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Ruben Cobos Collection of Southwestern Folklore and Folk Music

 Collection
Identifier: MSS 892 BC

Scope and Content

The collection consists of 591 recordings of folk songs, folklore and local histories collected by Ruben Cobos from 1944-1974 in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Also included in the collection are about 270 additional recordings of selected music - a few from New Mexico, many from Mexico and Latin America, and others from Spain, Europe and the U.S. The recordings vary in quality between good, fair, and poor. They contain both musical and spoken content. Most recordings are in Spanish, however, a few are in English. Others are Bilingual or represent the use of Spanglish.

The informants are mainly from New Mexico and Colorado, with a few from California, Texas and Mexico. The collections focuses heavily on spoken Spanish, with examples of poetry, riddles, proverbs, legends, anecdotes, folk tales, mysteries, prayers, nursery rhymes, games, jokes, language use, tricky words, tongue twisters, memories, local history and family history. The Spanish songs include alabados, entriegas for weddings and baptisms, inditas, corridos and ballads, pastores, posadas, love songs, folk dance music, etc. Traditions of Los Juanes and Los Manueles, Penitente morada practices, including women Penitentes, Holy Week songs and activities and the role of the church, santos and fiestas in the lives of the people are also included. There are also several lectures on folklore, music and culture by Cobos and other scholars, including Fray Angelico Chavez, Charles Briggs, Alfonso Ortiz, Arthur Leon Campa, Marta Weigle, Guadalupe Baca Vaughn, Anita Thomas and others. Included also are autobiographical accounts by Ruben Cobos and his wife Elvira.

Songs and stories about and for children, their health and education are included. Although the majority of the information is about Spanish and Hispanic traditions, the collection also provides some materials by and about non-Hispanics and the relationship between the races. A small amount of stories and songs relate to Apaches, Navajos, Pueblos, Mexicanos, African Americans, and Anglos (gringos).

Songs and stories by or about males show them in every walk of life, as rich and poor, old and young, as husbands, widowers, fathers, sons, relatives, compadres, friends, orphans, opponents, collaborators, kings, princes, commoners, giants, ranchers, cowboys, shepherds, farmers, woodcutters, shoemakers, vendors, railroaders, hunters, priests, doctors, teachers, politicians, attorneys, meteorologists, soldiers, witches, simpletons, gamblers, murderers, drunks, adulturers and thieves.

Recordings by and about women add value and perspective to the collection. Females are rich and poor, old and young, girl friends, lovers, adulteresses, wives, widows, mothers, comadres, church attendees, housekeepers for priests, nuns, princesses, queens, teachers, curanderas, cooks and witches. Some of the characters found in the collection are Cinderella, Genoveva de Brabanate, Goldilocks, Delgadina, La Llorona, Doña Cebolla, Dona Fortuna and the Virgin Mary, as well as San Antonio, San Pedro, Bartoldo, Don Cacahuate, Juan Charrasqueado, Pedro and Juan de Urdemalas, Ali Baba, Don Dinero, Tio Botitas and others.

The collection contains descriptions, traditions, local history and songs for New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Missouri, Kansas and Mexico. There are references to the Civil War in New Mexico, the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II. Stories tell of superstitions, supernatural, unexplained phenomenon, balls of fire and light, lightening, a comet, the sun, moon, finding treasure, ghosts, devils and magic. Additional topics include traditional food and cooking, health and home remedies. Included also are stories and references to insects, animals, birds, fish and snakes, as well as floods and storms, and automobiles and airplanes.

Dates

  • 1930-2013
  • Majority of material found within 1944-1976

Creator

Language of Materials

English, Spanish

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

Dr. Ruben Cobos, professor, folklorist and musician, was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, in 1911. Shortly after the death of his father (1923), the family moved to San Antonio, Texas (1925), where his older sister Consuelo, a Presbyterian missionary lived. Consuelo became sick with tuberculosis and the Presbyterian Church arranged for the family to move to Albuquerque (1927) for treatment at the local sanatorium. The Church also started Cobos in classes at Menaul High School. Cobos spent summers in the homes and ranches of his Presbyterian Hispanic school mates from Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. He noticed they used a colonial-medieval style Spanish from 16th and 17th century Spain, which was different from that of Mexico and Texas. He noted the Spanish of Southern New Mexico was even different from that of the North. He realized the world was changing so fast that their Spanish would soon disappear. He felt a need to preserve examples of that dialect. Cobos kept in touch with those families, and later as a professor recorded some of their memories.

