Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Best reference question yet – Las Posadas

I haven’t worked here very long, but I got the best reference question thus far last week! A gentleman called first thing when we opened, and said he had some visitors from out of town who were interested in the history and background of Las Posadas, the play that is performed on the Plaza here in Santa Fe every year. Where did this originate, the patron asked, and when? If it didn’t start here, then where? And he added the bit every librarian loves to hear: “… and anything else you think might be of interest.”

I immediately jumped into the vertical file, with which I have been slowly getting familiar. This is an incredible resource of clippings from local papers about local topics of interest, going back to what seems like the dawn of time. My colleague was interested and looked for books and internet information, but all those roads led to nil. The vertical file, on the other hand, told me more than I could ever have imagined. Some of the information was conflicting, but I finally read through enough to have put together a pretty good idea of the history behind Las Posadas.

Based on the morality plays of the middle ages, Las Posadas came to us from Mexico. It is a recreation of Mary and Joseph’s journey into Bethlehem seeking shelter; they are turned away from every door by the devil until the very end, where they are accepted at the Inn (which is what las posadas means – the inns). In smaller villages, this goes on for several nights, and the couple playing Mary and Joseph go from house to house. Here in Santa Fe, they go to the stores on the Plaza, though this was not always the case. Originally, according to The Reporter, Las Posadas began in the 1960s as a celebration of community solidarity in the San Antonio neighborhood by several residents who were brought together by fighting and winning against the construction of an apartment building in their neighborhood. The original Las Posadas plays continued in this neighborhood for many years and involved a real donkey, but things got out of hand when the donkey ran away and hid in the hills for two days; eventually the play was taken over by businesses (Bank of Santa Fe and Sociedad Folklorico were both mentioned in different articles) and brought to the Plaza, sans donkey.

I have somehow managed to miss this play for seventeen years, but after learning all of this background (and making the patron exceedingly happy!), I am certain to be there this coming year, holding a candle & wishing for a donkey!

posted by AA@ Main

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