were their own.
The Hispanic popular music of the American Southwest has its main roots in that of Spain and Mexico. Not in vain did Mexico succeed Spain from 1821 to 1848 in its possession of the territories of New Mexico and California, and it is in the state of New Mexico, according to Vicente Mendoza, where "the traditional Hispanic culture maintains its purest and best-preserved lineaments". Spain has always been known for the richness of its ballads, one of the most beautiful expressions of its popular poetry. And wherever Spanish colonists went, their ballads could be heard sometimes in a purer and more traditional form than in Spain itself. These ballads were always transmitted orally from generation to generation, with the occasional variations that can be expected from the flexibility of true traditional songs. And today those popular songs and ballads form a splendid body of folklore in the territories colonized by Spain in North America, even though the passing of time does not work in their favour.
Jesús Matesanz Bellas
Reference has been made to the following works in this paper:
FERNANDEZ-SHAW, Carlos M.: Presencia española en los Estados Unidos, Institute for Ibero-American Cooperation, Ediciones Cultura Hispánica, Madrid, 1987.
FERNANDEZ FLOREZ, Darío: The Spanish Heritage in the United States, Publicaciones Españolas, Madrid, 1971.
ROBB, John Donald: Hispanic folk music of New Mexico and the Southwest. A self-portrait of a people, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1980.
TOSCANO LlR1A, Nicolás, "Consideraciones a los hispanounidenses con motivo del centenario de la Guerra de Cuba", en: 1898: Entre el desencanto y la esperanza, pp.87-108.
ALDEEU, Spanish Professionals in America, Inc. 1998.
JUNQUERA DE FLYS, Mercedes: Pioneros españoles en el lejano oeste, Editorial Doncel, Madrid, 1976.
ROCAMORA, Pedro, Critica a "Presencia española en los Estados Unidos", ABC, 25-Enero-1973, pp.49-50.
THOMSON, Buchanan Parker: La ayuda española en la Guerra de la Independencia norteamericana, Ediciones Cultura Hispánica, Madrid, 1967.
THE REPERTOIRE AND ITS ORIGIN|
The current American Southwest formed part of the Spanish Crown until the first quarter of the 19th century. This territory includes an immense expanse of interminable plains, arid and hostile terrain, luxuriant forests of holm oak and pine, high plateaus, tall, steep and rocky mountains, canyons, delightful areas of everlasting spring, the Californian Pacific coast, and that of the Atlantic in Texas. The current states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas, New Mexico and parts of Utah and Colorado, a region comparable to at least half of Europe, all formed part of New Spain. It was the land of the adventures of El Zorro, Billy the Kid, Geronimo and his brave warriors, The Rio Grande Bravo of the North, and the Colorado Canyon. This vast region was under Spanish rule from 1540 until the end of 1821, when Mexico gained its independence from Spain. But the Mexican government did not last long in this region because in 1835, Texas became independent from Mexico and in 1845 it joined the United States. In 1846 the U.S. declared war on Mexico and in 1848, following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico ceded Texas and sold Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and part of Colorado to the United States, whereupon all these territories became states of the Union.
The history of each state developed differently, and their different geographical features coupled with outside influences caused them to acquire their own special characteristics. For example, the religious influence in Texas and Arizona was Jesuit, until the expulsion of the order, whereas in California and New Mexico it was Franciscan. The maritime ports of California and Texas enjoyed contacts and exchanges with other countries, while Arizona and Texas (New Santander) always had more direct contacts with Mexico on account of their southern borders. On the other hand, the region to the north of New Mexico and south of Colorado, located on the high plateaus to the south of the Rockies, developed in almost hermetic isolation, which is why it retained until our days not only a strong Spanish identity, but also living traces of ancestral Spanish folklore which, however, are now in process of extinction. The Spaniards who became Mexican still remember in our days that they were once Spanish, and the language of Cervantes is still spoken in the little mountain villages in the north of the state.
It was not until 1912 that New Mexico stopped being a Territory of the United States in order to become the State of 'New Mexico'. Its inhabitants, Indians and Hispanics did not speak the language of the empire of Washington but rather that of their ancestors, Indians and Spaniards. It was after the Second World War that the process of "anglo-saxonization" was accelerated. Until then the New Mexican languages and traditions had remained at their peak.
In this recording Joaquín Díaz offers a varied selection of Spanish songs from the American Southwest consisting of ballads, religious chants, children's songs and folksongs. They bear witness to the Spanish cultural presence of more than three centuries in this extensive region, which was forgotten until the days of Aurelio M. Espinosa and Ramón Menéndez Pidal.