Coming from a very poor family, Cobos realized the importance of education and was determined to go to UNM. In 1932 he went to see President Zimmerman, telling him he intended to start classes in the fall but that he had no money. Moved by his life story and impressed by the eager young man, Zimmerman permitted him to attend UNM free for four years, plus earn $30/month in return for maintenance work around campus. Cobos learned to speak Italian, French, Portuguese and German. He earned his BA with honors in 1936 and was immediately hired at Wagon Mound High School and later at the Normal University (now New Mexico Highlands) in Las Vegas.

Cobos, with a string recorder, began capturing the stories and songs of the oldest norteños, starting in Wagon Mound and Las Vegas. Later he used a tape recorder and cassette player. In 1938 he received his MA in Spanish from UNM, again with honors. Cobos was drafted in WWII, graduated from the U.S. Military Intelligence Center and served for three years as a language consultant and translator for the U.S. Army Intelligence Office of Censorship, mostly in Maryland and Texas. He also performed musical programs for USO clubs. In 1944 he returned for a visit to Albuquerque, was hired at UNM, and left the Army. He retired from UNM in 1977, having taught Spanish, Southwest Hispanic Folklore and Ibero-American Civilization.

Cobos worked on his doctorate from Stanford University from 1949-1950, receiving his Ph.D. in 1957. He also taught at Stanford, Colorado College (Colorado Springs), Highlands University (Las Vegas) and the University of Nevada, Reno, and for UNM’s programs in Ecuador and Spain. After starting to teach at UNM, Cobos met Arthur Campa, Aurelio M. Espinosa, John Donald Robb and Juan B. Rael who were already studying and collecting examples of the Spanish language and culture of New Mexico. They influenced and encouraged him to continue his research and collection of songs and stories in New Mexico and Colorado. In 1949 he ran an invitation in Santa Fe’s Spanish newspaper, El Nuevo Mexicano, asking high school students to send him their notebooks of old, not new he specified, New Mexico Spanish folk stories and song texts. He would judge them, keep them, and publish some of them. The winners would get a prize of $25, $15 or $10. From 1949-1950, Cobos wrote a column called “El folklore Nuevomexicano” in Spanish for that newspaper, giving background on folk songs and stories, using material submitted by those contestants. Cobos made countless field recordings with his friends. He assigned his UNM students to record their elders and added their accounts to his collection. He taught his students that to understand the Hispanic people of New Mexico and southern Colorado, one must study their history and folklore together.

Cobos traveled to Spain, Mexico and Latin America. He wanted to hear the songs in their authentic settings and he realized how the cultures of the Hispanic world were inter-related. Cobos was blessed with a beautiful tenor voice and played the guitar. He studied voice and Italian with Luigi Viani. He sang Spanish, Italian, French and German classics and operas, sometimes accompanied by Mrs. Viani on piano. He performed with the Albuquerque Civic Opera Company and Albuquerque Symphony, made radio appearances, and performed in Las Vegas, Santa Fe and other local New Mexico communities, as well as in San Antonio, Texas. While he was resident professor at UNM, Vicente T. Mendoza, Mexican folklorist and musician, helped him with some of his Spanish harmonies. He also sang American folk tunes from Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as popular modern American songs. He assembled an array of recordings of classics and operas from Europe and folk and popular music from the United States.

