Glossary of Spanish Terms from The Juan B. Rael Collection
"Adán y Eva" - "Adam and Eve," one of the cycle of Nuevo Mexicano religious folk plays portraying the first family in the Garden of Eden, the temptation of Eve, and their expulsion into the world.
Alabados - from the Spanish alabar, literally hymns of praise, from a repertory practiced by the Penitente Brotherhood, used generically to refer to all hymns, but specifically to the hymns on the topic of the Passion of Jesus Christ and the suffering of his Mother.
Alabanzas - also from the Spanish alabar, but referring to hymns of praise to the saints and the celebration of the Virgin Mary.
Aqueste - a demonstrative from old Spanish meaning both this and that at the same time. Used in alabados to describe events in the biblical past that are being remembered and reenacted now.
"Apariciones de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe" - "The Apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe," one of the cycle of Nuevo Mexicano folk plays relating the experience of the Indian, Juan Diego, and his encounter with the Virgin.
Arroyo Hondo - "Deep Creek," the home village of Juan B. Rael, founded in 1815 in a narrow valley north of Taos.
Arroyo Seco - "Dry Creek," a village east and upstream from Arroyo Hondo, founded in the same year.
Autos Sacramentales - allegorical plays dating to Medieval times whose function it was to teach basic doctrines of the Church.
Bailes - social dances, a major institution in Nuevo Mexicano village life. Whole families would attend and socialize. After World War II, dances are more age-segregated.
Bartolo - the lazy shepherd of "Los Pastores."
Calvario - Calvary, the hill where Jesus was crucified, and also the hill or high place near every Nuevo Mexicano village where crosses stand.
Canciones - literally "songs," this term is used generically for almost any composition that is sung, and specifically for the lyric song tradition whose themes are love and death.
Chicano - see Hispano.
Chotiz - Schottische, the internationally popular music and dance associated with, but not necessarily of Scotland.
Cinco Pesos - Five dollars in Nuevo Mexicano Spanish, as in "Valse de los Cinco Pesos."
Cirineo - Cyrene, referring to Simon the Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry the Cross when he fell.
Cofradía - brotherhood, a lay religious order common in all Spain and Latin America. Also called Hermandad.
Cofrados - literally co-brothers, members of the Penitente Brotherhood.
Coloquio - colloquy or conversation, as in "Segundo Coloquio de los Pastores."
"Los Comanches" - the "Comanches," a regional Indo-Hispanic tradition of dances, music, and folk plays celebrated by Hispanos and Pueblo Indians who dress in the style of the Comanches, a plains tribe who raided the Rio Grande valley in the eighteenth century.
Coplas - couplets, the most common unit of verse sung in the Spanish folk tradition, an octosyllabic four-line quatrain with assonance or vowel rhyming in the second and fourth line in the ABCB scheme. Spanish coplas can be improvised on the spot, but hundreds of them are centuries old and can be found all over Spain and Latin America.
Corridos - contemporary narrative ballads, from the verb correr (to run), because they are sung straight through with no choruses or refrains. Short for romance corrido, literally "running ballad." Themes of natural and human disasters predominate.
Cuadernos - the hand-copied ledger notebooks passed down from generation to generation by the Penitente Brothers, and containing their alabados.
Cuadrilla - the quadrille, a kind of square dance with its own distinctive music that originated in the courts of Europe.
Cuna - the cradle, a folk dance found only in Nuevo Mexico in which sets of two couples face each other and join hands, forming a "cradle." Danced to waltz tunes.
Décimas - the most complex form of popular poetry with strophes of ten lines with assonant or vowel rhyming in a variety of schemes.
Despedimiento - literally taking leave, the solemn hymns sung at funerals, specifically at the grave side. The despedimiento in the Rael Collection is called "La Encomendación," in which the departed soul is commended to the Lord.
"Diablo a Pie" - "The Devil on Foot," what Nuevo Mexicanos called the WPA or Works Progress Administration, a New Deal program which ended with World War II. When pronounced in English the letters WPA sound like "diablo a pie."
"El Encuentro" - the Fourth Station of the Cross in which Mary encounters Jesus, who has already been tried, condemned, scourged, and is on his way to Calvary with the Cross on his shoulder. "El Encuentro" is dramatized by the Hermanos Penitentes and their families in Nuevo Mexicano villages.