During the time of the conquest and colonization, Spain exported its entire musical apparatus to the New World, where it became deeply rooted and endured for generations. Juan de Oñate founded the first Spanish colony in what today is the American Southwest. On July 11, 1598 Oñate pitched camp near the present-day town (Indian) of San Juan (New Mexico.) This extensive territory, located in the extreme north of New Spain, was named "Province of New Mexico". The Villa Real de la Santa Fe was founded in1610 as the capital of the Province, while the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro became the connecting road to the capital of New Spain, the City of Mexico. The two were separated from each other by a distance of approximately 2,400 kilometers. The small group of Franciscan brothers which arrived with Oñate quickly started its religious work, building missions for the purpose of creating Heaven on Earth. By 1629 there were twenty-six missions along the length of the Rio Grande. In them the monks set up "schools for reading and writing, singing and playing all instruments...[and] schools for all the arts" At that time the mission choirs, made up of native Indians, sang religious services for four voices, accompanying them with oboes, bassoons, bugles, trumpets and organs.
One of the styles of religious singing brought by the Franciscans was the Alabado (a motet in praise of the holy sacrament). Nowadays there are large collections of them, most of whose tunes are primitive and monotonous. The Alabado of this recording was traditionally sung with the first rays of sunrise, as praise in gratitude for the sun that brought the new day. For that reason it is also known as Canto del Alba or Canto al Alba (Dawn Song or Song to Dawn).
Apart from religious songs, the Franciscan order also brought liturgical theatre. Los Pastores or La Pastorela (The Shepherds or The Pastourelle) stood out as the most popular drama until our days, from Texas to California. El Canto de Cuna al niño Jesús (Cradle Song to Baby Jesús), a popular lullaby that came to be heard in every house, formed part of the pastourelle, although it later became detached from it.
At the same time, and as could be expected, other age-old musical styles of Spanish culture of the time were likewise introduced. Among the conquistadors there were musicians, singers and strummers of instruments and one or another of them would teach the Indians their arts. With them came the collection of ballads that were so popular in those days and that penetrated into the most isolated spots across the length and breadth of the American continent, from Tierra del Fuego to the American Southwest. An example of this is the anthologies of ballads that exist all over America. In the Southwest in particular there are those of Américo Paredes in Texas; Luisa Espinel in Arizona; Aurelio M. Espinosa and Charles F. Lummis in California; and A.M. Espinosa, Arturo L. Campa and Rubén Cobos among others in New Mexico.
The minstrel tradition, of making verses, as this art has commonly been called, was taken to America during the Conquest and the Colonial age, driven by the impetus created by Spanish troubadours and minstrels. In New Mexico these popular songs retained their original purity and integrity. According to Vicente T. Mendoza, a great Mexican musicologist, and as mentioned in the foregoing general article, "New Mexico is therefore like a backwater where the purest and best preserved lineaments of Hispanic culture are maintained".
Until the 19th century, masters, servants, farmhands, shepherds and beggars sang traditional ballads throughout the Southwest. In New Mexico the tradition lasted until the first half of the 20th, century, with Hispanics and Indians singing and reciting Spanish ballads. La zagala del pastorcito (The Little Shepherd's Lass), which originated in the 15th century, is the ancient and famous ballad of the Lady and the Shepherd that is known throughout the Spanish peninsula and in several countries of the American continent. In New Mexico it is also known as the El pastor tonto (The Stupid Shepherd). The most interesting part of this ballad is the end, since it differs from the Spanish versions. In it the shepherd is sorry that he did not accede to the amorous advances of the shepherdess and accepts her proposition, but by then it is too late, and she gets even with him by turning him down.
The Gerineldo of this selection contains regionalisms and archaisms that half open a door to the rural life of the Southwest. The collected versions, faithful to the Spanish versions and not in the least fragmented, show how popular this ballad of the Carolingian cycle was, and where the saying, "He is a real Gerineldo", meaning someone who is well dressed or is a ladies' man, came from. According to R. Menendez Pidal, the New Mexican Gerineldo ballads are similar to the Andalusian versions. In this one, Charlemagne has curiously been replaced by the Emperor Charles V of Spain.
The first reference to Las señas del esposo (Description of the Husband) is by Juan de Ribera in 1605. It concerns the very old subject of marital fidelity in Western literature. This example is fragmented. In some places it is also known as La Recién Casada (The Recent Bride).
The Texan version by Bernal Francés, collected by A. Paredes, is undoubtedly from Mexico and is more recent, not only because it takes place in the town of Durango, Mexico, but also on account of its tragic ending, with bullet shots and a leave-taking in the style of the Mexican ballad. Circulated under the name of Elena or The Unhappy One, it has on some occasions been intermingled with the subject of La Esposa Infiel (The Unfaithful Wife). It must have enjoyed great fame during the French intervention in Mexico since most of the versions collected mention geographical place names of that country.
It would be difficult not to find La Delgadina in its many versions over the length and breadth of the American continent. It is one of the very few ballads that are still sung in the Southwest. The most notable difference is that it lost the Spanish royal prince: A king had three daughters... The Moorish king had three daughters .. and it always starts with Delgadina...