Cobos wrote several bilingual books, newspaper and journal articles, gave public talks and musical performances and taught a UNM Spanish course on television. He received many honors for his work, including the Burl Ives National Folk Festival Award at a Kentucky festival. He was a founder of the festival and the national association saluted him for his close ties to Central and South America and for revitalizing Spanish American culture as a part of the large American heritage. He performed and represented New Mexico at folk festivals in Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri and New York. Cobos was President of the New Mexico Folklore Society from 1974-1975. He was inducted into the New Mexico Folklore Hall of Fame and received the Excellence in Scholarship Award from the National Endowment for Humanities in 1992. The Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española also awarded him for his contributions. Colorado College and New Mexico Highlands granted him honorary doctoral degrees. He died in 2010 at age 99.

Extent

13 boxes (12.25 cu. ft.)

Abstract

The collection consists of 591 recordings of folk songs, folklore and local histories collected by Ruben Cobos from 1944-1974 in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Also included are 270 additional recordings of selected music - a few from New Mexico, many from Mexico and Latin America, and others from Spain, Europe and the U.S.

Other Finding Aids

In 1974 Cobos gave 358 reels of his recordings of folk songs, stories and local histories to Colorado College, Colorado Springs. In the summer of 1974 he and Benito Cordova prepared A Guide to the Ruben Cobos Collection of New Mexican Indo-Hispanic Folklore, Vol. 1 - describing the content of reels 1 - 100. In 1975 Cobos and Ella Martinez Vigil released Vol. 2 covering reels 101 - 200. A copy of each volume is included in the collection. Apparently Cobos did not address the content of the remaining 158 reels at Colorado College. Victoria Lindsay Levine, Ethnomusicologist at Colorado College, catalogued the musical pieces from the Cobos reels at the college. In 1999, Levine and her assistant, Amanda Chace, published a guide, Music in the Ruben Cobos Collection of Spanish New Mexican Folklore: A Description Catalogue. As of March 2013 the Cobos music selections from Colorado College's reels 1-228 are available in the Digital Archives of Colorado College.

Acquisition Information

In 2012, the family of the late Dr. Ruben Cobos donated his collection of 591 reels of folk songs, folklore and local histories collected from 1944-1974 in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado to the Center of Southwest Research (CSWR), UNM. Also included in the collection were 270 additional reels of selected recorded music - a few from New Mexico, many from Mexico and Latin America, and others from Spain, Europe and the U.S. In addition, on February 18, 2015 the CSWR received 34 reels of lectures by Cobos from Dr. Neddy Vigil of the UNM Spanish Department Language Lab.

Related Archival Material

Evelia Cobos Pictorial Collection Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Enrique Lamadrid Collection of Folk Songs, Oral Histories and Photographic Projects Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Edwin Berry Oral History Interviews and Songs Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Garland Bills and Neddy Vigil New Mexico-Colorado Spanish Survey Records Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Hermandad de Nuestro Padre de Jesus Semana Santa Songbooks Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Jenny Wells Vincent Recordings Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Juan S. Lucero and Lora L. Chavez Collection of New Mexico Hispanic Religious and Traditional Songs Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Richard B. Stark Collection of New Mexico Religious Songs Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Thomas J. Steele Alabado Collection Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Rubén Cobos Collection of Spanish New Mexican Folklore Tutt Library, Colorado College. New Mexico-Colorado Spanish Survey recordsCenter for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico

Processing Information

Descriptions of the Cobos Folklore reels/CDs 1 - 591 are drawn from the reel box notes or what could be determined by listening to them. The notes are filed in folders in the collection. Also consulted were the 1999 Levine-Chase music catalogue and the 1974-1975 Cobos two volume guide - both from Colorado College.

The 34 Cobos Lectures from the Spanish Language Lab are also included under the series - LECT. The descriptions for them came from listening to the recordings.

The Music of the World reels/CDs 1 - 270 were purchased or recorded by Cobos and form a MUS series. Their descriptions came from their reel box notes or what could be gleaned from listening to them. These notes are also filed in the collection.

The folklore and Music of the World recordings are stored on hard drives in B3 with the Cobos masters. The lectures are stored on the V Drive.
Title
Finding Aid of the Ruben Cobos Collection of Southwestern Folklore and Folk Music, 1930-2013
Status
Edited Full Draft
Author
N. Brown Martinez
Date
© 2013
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

Contact:
University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131
505-277-6451