"Entrega de Novios" - "The Delivery of the Newlyweds," a Nuevo Mexicano folk wedding celebration in which the bride and groom and their families are "delivered" to each other in song. Dates to the times when there was a shortage of priests to perform marriages.
Ermitaño - the Hermit, a pious recluse tempted by Lucifer in "Los Pastores," the Christmas shepherds' play.
"Estaciones de la Cruz" - a fourteen-part prayer service and meditation on the Passion of Jesus, introduced by Saint Francis of Assisi. In Nuevo Mexicano villages, the Estaciones are also recited outside the church on the way to the local Calvario hill.
Estandarte - the standard, which is a banner that hangs vertically from a pole with a cross-piece. Each Penitente morada has an estandarte that is carried in processions.
Gila - the beautiful young shepherd girl in "Los Pastores," the Christmas shepherds' play.
Habas - favas, horse beans or English broad-beans, a high altitude crop grown in northern New Mexico.
"Hermandad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno" - "Pious Brotherhood of Our Father Jesus the Nazarene," popularly and somewhat disrespectfully known as the Penitente Brotherhood. Appeared in New Mexico in the late eighteenth century and according to competing theories, may be either an offshoot of the Third Order of Saint Francis or a brotherhood brought directly from southern Spain. The devotions of the Hermanos or brothers center around the Passion of Jesus and include services, prayer forms, and hymns that are no longer celebrated in the modern Catholic church. The penitential devotions of this group can be found anywhere in Spain or Latin America, but were misunderstood and criticized by American Protestants after the invasion of New Mexico. Hermandad is synonymous with Cofradía.
Hermanos - brothers of the Penitente Brotherhood.
Hispanic - see Hispano.
Hispano - an ethnic term of self-designation widely used and accepted in New Mexico and southern Colorado since the turn of the century, as opposed to the English term Hispanic, imposed by the Census Bureau in the late twentieth century. Because of the confusion between Hispano and Hispanic, the term Nuevo Mexicano is increasingly used by scholars to refer to Hispanic New Mexicans. The same group of people commonly call themselves Mexicanos or Nuevo Mexicanos when speaking Spanish, and Spanish-Americans or Mexican-Americans when speaking English. The term Chicano is used by cultural and political activists and never gained wide acceptance.
Inditas - literally little Indian girls or a type of song, a broadly defined genre of Nuevo Mexicano folk music and song which includes everything from narrative ballads and hymns to saints to a ballroom dance. Thematically, inditas have to do with the relations between Hispanos and Indians, including warfare and love. Often sung to the syncopated rhythm of the Afro-Caribbean habanera, many inditas have choruses sung in vocables, the syllable singing typical of North American Indian music.
"Lana" - literally wool, but figuratively "money" in Nuevo Mexicano Spanish, since historically wool was almost the only cash crop.
"Los Manueles" - literally the Emmanuels, persons named after the Savior as Manuel or Manuela, who are celebrated on their saint's day of January 1 by groups of singers making rounds in the villages to celebrate the New Year. This festive custom is also known as "Los Días," the Days, since all of the days of the New Year are blessed in this way.
"La Marcha" - the wedding march, a particular march which was used by wedding parties in procession to the bride's house after a wedding ceremony. Now, la marcha is a triumphal wedding march danced by couples who separate into lines and circle around to recombine in a kind of tunnel made by grasping and raising hands for the newlyweds to pass through.
"Los Matachines" - the Matachine dance, a regional Indo-Hispano tradition of dance drama representing the spiritual conquest of the Americas. Danced in several parts to violin and guitar music: two lines of dancers twirl, kneel, exchange places, and form a cross as their monarch, Monarca, and a little girl, Malinche, preside. On the fringes Torito, a little bull, encounters the Abuelos, ancestral spirits who vanquish and castrate him.
Matraca - the cog rattle used in Holy Week processions by the Penitentes Brotherhood, especially after Jueves Santo, Holy Thursday, when the bells are silenced.
Melisma - a style of musical ornamentation and singing in which several notes are sung to a single syllable of a word, typical of Flamenco, Arabic, and Jewish styles as well as the alabado Nuevo Mexicano.
Mestizaje - mixture, usually referring to cultural and racial mixing or hybridity. A positive value in Spanish as opposed to the negative English counterpart, miscegenation.
Mexican-American - see Hispano.
Morada - dwelling place, from the verb morar, to dwell, used in New Mexico to mean chapels of the Penitente Brotherhood.
