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The literary culture of the Spanish-speaking Southwest developed spasmodically in a harsh frontier environment marked by episodes of intense cultural conflict, first largely with native Americans and later with Anglo-Americans.Literary forms commonly produced in frontier cultures predominate: personal and historical narratives which sought to capture the epic experiences of conquest and settlement; and, of course, poetry of various types, frequently religious and occasional.In a setting where education and literacy were often luxuries, oral expressive forms figured prominently.
The authors of such works, especially in the early days of Spanish dominance, were government officials and priests who possessed the tool of literacy and who typically regarded their mission in the Southwest on a grand scale.
(See, for example, the selections by Otermín, 1: 475-483; de Vargas, 1: 440-445; Delgado, 11-1217; and Palou, 1: 1217-1226.) Belletristic fictional works, particularly novels, were rarely produced until the cultural infrastructure necessary to support such writing a stable, relatively well-educated middle-class population, the introduction of sophisticated printing technology, and efficient means of distribution, for example came into existence in several southwestern towns and cities.
Folktales and legends became widely dispersed, many of which made their way north from the Mexican interior.
La Llorona (the weeping woman), one of Mexico's best-known legends, circulated in many versions in the Southwest (1: 1282-1283) and later became the inspiration for any number of Chicano works of fiction.
Traditional Spanish plays were sometimes adapted to the particular circumstances of the Southwest.
In New Mexico, The Moors and the Christians, which featured an abduction of the Christ Child by the Spaniards' mortal enemies, metamorphosed into Los Comanches, in which the kidnappers were pagan Indians.In 1610, Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá, a classical scholar from Salamanca and a companion of Oñate, published his Historia de la Nueva México in 34 Vírgilian cantos (see Heath 1: 162-172).The historia is one of the first examples of an emergent literary tradition, rendered in Spanish and evincing a Catholic sensibility, but American nonetheless.Southwest Mexicans knew about cultural events and styles not only in central Mexico but in Spain and other parts of Europe.Indeed, the Spanish-speaking Southwest was never as culturally isolated or impoverished as American historians have traditionally claimed.All this is not to say that the region was not already developing its cultural particularities.For if the Mexican Southwest, despite great obstacles, managed to maintain cultural ties with the Mexican interior, it also was developing ever-stronger connections with the United States.By 1836, for example, Mexicans in Texas not only found themselves outnumbered by Anglos but citizens of an independent country.In California, the residents were visited frequently by American trading ships; a good number of American traders and sailors stayed and married into californio families.Learn more about how Oath collects and uses data and how our partners collect and use data.Select ' OK' to allow Oath and our partners to use your data, or ' Manage options' to review our partners and your choices.