Click any of the images to view a larger representation.
Photographs from the
Mary Ann Smothers Bruni Collection
“But by the grace of God I began to know and understand their manner and…how
to speak to them…because in their ancient worship of their gods they sang and
danced before them.
--Fray Pedro e Gante, Letter to Phillip II, 1528.
The pastorelas , or Mexican shepherds plays, were born in early Sixteenth
Century Mexico when Spanish Franciscans, heirs to a rich legacy of religious
drama, met Mesoamerican Indians, who also celebrated their religious mysteries
in drama and dance. The priests introduced the stories, but it was the people
and their enthusiasm that nourished the drama and carried it from the churchyards
to the public squares and eventually, as the folk traveled with the Franciscans,
across the far reaches of Spain's American empire—to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona,
Located on one of the major Franciscan routes, San Antonio, Texas, has enjoyed
many pastorelas . The first documented shepherds play there was recorded
and photographed in 1893 by Captain John Bourke, president of the American
Folklore Society. In 1907 the Society published M.R. Cole's Los Pastores:
A Mexican Play of the Nativity , which presented the pastorela as
produced in South Texas at that time.
Leandro Granados brought San Antonio's Los Pastores to Our Lady of
Guadalupe Church from his beloved Mexico around 1910. Don Leandro, who had
performed in pastorelas in Mexico, inscribed his text in an old ledger.
Father Carmelo Tranchese of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church edited and translated
the text, and it was published in 1949 by Treviño Brothers Printing
and Lithograph as Los Pastores: A Christmas Drama of Old Mexico .
A copy of this published text is available at the Benson Collection.
Click for sound excerpt