Cathedrals, Colonization, and Conversion: Mapping the Music of New Spain

The caveats

Our research process is still incomplete, and there are many relevant sources that are just out of our reach. For example, there are many original manuscripts that have been lost or are now unreadable due to the hot and humid weather conditions in Mexico and Texas. Also, many primary sources are written in Spanish or are held exclusively by the cathedrals and have not been translated or released digitally. Most of our initial research relied on secondary sources, and from there we were able to dig into some of the primary sources they cited.

There were a few specific areas that our group did not have the opportunity to delve deeper into, particularly research into indigenous musicians, and the music that they composed and performed. In this modern era where historical research is beginning to reframe our perception of the past, especially regarding race and gender, the stories of indigenous people are necessary for helping us understand the history of colonial Spain. Information on the Spanish encounters with the Aztec empire has been well documented and is easily accessible, but less so, at least in English language texts, was information on the Mixtec, Incan, and Mayan civilizations, all of which were well-established at the time the Spanish began their conquest. Furthermore, we wanted to learn more about the musical traditions of the native people, but encountered difficulty because very little documentation exists beyond that they were musically talented enough to quickly pick up Western styles.

Our research covered a wide range of genres, locations, and time periods, which naturally left us without much depth. To some extent, the shallowness of our research was out of necessity; to go deeper, we would have had to physically go to the cathedral and mission archives to access the large majority of relevant primary sources. The next best step for research in this field might therefore be a systematic digitization of manuscripts held in archives so that other researchers around the world can access these primary sources.