The Arrival of the Europeans: Folk Dramatizations of Conquest and Conversion in New Mexico
On 30 April 1598, on the banks of the Río del Norte (Río Grande), Juan de Oñate formally "took possession of all the kingdoms and provinces of New Mexico, in the name of King Philip [of Spain]." The reading of the act of possession was followed by "a sermon, a great ecclesiastical and secular celebration, a great salute and rejoicing, and, in the afternoon, a comedy."1 Although the text of the comedia has been lost, a brief account of the play's subject matter can be found in Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá's epic poem Historia de la Nueva Mexico. Villagrá was a captain under Oñate 's command in New Mexico and published his account of the expedition in 1610. He wrote:
Y luego que acabaron los oficios
Representaron vna gran comedia
Que el noble Capitán Farfán compuso,
Cuio argumento sólo fue mostramos
El gran recibimiento que a la Iglesia
Toda la nueva México hazía,
Dándole el parabién de su venida
Con grande reverencia, suplicando,
Las rodillas en tierra, les labase
Aquella culpa con el agua santa
Del precioso Baptismo que traían,
Con cuio saludable sacramento
Muchos Bárbaros vimos ya labados
Luego que por su tierras anduvimos.
Vbo solemnes fiestas agradables
De gente de acaballo bien luzida ....
(And when the services were done
They did present a great drama
The noble Captain Farfán had composed,
Whose argument was but to show to us
The great reception of the Church
That all New Mexico did give,
Congratulating it upon its arrival,
Begging, with thorough reverence,
And kneeling on the ground, it would wash out
Its faults with that holy water
Of precious Baptism which they brought,
With which most salutary sacrament
We saw many barbarians cleansed
When we were traveling through their lands.
There were solemn and pleasing festivals
Of splendid men on horseback .... )2
"The Arrival of the Europeans: Folk Dramatizations of Conquest and Conversion in New Mexico,"
Comparative Drama: Vol. 28:
1, Article 7.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/compdr/vol28/iss1/7