Los Diez Mandamientos (The Ten Commandments) could not be left out of this collection. It is a burlesque ballad that contains religious elements together with elements of poetic and satirical ingenuity, in which the singer confesses to having broken all the commandments only on account of love. It is found nearly all over Latin America.
At the close of the 18th century innumerable elaborate 16th and 17th century ballads were printed and circulated all over Spain, especially in the Levant and Andalusia, from where they travelled to America. La Ciudad de Jauja is one of them. In this fantastic place nobody works or is able to work. There the physical world is edible and entertainment is assured. Whether this place was an island, a city or a country, it represented the dreams of prosperity and abundance that for many were directed towards America where everything was possible, including a town called Jauja. In the American versions, the Spanish food was replaced by local food, such as tamales, atole and tortillas.
The popular folk song, so widespread in the 18th and 19th centuries as a lyrical genre, was given a great reception in the Southwest, where hundreds of them were found. There were even competitions in which the singers challenged each other. They enjoyed great respect in society and no social event took place without their folk songs. In the 19th century singers from the Southwest travelled to Mexico to participate in the competitions held there. Two folksongs in this recording are witness to this genre. One is a love song: Te quiero porque te quiero (I love you because I love you); and the other is humorous and known throughout the Southwest with variations according to the time and place: it is La Firolera, with its unmistakable chorus Firolirolí, firolirolí, firolirolera, In some versions the chorus ends with the sentence, "Your lover is waiting for you." The folksongs differ from one state to another. In New Mexico the words are, "The poor widow was weeping/ over the death of her husband./ Under the high bed/ she already had another hidden. And in California they are, "Run boy to the cemetery,/ tell the master bricklayer/ to press the earth down properly,/ so that he won't come out."
Of the Spaniards who arrived in the New World in different stages, there were Castilians, Andalusians, Galicians, Aragonese, etc. and even today many songs of the Southwest, Mexico and other countries still retain the flavor of their countries of origin. The Arizona version of El vestido azul (The Blue Dress) is undoubtedly Spanish in every sense. It contains the famous phrase of, a la jota, jota, and concerns mantillas and Seville. This jota (Aragonese folksong) was very popular in Madrid in the 19th century and was sung until the mid-20th century in the region of the valley of Altar, located in the south of Arizona.
In some cases people forget the original name of a song and it comes to be known by the first line of the chorus. This happened with Cuando uno quiere a una (When a Man Loves a Woman), which is also known as: A la jota, jota. In the drama of Los Pastores de Agua Fría (The Cold-Water Shepherds), New Mexico, one of the songs goes, A la jota, jota, Let us shepherds sing/ Long live the group of singers/ A la jota, jota, Sing the retreat/ Long live the group of the young Trujillo. The town of Santa Barbara, California, was famous for its songs and dances of jota which lasted until the start of the 20th century.
During the second half of the 19th century and first of the 20th, theatre companies, and especially those of zarzuela (Spanish light opera) performed all over Mexico, arriving as far as the American Southwest. Some of these groups came directly from Spain and were on tour for years. El Sueño de un marino (A Sailor's Dream) and El Borrachito (The Little Drunkard) belong to these genres the first to Musical Theatre (or musicals) and the second to the Tonadillas (popular songs) sung in the intervals of the zarzuela performances, which later the young people in the south of Arizona used to sing when they went out partying at night.
Among the children's songs is Don Gato (Mr. Cat) which in New Mexico is considered to be a romance de relación (a ballad that tells a story) and according to Rubén Cobos is a type of popular song on a rather absurd subject that tells about the exploits of animals or insects in an exaggerated way. Some of the versions of Don Gato have a very local flavor because the name of a famous doctor at that time, Dr. Don Carlos or Don Ventura Lovato, appears in them. In the versions of the Southwest, Don Gato's death is definitive, whereas in Spain he always resuscitates.
Hilito de Oro (Little Gold Thread), which is also known as Ángel de oro (Golden Angel) or Hebritas de Oro (Little Threads of Gold), is sung by boys and girls accompanying a children's game documented in Spain since the 16th century, which spread all over America. In Spain it traditionally starts with the line, From France I come, Madam; and in America it usually begins with, Little threads, little threads of gold, or with the singular "thread", as in this case.
This selection of themes presented by Joaquín Díaz opens a window onto the Spanish cultural traces left in the American Southwest. This presence has been discredited and rejected for a long time. Nevertheless we are witnessing new publications and works like this one that are generating a fresh and more realistic view of Spanish history and culture in the provinces of the extreme north of New Spain. It signifies an important renewal given that ties are being re-established between the same people on both sides of the Atlantic. It will also enable us to recall the historic fact that, thanks to the Spanish presence on the North American continent, the United States exists today.