"Moros y Cristianos" - an equestrian folk play that portrays the struggle of Christians and Moors before the final reconquest of Spain in 1492.
Mortaja - shroud or winding sheet for the dead. See also sudario.
Negrita/o - little black girl or boy, a term of endearment used regardless of skin color, translating into English as "Honey," or "Sweetie."
"El Niño Perdido" - "The Lost Child," one of the cycle of Nuevo Mexicano religious folk plays that treats the biblical episode of Jesus as a lost child who is later found debating with rabbis in the temple.
Nuevo Mexicano - see Hispano.
"La Pasión" - the Passion of Jesus, from the Last Supper and the meditation in the Garden of Gethsemane, to the arrest, trial, scourging, and crucifixion. A central theme of the alabados.
"Los Pastores" - abbreviation of "Segundo Coloquio de los Pastores," the "Second Colloquy of the Shepherds," the most famous of the Nuevo Mexicano Nativity plays. A group of shepherds hears the angels announcing the birth of Jesus and tries to make it to Bethlehem despite the interference of Lucifer. Main characters include Bartolo, the lazy shepherd; Gila the beautiful shepherd girl; Ermitaño, the hermit; Lucifer, the devil; the Archangel Saint Michael; and the Holy Family.
Penitentes - "penitents," a somewhat disrespectful name given to the brothers or hermanos of the Fraternidad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno, the Pious Brotherhood of Our Father Jesus the Nazarene.
Pesos - dollars in Nuevo Mexicano Spanish.
Pito - a vertically-held fipple flute used by the Penitente Brotherhood in processions and services, said to represent the tears of the grieving Virgin Mary or the wails of the souls in purgatory.
Plainsong - a type of religious music with roots in the Medieval church, like the alabados it uses modes and lacks time signatures.
Polcas - Spanish for polkas, the music and dance craze which started in Poland and swept Europe and the world in the nineteenth century.
"Las Posadas" - "The Inns," a processional musical folk play that represents the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and the problems they had in finding lodging. Performed on the nine nights leading up to Christmas. In the last verses of the song, the people finally recognize Joseph and Mary and invite them joyfully into their house, where all the participants enjoy refreshments.
"El Prendimiento" - the arrest of Jesus, as dramatized by the Penitente Brothers on the night of Holy Thursday.
Redondo - circle dance in the repertory of nineteenth century Nuevo Mexicano folk dances.
"Los Reyes Magos" - "The Wise Kings," the Nuevo Mexicano folk play that ends the Nativity cycle on Epiphany, January 6, or Epiphany eve the night before, when the Three Kings arrive in Bethlehem and bring the Holy Child their gifts.
Río Grande del Norte - Great River of the North, one of the original names for the Río Grande, known in Mexico as Río Bravo, the Wild River.
Rogativas - hymns that express entreaties for divine intercession and mercy, for the souls in purgatory, and to urge the faithful to confession.
Romancero Nuevomejicano - the collection of old romance ballads which Aurelio Espinosa collected in New Mexico and published in 1915.
Romances - old Spanish ballads dating back to medieval times and the fragmentation of epic poetry. Spanish Historical ballads disappeared in New Mexico, leaving the Novelesque ballads with their themes of love and death, and the Burlesque ballads which were used as political satire and children's songs.
San Antonio - Saint Anthony of Padua, one of the Franciscan saints extremely popular in New Mexico, portrayed as a tonsured monk with the Christ Child on his arm.
San Francisco - Saint Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of the Franciscan Order, which provided the missionaries for New Mexico in colonial times (1598 to 1821). The zeal and gentle passion of Saint Francis influenced the devotional practices of the Nuevo Mexicanos.
Sangre de Cristo - Blood of Christ, the name of the southern spur of the Rocky Mountains in northern New Mexico. In colonial times, however, the mountains were simply called "la sierra," the mountains.
San José - Saint Joseph the Patriarch is the patron saint of the home, the family, and professions including carpenters, students, and teachers. Every church in colonial New Mexico had images of Saint Joseph, which is an indication of the special devotion the people had for him.
San Juan Bautista - Saint John the Baptist baptized Jesus but died before his Crucifixion. In several alabados he appears at the crucifixion with Mary, and is conflated with Saint John the Evangelist, indicating that most alabados were of popular rather than erudite origin.
San Miguel - Saint Michael the Archangel is the nemesis of Lucifer in "Los Pastores," the Nuevo Mexicano Nativity play.
San Pedro - Saint Peter, founder of the Church and gatekeeper of Heaven, is named in several alabados.
Santo Niño de Atocha - the Holy Child of Atocha is a Mexican devotion based in Fresnillo, a city not far from Zacatecas, where many Nuevo Mexicano families came from. The child is dressed in medieval pilgrim's garb, with cloak, staff, basket, and gourd, and is the patron saint of children, travelers, and captives.
Semana Santa - Holy Week in New Mexico surpasses Christmas as the most important Christian feast, at least in the sheer quantity of music that takes its themes from the Passion of Jesus.
Señor de Mapimí - the Lord of Mapimí is a miraculous crucified Christ based in the desert town of Mapimí, Sonora, and is a special protector of miners. He is the subject of a number of Nuevo Mexicano alabados, indicating a relation with Sonora as well as Chihuahua and Durango.
Spanish-American - see Hispano.
Sudario - shroud or winding sheet, but more specifically the Penitente prayer for the dead and meditation on the shroud of Jesus. See also mortaja.
Tecolotito - little owl in Nuevo Mexicano Spanish, which contains many words of Nahuatl or Aztec origin. Owls are considered a sign of witches, but there are a number of songs in which owls are messengers between Hispano and Indian lovers.
"Tenebrae" - darkness in Latin, the name of the "earthquake" service on Good Friday night, no longer a part of the Catholic liturgy, although still observed in the moradas of New Mexico by the Penitente Brotherhood. See also Tinieblas.
"Los Texanos" - "The Texans," is a secular folk play celebrating the defeat of the 1841 expedition from the Republic of Texas to explore and take command of their western borderlands or New Mexico.
"Tinieblas" - Spanish for the Tenebrae service that represents the darkness and chaos following the Crucifixion of Christ. In the morada, a candelabra with thirteen candles is gradually extinguished, and prayers for the dead are recited, followed by three periods of deafening noise. See also Tenebrae."
Trovos - dueling songs of the troubadours that describe encounters of famous poets trying to outdo each other with their verbal virtuosity, a moribund form in New Mexico.
Valses - the waltz with its sweeping triple-meter music and scandalous dance, which swept Europe and the world in the nineteenth century. Before the waltz, couples danced apart.
Vaquero - cowboy, or more specifically, the nineteenth-century Nuevo Mexicano folk dance that only occurred in New Mexico, along with the indita dance, and the cuna or cradle dance.
Varsoviana - "girl from Warsaw," the music and dance that celebrated the first Polish revolution, known in English as "Put your little foot" and mispronounced in Spanish as "Varceliana."
Versos - verses, the term used to refer to couplets, or octosyllabic quatrains with alternating assonance or vowel rhyme. See also coplas.
Virgen de Dolores - the Lady of Sorrows, the grieving aspect of the Virgin Mary at the crucifixion of Jesus.
Virgen de Guadalupe - Guadalupe, the beloved Indian Virgin of Mexico, patroness of the Americas, who is said to have appeared at Tepeyac, north of Mexico City in 1531.
Virgen del Monte Carmelo - the Virgin of Mount Carmel, an aspect of the Virgin with the Christ Child in her arm and scapularies in her hand, a devotion based in Spain, but popular in New Mexico and all of Latin America.
Virgen de la Soledad - Virgin of Solitude, a grieving aspect of the Virgin Mary that shows her alone after the Crucifixion, closely related to Dolores.
Virgen del Socorro - Virgin of Succor, a popular devotion of Spain and the Americas.
Notes on Nuevo Mexicano Spanish
New Mexican Spanish is a colorful dialect of northern Mexican Spanish, noted for its seventeenth-century archaisms, its lack of class distinctions, and its intimate relation with English after the American invasion of 1846. Only two rather than three verb types are conjugated, several common verb stems are archaic, and some conjugations (such as the tú form of the preterit) are regularized. Any reader of Cervantes will recognize all the archaisms.
Because of the long delay of public schooling in New Mexico, reading was taught at home, especially in the latter half of the nineteenth century, when literacy was common. In the family ledgers in which people recorded everything from births to hymns and business transactions, many oral forms were simply written down as they were spoken.
In the cuadernos or notebooks that the Penitente Brothers kept, the following spellings reflect the regional pronunciations and verb forms. Specific Nuevo Mexicano words from the Juan B. Rael Collection and their standard equivalents and translations are listed below.
Enrique R. Lamadrid
University of New Mexico