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Celebrating Los Pastores in San Antonio, Texas

Photographs from the
Mary Ann Smothers Bruni Collection

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“It will be seen that the…modern performances of Los Pastores differ in different localities, and even in the same localities from year to year; but they all seem to be as genuine professions of faith as were the splendid autos sacramentales of the seventeenth century. The spirit which once made all Christian Europe delight in the Miracle Play is extinct in our race; but for that very reason it is the more interesting to find it still lingering on the outskirts of our continent, among the descendants of the people who sped the Santa María on her westward track. But even there the tradition may fade away, and we are sincerely grateful to the collectors who rescued these fragments of the past, before the modern spirit could sweep them away in the name of progress.”

--M.R. Cole, Los Pastores: A Mexican Play of the Nativity , 1907.

The Los Pastores performed each Christmas season by the Guadalupe Players in San Antonio, Texas, is an example of the pastorela or Mexican shepherds play that Cole describes. Author and photographer Mary Ann Smothers Bruni, whose notes and photographs are being preserved and made available to the public at the Benson Latin American Collection, is just such a collector and documenter as Cole celebrates.

Bruni, who studied Spanish Medieval and Renaissance drama at the University of Madrid, first saw the San Antonio play at Mission San José in 1970. Elegant quatrains of classical Spanish dramatists mixed with often irreverent prose that depicted shepherds eating carbrito beside “crystalline fountains” fascinated her, and she began to document the folk drama in interviews, audio tapes, and photographs. “These are not elegant European shepherds celebrating the beauty of nature in sonnets,” she wrote in her 1990 book Los Pastores , “but rather earthy Mexican American shepherds, lost somewhere between the Rio Grande and the River Jordan.”

Bruni's publications on Los Pastores include a 1985 children's book Rosita's Christmas Wish and the 1990 Los Pastores , which accompanied her photographic exhibitions at the Texas Memorial Museum and the Southwest School of Art and Craft. For her contribution to the understanding of Hispanic culture, Bruni received a lazo de dama medal from the Order of Isabel la Católica, awarded by Juan Carlos, King of Spain. This web-site presents selected images from Bruni's collection, and places them in context of the history, tradition, drama, and community of Los Pastores.

Selections from Bruni's Pastores photographs are also currently on exhibition at the South Texas Institute for the Arts in Corpus Christi, Texas, April 7 through July 31, 2005.


Photographs by Mary Ann Smothers Bruni.

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Last updated: March 26, 2005.
Created by: Craig Schroer - Electronic Services Librarian
Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin
Please send comments to: schroer@mail.utexas.edu

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