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Southwest Mexicans knew about cultural events and styles not only in central Mexico but in Spain and other parts of Europe.Indeed, the Spanish-speaking Southwest was never as culturally isolated or impoverished as American historians have traditionally claimed.Coming to America during Spain's Golden Age, the era of Cervantes, Lope de Vega and Góngora, the conquistadores were avid story tellers and makers, depositing legends, tales, and songs along the paths of conquest.
In 1610, Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá, a classical scholar from Salamanca and a companion of Oñate, published his Historia de la Nueva México in 34 Vírgilian cantos (see Heath 1: 162-172).
The historia is one of the first examples of an emergent literary tradition, rendered in Spanish and evincing a Catholic sensibility, but American nonetheless.
Traditional Spanish plays were sometimes adapted to the particular circumstances of the Southwest.
In New Mexico, The Moors and the Christians, which featured an abduction of the Christ Child by the Spaniards' mortal enemies, metamorphosed into Los Comanches, in which the kidnappers were pagan Indians.
All this is not to say that the region was not already developing its cultural particularities.
For if the Mexican Southwest, despite great obstacles, managed to maintain cultural ties with the Mexican interior, it also was developing ever-stronger connections with the United States.
Until the mid-nineteenth century, some thirty years after Mexican independence, the literature, both oral and written, of the Spanish-speaking Southwest was not remarkably different from that created in the Mexican heartland.
Although key cultural centers such as Santa Fe and Los Angeles were located great distances from Mexico City, they were visited regularly by Mexican traders, entertainers, and government officials who brought with them news and all manner of cultural information.
In a setting where education and literacy were often luxuries, oral expressive forms figured prominently.
Folk dramas were performed from California to Texas.