This year, the 39th year of the Los Pastores tradition begun in Taos, the cast of Sangre de Cristo Liturgies and Las Pistoleras, both of Taos, plans to present a virtual, creative and innovative piece that observes the current COVID-19 protocols of social distancing.

Director Theresa Córdova, Ph. D., [Kathryn Córdova’s daughter], is working with the Southwest Studies Department of Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to produce the annual production despite the pandemic.  

“We are not giving up, but we are also mindful that our audience must be safe and healthy,” said Córdova. The college offers Los Pastores via the Southwest Studies YouTube channel. 

     Los Pastores is a traditional folk play about the shepherds’ search for the newborn Christ Child. The drama dates to the Middle Ages as part of a sequence of plays called auto sacramentales or Acts of Faith.  Twelve days comprised the complete spiritual cycle. Franciscan priests and Spanish and Mexican settlers brought the plays to New Mexico during Colonial times.

     Three types of plays illustrated lessons of faith to the Christians and remained an important vehicle for sharing because few people in the area could read at the time. Plays consisted of the following types: mystery plays (about the life of Christ); miracle plays (about wondrous signs and events); and morality plays (about the battle between good and evil).

     During Colonial times, the casts and audiences internalized the play and made it their own. They changed a word or two while keeping the meaning of the message intact. This and other year’s productions follow the script provided by Aurora Lucero White in the 1930s. Los Pastores, the most musical play of the auto sacramentales, includes music reflecting the joy of the season. 

An alabado (one of the archaic spiritual chants that continue through the spiritual practices of the Hermandad or the Penitente brotherhood) opens the first scene. The entrance introduces all the cast members with the exception of Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus who the shepherds seek. 

Other musical songs such as Bienvenidos Pastores (Mary and Joseph’s welcome to the shepherds)and Alarru Chiquito, (the cast’s lullaby to the Baby Jesus, originally written for Mary Kaye Blickenderfer’s music students for their Taos Elementary School Christmas program in the 1980s), allows the cast to use their voices and instruments to entertain and honor the spirit of the season. 

Former director, the late Arsenio Córdova, [Theresa’s father and Kathryn’s husband] composed these and other songs to enhance the storyline. In addition, the cast sings El Rey de Belen, a composition by the beloved Father George Salazar, currently assigned to Immaculate Conception parish in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

     The sheepherders and their crew experience many obstacles along the way: pushing the lazy Barolo into action; the battle between the devil and the angel amidst Satan’s temptations (or the battle between good and evil); and sharing the camaraderie that remains important during the search for the Baby Jesus.  In the end, good prevails over evil and the entire entourage receives its reward – interaction with the Holy Family for whom they searched.

     Many of the participants remained with the cast for several years, advancing to larger roles throughout time. This custom insures a continuation of future presentations. Actors represent various age groups, places of residence, family involvement and the real meaning of the season.

In the past, the cast traveled to places in northern New Mexico, Colorado and Mexico to perform.

 

Las Posadas Another popular community tradition, “Las Posadas,” meaning the "inns" or the "shelters," is a religious celebration of Joseph and Mary's journey to Bethlehem and their search for lodging as the impending birth of Christ nears. Typically performed for nine consecutive nights (Dec. 15-24) before Christmas, at press time there was no news of Taoseños performing as posadistas (Mary and Joseph asking for posada, shelter) nor posaderos (the innkeepers who turn them away until the last night, when the Holy Family are finally welcomed and offered hot chocolate and biscochitos). At press time, due to COVID-Safe prohibition of no more than five people in a public gathering, this beautiful pageant has been cancelled, until such time as pandemic protocols are modified. Given daily changes, however, call your local parish office for the most up-to-date information.

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