The photograph on the left features students, portraying the characters of Mary and Joseph, participating in Las Posadas (1). Las Posadas is a Christian pageant tradition practiced throughout Latin America and Spain as part of the Las Posadas tradition. Based on the New Testament, the pageant lasts nine days and focuses on Joseph and Mary and their search for a place to stay in Bethlehem (2). While the subject matter of the tradition is not of much intrigue and doesn’t connect to the course content, its role in the colonization of Latin America does.
The Las Posadas tradition dates back to the 16th century with the Augustinian missionaries’ conversion of the Aztecs. The pageant tradition coincided with the celebration of the birth of the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli, which occurred at roughly the same time and shared the same amount of cultural weight as Christmas did to the missionaries (3). This served as a bridge between the two cultures and made Christianity easier to teach to the Aztecs.
This puts our cultural understanding of the traditional Las Posadas song in a predicament. We understand that the song was part of a larger tradition aimed at converting the Aztecs, along with other indigenous cultures. This thus westernized them and made them easier to conquer and assimilate. However, one cannot deny the fact that the Las Posadas tradition has been a part of Latin American culture for roughly 500 years, and has different cultural connotations and intentions now compared to then. Seth Nolan notes that Las Posadas has “…become a community affair with friends, relatives, and neighbors gathering together to share in a tradition that has come down through the years” (4). While the reckoning of these two identities associated with this song doesn’t present a clear answer, the ethical and moral debate it sparks around historical context and cultural significance is important.
(1) “Las Posadas Student Procession.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022. Image. Accessed December 13, 2022. https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1922421.
(2) Nolan, Seth. “Las Posadas.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022. Accessed October 3, 2022. https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1329879.
(3) Nolan, Seth. “Las Posadas.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022. Accessed October 3, 2022. https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1329879.
(4) Nolan, Seth. “Las Posadas.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience,