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Musicology: Spanish Coritos and Cultural Issues: A Trexler Study of Interviews and Visits in 1989




These are some of the Coritos that we sang in our Spanish language service, which Pastor Maria Lopez taught us in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Coney Island, New York. The slashes indicate the number of times to repeat the line. I include some of my translations.             


Estamos de Fiesta con Jesus

Estamos de fiesta con Jesus

          Y al cielo queremos ir,

Y todos reunidos en la mesa,

Es Cristo el que va a server.

////Poderoso es el Señor.////[1]

//El sana, El salva, poderoso es el Señor//

//Bautiza y viene, poderoso es el Señor.//

//Poderoso, poderoso, poderoso es el Señor.//

Another version:

////Poderoso es nuestro Dios.////

//El sana, El salva, poderoso es nuestro Dios.//

//Bautiza y viene, poderoso es nuestro Dios.//

//Poderoso, poderoso, poderoso es nuestro Dios.//



Unos Brazos Humildes se Abrieron 

Unos brazos humildes se abrieron

En la trágica cruz del Calvario.

El dolor de los clavos sufrieron

Y la cruz con su sangre bañaron.

//Para dar salvacion a este mundo picador

Y librarles del mal que vendra.//


Que bonito es Cantar al Senor

//Que bonito es, Que bonito es

Cantar al Senor.//

O hermanos, vamos a cantarle

//Que bonito es, Que bonito es

Cantar al Senor.//

O hermanos, vamos a cantarle

Que bonito es, Que bonito es

Cantar al Senor.

Por Navidad:

//Que bonito es, en la Navidad

Cantar al Senor.//

O hermanos, vamos a cantarle

//Que bonito es, Que bonito es

Cantar al Senor.//

O hermanos, vamos a cantarle

Que bonito es, en la Navidad

Cantar al Senor.


Ven, Ven, Ven, Espiritu Divino

Ven, ven, ven, Espiritu Divino,

Ven, ven, ven, apoderate de mi.

Ven, ven, ven, Espiritu Divino,

Ven, ven, ven, apoderate de mi.

//Apoderate, apoderate,

      Apoderate, de todo mi ser.//



Pon Aceite En Mi Lampara, Senor

//Amado Hermano, Cristo ya viene,

Toma tu lampara y ponle aceite.//

//Pon aceite en mi lampara, Senor//

Que yo quiero servirte con amor.

Pon aceite en mi lampara, Senor.



Has Cambiado Mi Lamento En Baile

Has cambiado mi lamento en baile

me senistes de alegria.

Por eso a Ti cantare gloria mia

Y no estare callado.

Jehova Dios Mio Te alabare,

Te alabare para siempre.

Has cambiado mi lamento en baile,

Jehova Dios Mio Te alabare.



Amarte Solo a Ti Senor

Amarte solo a Ti, Senor.

Amarte solo a Ti, Senor.

Amarte solo a Ti, Senor,

Y no mirar atras.

//Seguir Tu caminar, Senor, seguir sin desmayar, Senor.

Postrado ante Tu altar, Senor, y no mirar atras.//


Si Vivimos

Y si vivimos, para el vivimos.

Y si morimos, para el morirmos.

//Sea que vivamos o que moramos,

Somos del Senor, somos del Senor!//


Viva la Fe

///Viva la fe, viva la esperanza, viva el amor.///

Que viva Cristo, que viva Cristo, que viva el Rey.

Que viva Cristo, que viva, que viva Cristo,

//Que viva, que viva Cristo, que viva el Rey.//


Empezemos a Cantar

Empezemos, empezemos a cantar, a cantar,

Alabanzas a Jesus, el Salvador,

Gloria a dios!

Busquemos la communion con el gran Consolador,

//Cuan alegres y gozosos,

Alabar a nuestro Dios.//


Libre tu me hiciste libre

Libre tu me hiciste libre,

Tu me hiciste libre, mi buen Senor.

Rota fueron las cadenas que estaban atando,

mi corazon.


Jerusalen, Que Bonita Eres

//Jerusalen, que bonita eres

Calles de oro, mar de cristal.//

//Por esas calles yo voy a caminar,

Calles de oro, mar de cristal.//


Cristo Rompe las Cadenas

///Cristo rompe las cadenas,///

Y nos da seguridad.

Como es possible, yo vivir sin mi Jesus.

Si el fundamento de mi vida lo eres tu,

Tu me libraste de la muerte y del infierno,

Como es possible yo vivir sin mi Jesus.


No Hay Nadie Como Mi Dios

//No hay nadie como mi Dios,

No hay nadie.//

Yo le amo. El me ama.

Yo le pido. El me da.

Yo le llamo, el me responde,

Contesta mis peticiones.


Si Todos Trabajamos

Si todos trabajamos unidos, unidos

Si todos trabajamos que bueno sera.

La obra no es de hombre.

La obra es del Senor.

Si todos trabajamos

que bueno sera.

Translations of several of these coritos:


“The Fiesta Song”

Let’s celebrate a party with Jesus.

Heaven’s fiesta we love the most.

We’ll all be reunited around the table

And Jesus will be the host.

Great and powerful is the Lord, Oh, how powerful is the Lord.

Loving kindness fills the Lord, here and everywhere adored.

He heals us. He saves us. Oh, how powerful is the Lord.

Baptizes, comes to us. What a wonder working Lord!

Great and powerful is the Lord, Oh, how powerful is the Lord.


“Pour Your Oil in my Lamp”

//Sister and brothers, the Christ is coming

Take out you shining lamps

And keep them burning.//

//Pour your oil in my lamp O my dear Lord//

Like the heavenly angels above,

Fill our hearts with your faith, hope, and love.

//Sister and brothers, the Christ is coming

Take out you shining lamps

And keep them burning.//

//We want to serve you O Lord with all our love//

Like the heavenly angels above

Fill our hearts with your faith, hope, and love.


I translated the song “You changed my complaining into dancing” from Psalm 30, adding three verses from the Psalm to the Corito.

Psalm 30

  1. I will exalt you, O Lord, because you lifted me up,

lifted me up, lifted me up.

I will exalt you, O Lord, because you lifted me up,

Out of the dust and ashes.


So you’ve changed my complaining into dancing,

my lamenting into rejoicing.

My feathery feet dance the beat of thanksgiving,

Gone is a truck-load of worry.

I will exalt you, O Lord, my God,

Give you praise now and forever

Because you’ve changed my complaining into dancing,

my lamenting into rejoicing.

  1. Weeping may spend my hours of the night

hours of the night, hours of the night.

Weeping may spend my hours of the night

But joy comes in the morning.


  1. God’s anger endures for the twinkling of an eye

twinkling of an eye, twinkling of an eye.

God’s anger endures for the twinkling of an eye,

But God’s favor for a life-time.


Preface: In our ten-year Spanish language service in St. Paul’s in Coney Island, NY, the interface between Spanish and English language and culture became a continual issue, as well as that between Lutheran and Pentecostal spirituality. In this study, this issue is explored via musical forms, particularly, the Corito.

Diary of Visits and Interviews for a Trexler Study

Cultural and Spiritual Aspects of Spanish Hymnody for Lutherans

April 27th through October 5th 1989


Interview and Visit with Lorraine and Amando Florindez of Corona, Queens on Thursday, April 27, 1989: Mrs. Lorraine Florindez is working on the Spanish Hymnal to be published next year by the Missouri Lutheran Church. I found myself rewarded immensely by my visit to her home. Her husband Amando, a Peruvian, has been the president of his Lutheran congregation for 18 years. They were very warm hearted, supportive, and gracious to me. It was Christian fellowship in the abundant life!

To begin with a controversial issue for St. Paul’s Spanish language service right away: Hymn 255 in Culto Cristiano, “Take My Life and Let It Be” (here in the old familiar Patmos melody, 77,77 syllables) is a good example of translation of not only the words of this hymn into Spanish, but also the melody as well, (as I first thought) in such a free way that a new Spanish refrain was even added to the song, which allows for indigenous cultural feeling in the hymn as opposed to an Anglo hymn with Spanish words. I discovered, however, that what I thought was an indigenous melody was also another Anglo melody.


The other Anglo melody is by W. Kirkpatrick (1838‑1921), called Ducannon, which has been most commonly used in Spanish Pentecostal congregations. Thus, it would be more correct to say that this melody is a better “marriage” with the Spanish text for enhanced indigenous cultural expression. I thought that the refrain had been added, but when and by whom, I did not know. Also see hymn No. 75 in El Pueblo de Dios Canta. “Que mi vida entera esté” (Take My Life, that I May be) with the Kirkpatrick’s Ducannon melody, but without the refrain. But it can also be found in Himnos de Fe y Alabanz No. 293, also with Ducannon melody by Kirkpatrick, where the refrain is included, ascribed to Kirkpatrick as well! So the original melody we always sing with such a driving beat in our service is not originally Spanish but acculturated. Another way to think about this acculturation is that the melody no longer feels borrowed in Spanish language services, but now feels owned by a culture.

I asked L. Florindez the question about the difficulty of indigenous culture music for the Lutherans in Puerto Rico, and she responded that Germany had a five hundred-year-old church and Puerto Rico first had nothing at all in the way of Christian, let alone Lutheran music. So, of course, English, German, French, Bohemian hymns, plus American revival hymns from Wesley and Watts and others as well, had to be used. In 1963 one looked for Spanish hymns, authentically Spanish, which had originated in a Spanish culture in vain. A new development began mostly due to Vatican II and the spread of Protestantism. Now composers and hymn‑writers are at work in many Hispanic countries; in San Antonio, a Mexican, Carlos Rosas, a Catholic priest, for example. Slowly a treasury of authentic Spanish hymns are developing ‑ but this takes time. How much Protestantism existed in Puerto Rico before 1955? The old U.L.C.A. worked urban P.R., while the Missouri Synod worked Cuba. The Lutheran churches there have closed, but could be opened again.

In her study of Spanish Lutheran Hymnody, L. Florindez spoke about Frederico Fliedner, who was in the German Embassy in Spain. He translated more than a hundred hymns from German into Spanish, and he even translated “Silent Night” into “Noche de Paz.” He helped rescue Spanish Christians influenced by Protestantism ‑ who at the time were being burned if caught carrying or reading a Bible. The Fliedner Family is still active in Spain: Irma Fliedner runs a book store in Madrid from a church; another descendent, a nephew, Theodore Fliedner runs an orphanage for kids from all over Spain. The Fliedner family is also a highly respected Christian family in Germany. This can be documented.

Lutherans in P.R. have a strong sense of self‑identity.  


(In spite of what is said here, after visiting Lutheran Churches in Puerto Rico, it seems all use Culto Cristiano, although the songs are sometimes sung in a very Spanish way, e.g., a Women’s circle, which leads a capela. The last hymn in CC, No. 412 was also sung by the capela and seemed very Spanish in its sound.)

Many Spanish Lutherans have a strong German cultural orientation, for example in Chile and in Argentina. There are 3,000 Lutherans in Argentina. Argentine Germans are German culturally oriented especially in religion. If they were to take the Anglo‑etc. cultural orientation out of the new Spanish Missouri Hymnal to be published, then it would not be acceptable for many Latin American congregations.

The Caribbean Folk are much looser and light hearted than the other Latin Americans, according to L. Florindez. They smile and are cheerful and bounce right back. They will clap and raise their arms in prayer ‑ but in Immanuel Lutheran Church in Corona, Queens, a person attended church there, lifted his arms in prayer and was asked to leave, due to the Pastor’s limited Wisconsin Synod background. The Pastor looks askance at anyone, who tries to break the reserve and formality of the service.

Various Spanish masses have appeared, a Mexican mass for example, which sounds Mariachi. Amando Florindez liked it, but she did not. A. Florindez felt it could be useful for the Mexican American congregations in Texas on the Mexican border. It is not appealing to the South Americans, but it will be published. L. Florindez considered Liturgia Luterana not really Spanish. While it had a few Spanish “successions”, it basically was still Anglo,

German, American, Bohemian, Nordic, etc. (to use her words).

L. Florindez played some of her favorite hymns of Spanish origin from the new Spanish Missouri Hymnal coming out.[3] I was shocked. One, called “Ya llego Navidad“, had the melody of one of Germany’s favorite Christmas carols, called “Leise Rieselt der Schnee“. It is comparable to “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”, just that the German song is not completely secular. Now in this case a German melody is perfectly married to the Spanish words ‑ which were written by the Hispanic lyricist, Leopoldo Gross. Perhaps the flow of feelings that this melody elicits makes it universal to the expression of German as well as Spanish soul. Perhaps some melodies are universal to Spanish and German people. I have not heard the melody of this particular German carol sung in English. Whereas “O Du Froehliche“, “Santisimo“, in Spanish, can be found in English as well. (Lutheran Book of Worship)(green cover) (LBW) uses it in No. 259 with syllables in 878787)[4] This is a Sicilian melody going back to the eighteenth century and now called “Sicilian Mariners”. The melody coming out of the Italy and used for German, Spanish and English lyrics means it is even more universal. I am using “universal” as a concept here, of course, very roughly. It certainly is not universal to the melodies in the pentatonic (five note) scales of the Peruvian Indians, nor of Eastern music from India, Japan and other Oriental musical tones. It is universal to the Euro‑American cultures, however.

To return to the CC hymnal No. 255, “Take My Life and Let It Be”: the song has a more comprehensive translation. The Patmos melody in feeling and form strikes some Hispanics as alien to Spanish culture. Before this study, I thought that the melody had been opened up and changed, and a new refrain added. The result, for the feelings of some Hispanics it is more indigenous to their culture. But the actual case is that the old Anglo melody Ducannon was appropriated and now owned by the Spanish culture.[5]

But what associations does the Patmos melody have? It is not a chorale. It is in a stringent and simple American hymn form. This hymn has been in this old melody many years. Perhaps it has made the transition into Spanish in the old melody in many an-other culture oriented Spanish Lutheran congregation. Spanish people may well own it already in the old form. Now we have a new version of the hymn with new words and an added refrain, with a rhythmic drive to it. Does that make it indigenously Spanish, Hispanic or Puerto Rican? Can the new translation be translated back into English? What then? English hymns can be sung with a Spanish flavor.

The fact that Ducannon, the new melody, is not an indigenous Spanish hymn makes this subject more complex. But it seems that Ducannon lends itself better to an indigenous rendition of the hymn.

“What is a Lutheran hymn?” I asked. L. Florindez answered: Any hymn sung in the Lutheran theological tradition. Or better yet, think, what are values that Lutherans highlight in hymns? And what about the emotions, i.e. the feelings, the thoughts and the theology of a hymn? One Lutheran refused to sing “It Is Well with My Soul” No. 346 in the LBW at a funeral calling it sentimental and mushy, while the Black Lutherans love the hymn, and particularly relish the threefold ending of the refrain that our green LBW leaves out. “Living for Jesus” this anti-emotional Pastor also debunked, and perhaps because there is an emotional surrender to Jesus celebrated in the song. Other Lutherans feel touched and moved by the strong emotions these hymns can elicit.


L. Florindez commented that people are so poly‑rooted today. Pastors can chart a course and move forward. The old favorites will surface at sing‑alongs and funerals!! “It Is Well with My Soul” is a hymn from another culture / crossing over for the day.

     The German Christmas carol mentioned before, “Leise Rieselt der Schnee“, is similar in that from its strong chromatic successions, nostalgic feelings of many shades with different nuances can be elicited and enjoyed. That melody works very well for the Spanish hymn “Ya llego Navidad” by Cesáreo Gabaráin (I believe but was unable to find on Youtube).[6] The Lutheran type hymn which is often packed with theology and other material intended to shape and educate the person’s mind is not designed to elicit feelings or bring them to expression very much.  

L. Florindez asked me to unpack and explore this issue somewhat more: Do the latter hymns educate and train feelings into being more theologically sophisticated or do they ignore and violate feelings, which in emotive hymns are actually theologically more sensitive? In other words, does a theological hymn do a barbaric number on a “Christian” or human expression of feelings, by neglecting, violating or denigrating them; or is it more sophisticated to leave these strong feelings behind as childish? In my opinion our feelings learn and grow just like our theology, i.e. our emotions just like our thinking and thoughts learn and mature. Often it is said that it takes many more years for the feelings to learn what the head already knows.

L. Florindez: for feelings see Service Book and Hymnal (SB&H). That was an emotional dreaming time. Feelings can be channeled. (She may mean into a certain spiritual tradition as opposed to another.)

But perhaps another aspect of our study here comes to view. Feelings can be a cultural consideration if we are speaking about Black people who celebrate them or here about Caribbean people who relish them and are characterized by their free expression of them by other Latinos. Yet there must also be a class distinction that plays a role in the control or expression of feeling as well, feelings being hidden or openly expressed, in public or private display, etc. (Feelings are evident, of course, in cultural customs of Irish, Germans, etc. ‑ L. Florindez)

     When we get into the relation of melody and feeling, the chromatic successions seem to allow for more emotion. This is an assumption on my part that would have to be investigated. I know that certain keys used to be considered for differentiated expressions, and certainly the minor keys elicit different feelings and modes from the major keys. The pace of the song also has much to do with feelings. When slowed down considerably, more feeling can be elicited. Rhythm plays a strong role as well. In these ways, Hispanic and Black music celebrate feelings and emotions more than some German Lutheran hymns are wont to do. (“Can we distinguish the different reactive feelings between text and music?” L. Florindez asked.)

     Quite obviously, what we are dealing with here is a very complex interrelationship of language, culture, melody and even such a component of culture as class. But another ingredient has not even been mentioned yet. What about the denomination? Denomination is a brand of spirituality rooted in a certain theological and religious tradition. When a certain song or hymn is Spanish, and is evidently Methodist or Revivalist, then it means that its theological bearings happen to be Revivalist, and that is a brand of spirituality and not a cultural component of the mix. A Lutheran brand of spirituality can also find a home in a Spanish culture, although that does not mean German, or northern European, because the purpose cannot be to make the Spanish German or American, but to make the Spanish person Christian. That a particular culture becomes the conduit through which another culture becomes introduced to a brand of spirituality cannot be avoided, but the conduit has to lead to what is essential, and what is essential lies beyond culture. When we go overboard with culture making Spanish Lutherans, then the problem of German Lutherans comes to mind. Perhaps ultimately the missionized have to be Lutheran who happen to be Spanish. If Lutherans try to make the Spanish German, then they must be German Lutherans to want that kind of a religious result. It may be more justifiable for Hispanics to be Spanish Christian, and now it may be less evil to have Christians celebrate their German origins, but it would be very problematic for churches to emphasize their American and English heritage and interests over their Christian ones. The significant moment is the brand of spirituality and the genuine shape it gives the Christian life in catholicity or universality, making the proverbial unity in diversity possible. (L. Florindez commented that Missiology has dealt exclusively with this issue in the 20th Century. Note how African Art is recently flourishing in Catholic Church. Christianity always carries a culture mark, “stigma” from the very beginning, Judaic, Hellenic, Roman, etc. The spirituality can also be problematic, i.e. celebrating militarism in “Onward Christian Soldiers!”)

Spanish Music Resources:[7]

1/ St. Louis Jesuit Fathers are doing some interesting work in

 music which follows completely Biblical text. Some has been

 translated into Spanish.

2/ Abraham Caceres, The Harvest of the Lord,

Cross‑Cultural Music Services #102 Dove Music, 3240 West Juneau, Milwaukee, WI 53208

3/Lutheran Human Resource Association (L.H.R.A.),

  Cantemos ‑‑ Let’s Sing,  2703 N. Sherman Blvd.

     $7.50 + $1 Postage   Milwaukee, WI. 53210 (414) 871‑7300

4/ North American Liturgy Resource, Epoch Universal Publications,

Inc., 10802 N. 23rd Ave., Phoenix, Arizona 85029,

Love The Lord Your God…Con Todo El Corozo

     by Al Valverde and Victor Cabrera

5/ Fortress, Glory and Praise, Vol. I, II, and III. with tape.

6/ Celebrate Community, also L.H.R.A.

7/ Luvenia A. George, Teaching the Music of Six Different

Cultures, World Music Press, 1987. Bought at Dove Music above.

8/ Oregon Catholic Press, Canticos de Gracias y Alabanza, 1982.

2816 East Burnside St. and Peoples’ Copy with music line

    P.O. Box 14801          and main hymnal

  Portland, Oregon 97214      Tel. (503) 234‑5381

9/ Centro Verdad y Vida, Aleluia

    838 Brook Ave., Bronx, New York 10451

10/ Taizé has also translated into Spanish and can be purchased in


11/ Cantos Cristianos Centroamerica, (El Salvador)

12/ Eduardo Careras, El Culto Del Pueblo de Dios,

Liturgia Luterana de Centro America

13/ Episcopal Church Center, Second Ave and East 48th St., Manhattan

 1/ Albricias, 38 Songs

14/  2/ Misa Xochipille meaning music, goodness, beauty and art

      in Nawat? Aztec   two Episcopal booklets

        by Skinner Chavez‑Melo

15/ Cantemos Al Senor from Chile. In this hymnal, Gabaráin takes

Spirituals and translates them into Spanish.

     Baptist, Tiempo de Cantar here “Una Mirada de Fe

17/ Baptists of Argentina, Corozon y Vos

18/ Missionaros de Spiritus Santos, Roman Catholics in Mexico,

  Cantos Navidenos

19/ Augsburg Publishing House, ELCA. Songs of the People

(color gold) “Cantad al Senor“, “Amigos de Cristo”,

Es Jahve mi Pastor”

20/ Augsburg, Songs from the Journey (color blue)

21/Spanish R. C. Hymnal, Spanish and English, You Have Looked.

Interview and visit with Pr. Susan Birkelo May 23,1989

Pr. Susan Birkelo worked in the Lutheran Church in Chile for five years in the transition period, when Allende was killed and Pinochet took over. The Lutheran Church in Germany had been the missionary church there. They sent many young theologians to these reactionary churches only to have many sparks fly in their encounters. The German church asked the L. C. A. for help perhaps also to indigenize the Lutheran church there in Chile. In this time when the dictator was consolidating his power, the Lutheran Church split with the majority of churches declaring their independence from the churches of Germany and the L.C.A. whose churches were trying to become more indigenous. Only four or five churches remain from the original church there. (1989)

S. Birkelo felt that the non‑indigenous churches of Latin America were a tragedy, and could be reflected in the many German culturally oriented congregations, which the Missouri Spanish Lutheran hymnal is targeted for. One Missouri Pastor in El Salvador opened up for the indigenous mission. He mourned the fact that he himself had become German oriented and had to become a Salvadoran for his own people. (What does it mean to become a stranger in a strange land in the problem of indigenization?) After a time, the Missouri church disowned him, and the other missionaries in the other Central American countries complain constantly to the missionary officials about him.

S. Birkelo helped further my understanding of the issues involved in the cultural aspect of Hispanic mission and ministry. What became more concrete and clear to me in my conversation with her is the fact that a variety of Hispanic cultures exist. The Caribbean Culture needs to be distinguished from the Centro and Sud American ones. For example, in the liturgy itself, the Puerto Ricans sing:

Arriba los corazones!”

While the Latinos of Centro y Sud America sing:

      “Levanten sus corazones!”

This means a real distinction.

The new Spanish ELCA Hymnal which is due to come out this month, and upon which S. Birkelo has also been working, used various kinds of criteria to select the entries. They did not want a German‑Anglo culturally oriented hymnal (here in opposition to Dimas Planas-Belfort), but one which was at least 65% Hispanic. In contrast the Missouri Spanish Hymnal contains only 27 to 29 Spanish culturally oriented hymns. The hymnologists of the new ELCA Spanish hymnal used not only theological criteria, but also cultural criteria as well, in the selection process, not to mention of course, the criteria of sheer musicality. This represents an awareness of the cultural differences involved in the mission endeavor, and the difference between essentials and adiaphora. Cultures are the earthen vessels, in S. Birkelo’s words, and the Gospel is essential.

The Gospel is culturally bound, a condition that is unavoidable and inescapable, no matter how open we try to be. In the end we have to be ourselves. But according to S. Birkelo, the way we present the Gospel and Sacraments is the essential thing. That we allow the freedom for the people to become creative themselves and respond in the idioms of their own culture versus being impositional and oppressive and requiring an alien cultural expression.

Above I myself spoke of a culture as a conduit, like the German culture for many Latin American countries, and that we should not confuse the conduit with the essential gift that flowed through it. Here Birkelo mentioned Luther’s dictum: We have the Christchild in the cradle, don’t mix up the cradle with the Christchild. Luther referred to the Scriptures. We were applying this dictum to culture versus the Gospel. This confusion harks back to the very earliest missionary problems of the church, where some Jewish Christians argued that the Greeks and Romans had to first become Jewish in order to receive Christ and become Christian, while St. Paul insisted that this was a false requirement.

Becoming more incarnational is at the heart of it. From this perspective, S. Birkelo’s emphasis on indigenous Christianity can be understood. The Gospel needs to be proclaimed in a peoples’ own language. But a different language is the door to a whole new mentality, a different way of seeing the world, a different way of life, a different culture. To be more incarnational means a more penetrating translation touching realms that we were unconscious of in the past so that the people not only hear the Word in their own language, but aware of their mentality and world‑view, which is couched in their own culture. S. Birkelo also added another consideration when thinking about indigenous hymns, which is the political content as well, whether implicit or explicit. The incarnation did not stop short before politics, but just introduced a politics of a higher nature.

Summarizing: From S. Birkelo I received a more concrete concept of the variety of Spanish cultures themselves, the kinds of criteria (musicological, cultural and theological) by which hymns were selected for El Pueblo de Dios Canta. That gives the hymnal a better chance of having cultural integrity. The quest basically longs to be more incarnational – hearing the Gospel not only in one’s own language, but also for one’s own linguistic world‑view, culture and idiom. And what is aspired is the dynamic of mission that is released from this indigenization of the church in its particular culture in the world.

Missionaries have become much more aware of the problem and glory of culture. Now many work with sensitivity and awareness for the characteristics, distinctions and differences in their own culture vis a vis that of others. This makes it more possible to plum more of the depth of the “for me”, the “for us” which Luther emphasizes greatly in his Small Catechism’s explanation of the Sacrament of Communion. This seems to be the point of the incarnational and indigenizing emphases.

This distinction between culture and faith very much relates with our issue. In hymnody, itself the problem of culture plays a very large role. Perhaps the confusion of missionaries, from the first Jewish Christians to those German and Anglo missionaries of our day, is calling the culture the faith, instead of seeing the difference. The Jewish Christians would have wanted Jewish hymnody for the Greeks and Romans, as today some Anglos and Germans want Anglo and German culturally oriented hymns in Latin American cultures. The point however was to receive Christ for the Christian, for the Lutheran faith and not to become Anglo‑Saxon or German. Such a Spanish person may want to be German, e.g. but it is quite rational to assume that as much as the German cannot become a Hispanic, the Hispanic will ultimately not be able to transform him/herself into a German. Even if that cultural transformation were possible, becoming Christian lies beyond the cultural change.

When theological, and musical criteria are satisfied a hymn may well appear in a Bolero, Merengue or Plena as in Chorale, Plainsong and Carol. For a Lutheran to come into a service and hear the former song‑forms and declare out of hand that these are not Lutheran, that they do not feel at home in such a service, using such hymnody, then that is to say that such Lutherans are not sensitive to the fact that a Hispanic is not at home in an Anglo‑culturally oriented service either, and that every culture is as worthy as any other to celebrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its own cultural musical forms.

The fact that the Lutheran Churches in P.R. would not at all feel at home in such an indigenous service either is a real predicament. Far be it for me to criticize them for not being indigenous. That would be adding insult to injury. And the poly‑rootedness that L. Florindez mentioned has to be taken into consideration. Culture is not the only factor involved. What is perceived at times as Pentecostal can weaken a congregation fighting to draw the line between itself and this powerful mostly negative movement. From this distance, this should not stop me from jumping up and down to celebrate the wonderful expressions of grace also in Spanish cultures.

With S. Birkelo our topic expanded to also include liturgies as well as hymnody. What about the unity of the church found in the uniformity of the liturgy of the Western Rite? Perhaps some consideration needs to be given to a church culture itself that transcends all the cultures the Gospel has been proclaimed in and the sacraments have been administered in from the beginning of our time. That a variety of rites are forthcoming does no harm. But perhaps the main service should still follow the sense of the Western rite’s proclamation. The rite could be recomposed to indigenous forms of music… but perhaps there is some ecclesiastical culture that transcends contemporary culture in the basic Western rite. Here in spite of the Hymnody and liturgy, the ethos of the service can be Lutheran or Pentecostal or Roman. In the same way, a hymn can be stamped with such a brand of spirituality ‑ or religious tradition. But for progressive aspirations, the hymn should be a much more contemporary syllable of the given cultural vocabulary.

Friday August 4th, 89. 11:50pm, attending a Spanish Hymnody workshop in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Dimas Planas-Belfort is leading the workshop and as I hoped, I’m learning much more about our issue. He spoke only in Spanish so I haven’t gotten too much help theoretically, but I’m learning a lot of new songs.

He started with “Wake, Awake for Night is Flying” and a remonstrance immediately came from Rafaella, an attendee, “That is the hardest one!” But Dimas just plowed on through it ‑ and lo, it was sing-able ‑ consummately. Just it has the advanced musicology and Biblical text that he is capable of. Dimas feels that coritos have too little substance to them to allow them to be taken seriously. A corito has only one idea and he enjoys a lot of ideas in a song.

Our regular hymns translated into Spanish are sing-able, they just need someone with gusto to sing them. His voice sounds very operatic ‑ so very beautiful.

Dimas Planas has a unique flare and vibrancy with which he plays the music that adds the flavor of another culture to a piece. He does not play the harmonies and melody like a German or an Anglo‑American.

I talked with a Pastor called Nestor. The hymn‑books, he felt, made the Spanish feel that the liturgy was cast into concrete. Only 20 years ago the liturgy was translated into Spanish. (He must mean Liturgia Luterana.) Some Spanish have a split identity, German‑Spanish. But he is third generation, and the German is almost gone. Now for him it’s all Spanish.

Aug. 5, 1989 A Conversation with attending Pastor:

He was very critical of Pentecostalism. Coritos are shallow. They have no depth. No theology, just like the Pentecostal preaching and worship. It has no depth ‑ no theology. It is a number of moralisms. Just easy signs that they arbitrarily select for designating true Christians. The moralisms also give them their security for regimenting their lives. And from this moralism they can be very judgmental.

     They have no heritage. They either have a shallow watered down empty Catholicism, or just shallow Pentecostalism. They cannot be loyal to a church, let alone a church at large ‑ like a synod or so. They just orient themselves around a person. If another person is considered more charismatic, they go over to this person.

Puerto Ricans emphasize and assert P.R. too much, especially if they are a majority of the minorities. You can take them in but not on their terms, only on your terms. It is better to have other Latin Americans and then take only the P.R.’s who will come in on other Latin American terms. This pastor is an Anglo very much assimilated to Nicaraguan and Colombian people.

August 27, 1989 We attended La Iglesia Luterana de Gethsemani in Dorado, P.R. They sang from the CC “Beautiful Savior” to start and “A Mighty Fortress” to finish. They had an evangelist preach a very long sermon Billy Graham style. They sang “How Great Thou Art” and “Trabajar, Trabajar“, this latter being somewhat more Spanish.

It could be that the 141 people that attended want to be a little different from other people of P.R. They looked quite middle class. Coritos were not sung in worship. The hymns are sung just like in our churches. The organ was subdued. The choir sang a song I did not recognize for those who requested prayers: something on the order of “Just as I Am Without One Plea”. The service and the music was not to write home about. I gave them a little flare with my trumpet accompaniment.

The name of the organist is Lilliam Martinez. They were certainly open to my trumpet playing. Having recently attended a church in Ocean City New Jersey, I felt them to be much more formal and they tended to make me feel they had musical standards impossible to meet, so I didn’t play along with my trumpet in that case.

August 30, 1989: I attended choir practice of the Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida of Ponce, P.R. Marilyn Lopez, a music student is the choir “directrix”. They sang “How Great Thou Art” and other songs in this tradition. I informed her of the new hymnal from our church, showed her several and made an appointment with the Pastor Colon for the next day. I sent her the information about the workshop in the new hymnal in Catano at the end of September.

August 31, 89: Only the secretary, Marlyn Mayol was there. The Methodist Church of Ponce sings the coritos in touching parts of the worship. Also during the offering. With their Spanish Methodist hymnal they had their own edition of 233 coritos in the pews as well, printed especially for their church. They are not poor, but also middle class. They are open to coritos because the minister is young and open. Some of our songs, PDC (Pueblo de Dios Canta) Nos. 102 and 93 seemed Catholic to them and not appropriate for them to sing. Perhaps the churches that sing coritos are less sacramental and more Pentecostal oriented. This is only conjecture, however. In any case, not only the poor sing coritos.

In their coleccion de coritos called: ALABEMOS! I discovered 25 coritos that we sang in our Coney Island Spanish service. Some that I had thought Maria Lopez wrote were there as part of a longer corito, “Si Murimos y Si Vivimos” for example.

These included numbers: 7,12,35,69,91,(92),107,119,126, 137,138, 155,177,(181)182,185,198, 201,206,213,222,225,227,and 230.

In discussing the fact that a lot of the coritos are easy to the ears of Hispanics because they are indigenous Latin Musical forms, Marlyn came up with a Merengue corito for Navidad:

          Que tiene Borinquen?

 Porque esta tan bella?

Es el nacimiento,

Es el nacimiento

del Nino Divino.

The reaction of Lilliam Martinez to this particular corito later was helpful in understanding the criteria by which a song can be evaluated.

August 31, 1989: We attended an evening service in the Presbyterian Church in Boqueron, a fishing village below Cabo Rojo, south of Mayaguez. The musician and cantor, Jaime D. Camacho Torres, got his keyboard and played other verses of “Cantad al Senor” for our family, after I had sung it for the congregation to their great delight. I first was not in their key. Then he took the song and sung it again in their key with their verses. I tried to introduce him to Cesáreo Gabaráin’s hymns PDC Nos. 93 and 102. He had very much difficulty getting the melodies, even though he composes coritos himself and is very adept at the keyboard. He sung three coritos he composed for us. They were very Pentecostal, and judging by the Pastors bible‑study message, the church was Presbyterian in name only.

I tried to determine what musical form he composed in.

I asked if it were merengue? He was shocked by this question. He identified himself as conservative and showed that a Merengue is 150 beats a minute whereas he plays right around 109 or 110 beats a minute (115 at the fastest). (On the other hand, Angel Matos said that the modern Merengue is being played too fast. You can’t even dance that fast anymore without injury. Merengue could well be played more slowly. Obviously, the cantor wanted to draw a line between his coritos and what he associates as worldly music.

“It is a matter of culture”, he said, “and he would be too conservative to play a merengue in church.” He composed everything in a beat and chord that he felt comfortable with on his keyboard. He could not get the melody of the “Magnificat” at all. (PDC No.19) And he did not know, “Te Ofrecemos, Padre nuestro” No. 78.

His congregation is mostly Pentecostal, all going to San Juan for the Pentecostal gathering: Clamor de Dios in front of the Capitol. And they sing mostly coritos. As is shown by their giving me a little collection of them in Cantaremos Coritos 373 of them compiled in Caracas, Venezuela. (Never have I seen coritos come with music, only the words.)

Jaime did not care if anyone took his compositions, because he had already been so blessed by them himself. If someone took them and made money on them he would not feel hurt. He hoped his coritos would bless many people. The sister of his Pastor, a chaplain in the Dominican Republic, has composed many hymns and has let others sing them, tape them and copyright them. She herself would not copyright them. What a different attitude from our composers and “middle men” who want to make a business with their work!

Again Jaime played all by ear and had trouble with the hymns in our PDC. He had once heard of “A Mighty Fortress:” and asked me to send him a copy. He also requested I send him our new Hymnal.

Note: it would be good to make a list, but PDC No. 74 “Vamos, Vamos al Altar” is a Bolero.

September 2,1989: Third meeting with Lilliam Martinez. I presented her with an organist’s edition of PDC before we left.

She explained the P.R. migrations to New York, 1928 ‑ 1931. These were people from the mountains and villages who could not be absorbed by the cities. Now professionals seem to be recruited for the United States to the dismay of the government here. And tragically they do not preserve their Spanish culture but assimilate completely.

Aguinaldos are a P.R. contribution, one from their own culture. Coritos are often theologically unsound. Eg. the one from Ponce: “Que tiene Boriquen?” Christ was born for all countries and for the whole universe. It is wrong to sing these words for only P.R. And it contains a political dimension for independence that needs to be watched for.

“We have to solve our own problems and conflicts here. It is no good to blame all our problems on the USA.” she said.

Pentecostals come into their church and say the robes the minister wears are bad, the liturgy, too, etc. in a shallow judgmental moralism. When P.R. was divided into denominational mission fields, right after the U.S. takeover of P.R. in about 1898‑1902, the Lutherans came in first and received the area around San Juan. They have now recently tried missions in Ponce and Mayagues which did not work. (In the Iglesia Luterana de San Juan in Aguila, a small country church, they were using hymnals that said “Mission Luterana de Ponce” on them. They must have gotten the hymnal from the failed mission.

“Why does Christ stop with language?” I asked Lilliam. “Christ enters our culture, our customs, our way of life as well. Not for political ulterior motives ‑ but for the sake of Christ alone, and not for political independence, separation, or statehood. These agendas are best left for reason to thrash out for the good and welfare of all the people involved. And no matter what the political solution, the internalized freedom of Christ may not be there. This is what true worship in spirit and truth brings.”

Reading: I studied

James Clifford’s The Predicament of Culture, (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1988).

Virgilio P. Elizondo, Christianity and Culture:

an Introduction to Pastoral Theology and ministry

 for the Bicultural Community, (San Antonio, Texas:

 Mexican‑American Cultural Center, 1975.)    

And Eugene Goodheart, Culture and the radical Conscience, (Cambridge, Mass: A Harvard paperback, 1973.)


9/2/89 An Entry of my thoughts: “Song” can be understood in a deeper sense. “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12. “Song” there means something more. Perhaps the life of the soul, the life of the heart, the life that characterizes a people and their culture. This is the Song God became for Isaiah in this inspired chapter.[8]

E. Goodheart shows how a poem becomes formal, static and didactic when its integrity and intellectual or imaginative discipline is subordinated to a political agenda. This by analogy may also be said of a song or a worship service. (p.84) “Song of the Soul” When the politics of the song are explicit, there is a dilemma, because there is an inherent politics in the song itself. Perhaps the insensitivity to the inherent politics brings about the subordination of the song’s integrity.

In the same way, a service ‑ a religious song can sacrifice its integrity to ulterior political purposes. The religious service, the corito, the hymn, the song needs to remain in the tension between the freedom of the Christian person and the democratic experience (to rework Goodheart’s words a little on p. 85.) and then it is profitable both for the true spiritual worship and the interests of the democratic experience itself.

Politics would vulgarize worship the same way it vulgarizes the literary process. On the other hand, we have to guard against snobbery as well. One must steer a dangerous course between the extremes of vulgarization and snobbery.

Perhaps it is snobbery to cut coritos out altogether and vulgarization to use them exclusively. Since anthropology has come into its own, the word culture has had its meaning extended to cover mores, habits, the forms and patterns of human behavior in a society, and as such, it loses its partisan spiritual and political character. In the anthropological view, culture is a given.[9] But Goodheart distinguishes high culture from this new use of the term. Culture is the best spirit of democracy, or as the historical ideal of culture, as the vehicle of freedom. Perhaps the higher culture challenges a people to the limit to share its unique and individual character and value with others. These are a peoples greatest artistic, intellectual and spiritual “achievements”. (The latter has to be in quotation marks because what are spiritual achievements but gracious favors received from God?)

Upon this hot and tropical island, I’m trying to grope for true worship in spirit and in truth ‑ where the integrity of worship is safeguarded against political agendas of whatever kind. Inherent in this integral worship is a rejuvenation of a person and reorientation of all politics and communal life. This is thwarted by the politicization of worship. 

Naturally to go over to more indigenous cultural markings for the hymnody and liturgies of congregations has a political dimension. But the fact that so much of the hymnody and liturgies have other cultural markings is an overriding political reality for churches in P.R. and in other Hispanic cultures. Here we again have the matter of the proverbial splinter [the offense of the indigenous] versus the log in the eye [an imposed alien culture in place of the lifestyle change necessitated by religious faith.]

V.P. Elizondo in Christianity and Culture is looking at the predicament that the Mestizo, the new person created from the native Indian, Spanish and American (Northern European) find themselves in. They are caught between two cultures. Their Hispanic culture is denigrated, and they are asked to worship only in the Euro‑American culture. But every culture has its expressions of grace. Religious cultural colonialization is still intact, of which hymnody is only one symptom. No national church wants to be the cultural‑religious colony of others. (p.21) “By its very nature the church must be able to be incarnated and to grow in every culture without doing violence to that culture. (p.23) At Vatican II, the Church recognized that there are expressions of grace in every culture and that the mission of the church is not to destroy (cultures), but to bring out their inner beauty and uniqueness. (p.24)

The beauty of plurality and difference was seen as part of the authentic Pentecostal unity, unity in diversity; one truth, but multiple expressions of the one truth; one faith, but multiple expressions of the one faith; one Church, but multiple expressions and disciplines and forms and liturgies within the one Church. This is the real nature of unity. (p. 24)

9/2/89 Lilliam Martinez: The delicate situation of a congregation here is obvious. There are Catholic versus Pentecostal legalisms as dangers on either side, in the ubiquity of the Pentecostals and Roman Catholics versus the denominational division of the island. Lutherans tried mission experiments in Ponce and Malaguez that did not work. You see many Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist churches in the San Juan area, which is the traditional Lutheran turf. The need is for an ecumenical church for the Gospel to win real ground here over against the distorted subjectivism and legalisms of the Pentecostals and the objectivism of the Catholics.

They are very choosey about a corito that they would sing in the Lutheran Church in Dorado. They have to have some meaning. The idea is not to sing words put together just because they sound good.

Also for Goodheart, in Culture and the Radical Conscience

the idea is that high culture requires struggle, a learning process, etc. The value is not easily acquired from the cultural object. Coritos are somehow too easy. They do not yet attain higher culture. But other Hispanic music developed from Latin musical forms, certainly does.

9/5/89 Review: Marilyn Lopez, the Choir Director, at the Methodist Church in Ponce had her congregation sing the coritos they use for the sharing of the peace and during the offering. I sent her the workshop information.

Jaime Torres, musician and cantor for the Pentecostal Presbyterian church in Boqueron had a different timing on “Cantad al Senor“. He dotted some notes on “Can” then “tad al Senor“. They really sang this song beautifully. You could tell they loved it.

I met with Lilliam Martinez again on 9/2/89 from 7:30 to 9:20am. Nora Zapata, my wife, helped me with translation. We talked about the vulnerabilities of the churches to coritos or liberation theology, or “hymnos politicos“.

Monday, Labor Day: Nora and I and the two children sweltered in the hot sun and took in a little of “Clamor de Dios” in San Juan.

At this gathering before the capitol thousands of people thronged about selling refreshments. We bought strawberries for $2 which were not edible. It was so hot we had to keep buying from the vendors. A Venezuelan singer danced with his song and “turned on” the people when he played one verse with the harmonica.



Bendito El que viene en el nombre del Senor.

A Colombian then sang: “El vive”…or “vivo,” which was a cumbia.

It was way too hot for the children and too very crowded to remain long.

I called the Bishop of the Caribbean Synod, Rafael Maltipo, and told him a little about myself, our ministry, and what I’m doing in P.R. I made an appointment with him for Thursday morning, which he could not keep, because he had to take someone to the hospital. That was disappointing.

One interview with Angel Matos did not come about because we somehow missed each other. Tuesday at 2:00pm we had our second try, which became a very fruitful conversation.

I wrote a little agenda ahead of time and organized all my materials and resources for his review.

1/ Work shop information for him

2/ Show him the tapes Pastor Wyse took of our workshop

3/ Play some of our favorite hymns from PDC

4/ Does he want to play some coritos together?

5/ Discussion

A/ What about P.R. singing from the C.C.

B/ Would singing hymns with indigenous Spanish cultural

   markings on them help the Lutheran church in P.R.?

C/ What is a Lutheran hymn? A chorale? But is that a German musical form? Doesn’t a particular brand of spirituality have to appear in a Spanish musical form? E.g., Bolero, Merengue, Plena, etc?

D/ Is there a specific church culture independent of   other cultures? Is it good if it does exist?

When Angel Matos arrived at 2:45pm we were not able to cover too many of these topics. He shared hopes and aspirations about his music and profession and the new Hymnal as well. He worked on all the music of the hymnal and did some of the arranging. He hoped that it would be 50% Hispanic, and was elated that another on the committee wanted 65%. What the real percentage now in the first section of PDC he did not know. He criticized a lot of the Hispanic production for not being up to par. Especially he criticized the taping of the liturgy for Culto Cristiano, and I remember singing with Dimas Planas and some others for the tape, not at all in command of the music and the pronunciation. I can imagine what people in a Spanish culture would think of it! The lack of high standards for our Spanish liturgy and hymnody really bothered him. The spacing in the new hymnal did not seem right in some songs. But he started on his keyboard to teach me some of the resources he used for his church music and some insights about how to do an excellent liturgy. From him I learned a phenomenal amount, not just about Latin music and hymnody, but also about how to develop our own Choir for our English language service and how to make it more inclusive.

He valued the horizontal dimension in the music. Not too much about heaven and the hereafter, was important to him in his texts to hymns. And he liked to use indigenous Spanish music. He remembers a Reformation celebration where he used only this music, and the people loved it.

There is a Catholic Bookstore in Rio Piedras as well as the Reforma. The latter is on Robles St. somewhat nearer the University of P. R. than Libreria San Pavlo Calle Arzuaga, 164 ‑ Rio Piedras ‑ P.R. 00925 Tel. 764‑4885. They have a lot of good new music, much of it from Spain.

The Hymnal that followed the church year and had very good material is R.C. from Spain: Cantoral Liturgico Nacional; its first edition came out in March 1982. The Psalms are behind one number in the Catholic numeration of the Psalms. Hymn No. 16 from CLN is No. 7 in our new PDC. “La Virgen suna caminos“. Sometimes the harmony is not up to snuff. This hymn is very good for Quaresma, ie. Lent.

Then Angel had three small booklets called Cancionero Abierto

One booklet was vol. 1 y 2, the second was 3 y 4 and the third booklet was vol. 5. I was able to get the tapes for Vol. 1 at the Reforma, and tape iii of Vol. 4. They contain some very beautiful, fully arranged music. Because the arrangement was so well done for so many instruments, Angel Matos sent them a letter of congratulations. The tapes are masterpieces. The ones I purchased are somewhat damaged however.

They can be gotten through the Reforma in Rio Piedras or directly from the Instituto Superior Evangelico de Estudio Theologicos ISEDET, Camacua 282 ‑1406 Bs. As. (Short for Buenas Aeres)


He also had a Mexican booklet called Canticos, which we did not get to.

     No. 21 in Vol. 1 y 2 is a tango. He pointed out numbers 23 and 8 as well.

“A liturgy is in a rut if it is done ten times the same way”, he felt. He showed how he varied Psalm tones and Antifonas and estrebillos from the Fifth to the Eleventh Sundays after Pentecost. It is possible to breakdown a Song, e.g., “In Viejo San Juan” and make a Psalm tone out of it. This is also done from Aguinaldos.

Little booklets with a tape are also sold at Libreria San Pablo. I received a complete listing of the many booklets and tapes. They are put out by Ediciones Paulinas of Madrid, Spain. They are in a large series of perhaps 80 pamphlets called “Cantando al Senor“.

1/ Te Doy Mi Amistad and he pointed out: El joven rico and Hombre, Hombre, Pueblo, pueblo. (They did not have this one in stock when I was there.)

Sometimes a song was so appropriate for the Gospel reading that Angel Matos would sing the song before, during and after the Gospel to make the words speak with the song as well.

2/ Jesus nuestro amigo with 10 songs all by Cesáreo Gabaráin he showed me “Cristo te necesita“. He loved the words in this one.

3/ Un Joven Soy also in the “Cantando al Senor” series.

I believe in Cancionero Abierto Vol. 3 y 4, he pointed out No. 34 which was a strong confession of sins in the world as it is. No. 40 “Hemos Cubierto La Tierra“. This could be the title of No. 34 and it is No. 40 in another booklet.

In Cancionero Abierto Vol. 5 He showed how the Padre Nuestro could go to the seventh petition and then do the Doxology with a praise song from this volume.

When he did the sharing of the peace, he had them sing:

La Paz este con vosotros

This song is sung to the Jewish folk tune “Hevenu Shalom Allechem“. This comes from La Assemblea de Dios Canta, he thought.  Or he used No. 18. Also from Vol. 5, I believe.

He had music by Garry Cornell who composed some liturgy in a Pop music setting. “Cordero de Dios” could also be sung in Canon.

A friend of his, Jose A. Ruiz, wrote a Kyrie and the Song of Praise in a Danza. To introduce it in Chicago, A. Matos wrote a Paseo for the purpose. Gloria Dios en las alturas! And someone recognized the first passage as the place in the Spanish dance where all the couples parade around the square. What a continuation of the incarnational thrust right into the culture and customs of a people ‑ right where they are, right where they live.

J. A. Ruiz also composed a “Padre Nuestro” I can’t remember what musical form it took. His composition, “UNA VOZ INVITA” No. 16 in PDC is a Danza.

Liturgy has to be done with excellence. Some parts can be omitted at times. Different music can be inserted. Again, never do the liturgy the same ten times. New Psalm tones can do a lot for variety. New Kyrie’s. A different response inserted for the Doxology of the Lord’s prayer. A song for the sharing of the peace.

In Cancionero Abierto Vol. 1 y 2 Psalm 23 is from Bolivia and is written in a style for the carnival: Carnivalito.

Perdon, Senor” he pointed out, as well as #15.

A. Matos told of his first experience of Latin music in a service, and his shock at hearing it there, and his feelings that such music was completely inappropriate in the church setting. “It did not belong in the church.” Then later he participated in a Catholic service where the same Villancico was being played, and he himself was accompanying it with the guiro. Suddenly he began to feel that this music, in Latin musical forms did belong in the worship. One culture is as good as another. All can be incarnated with expressions of grace.

The point of this study is not to attempt to root all of the Spanish hymnody in a pure Spanish tradition. This would be an impoverishment. The case in our church has been the reverse, however. Hardly any music with Latin cultural markings or in Spanish musical forms has been introduced into Spanish Hymnals. There are little revival hymnals that an H.C. Ball puts out in San Antonio, Texas, called Hymnos de Luz. “More About Jesus”, “There’s Power in the Blood”, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”, and 111 others all are translated roughly into Spanish. The language of this hymnal is undermined by a completely alien culture to the Hispanic, taking more meaning away from the lives of the Latinos that sing these songs than Gospel could be getting through to them. The hymnal takes one little step toward the Latin cultures, and expects them to take ten giant steps into another cultural expression of a particular revivalist brand of spirituality.

Perhaps our Hymnals have not been quite so crass, or maybe they have been, but for the Latin culture singing the praises of God, it seems somewhat strange to have all Latin musical forms excluded.

The criterion for global life on our shrinking planet is what is viable culturally. What gives a culture the best chance of survival is taking enrichment for survival from other cultures.[10] Whether a new global commercial monoculture is forming, or new floating hybrid cultures that are no longer tied to geographical locations, is as yet hard to say, according to James Clifford, but a “pure” culture rooted alone in its own tradition is no longer viable and will not survive in the global conditions of our pluralistic world. Cultural mixes enrich the viability and survival power of people in this very difficult and treacherous new world we live in. This is a caveat for going overboard with an indigenous emphasis. But at this point there is not too much danger of that case.

In La Plaza de Las Almas in Old San Juan we watched as the traditional Puertorriqueños had a guiro playing contest, and meanwhile the all-indigenous P.R. stringed instruments were playing a Polish mazurka!

In our large car-rental Space Van, we passed a Building on Route that had “Stuttgart” in large letters written on it. Here we are driving in P.R. past a German company, with Colombians, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and a German all riding in a Japanese car.

In our little Spanish language service in Coney Island, they wanted to sing only coritos. Sometimes they would sing hymns, like the “Blood” hymns. And my being as open as I am, said that all of this was all right, but why must the Lutheran chorales be left out, particularly, when ours happens to be a Lutheran congregation? The same goes for the Spanish hymnals. Why must the rich Spanish culture be left out, the Latin musical forms like the Bolero, Merengue, Plena, Tango, Marcha, Danzas, Cumbia, etc., especially if people from Spanish cultures in the Caribbean, from Central and South America are singing them?

Glossary of some Latin Musical Forms, Rhythms and dances:

These musical forms and dances are blends of African, Indian, i.e. native American, and Spanish cultural influences with more emphasis on one or the other.

Aguinaldos: somewhat more simple Christmas carol than the Villancico. The latter form is usually about the Nativity, but sometimes also editorializes about other subjects. Their rendition, like that of the decimas, requires something more than a certain technique and knowledge of a particular type of music: namely, an emotional intensity resembling that of the Flamenco of Spain.

For Colombians an “Aguinaldo” represents more than music. It is also a game played for ten days prior to Christmas, where a certain action (e.g. having a toothpick in one’s mouth) has to be present on alert, because when the other shouts: “Aguinaldo!” then the action has to be displayed. If the player fails or was not alert, he/she has to purchase another Christmas present for the other player.

Bolero: came to Latin America from Spain originally, and imbued        with Antillian‑Criolle flavor, especially in P.R.

Bomba: an Afro‑Puerto Rican dance and song not to be confused      with the seis bombeao and its improvised humoristic verse     after the exclamation of “Bomba!” The Bomba is said to     come from the mystical seaside of the town of Loiza Aldea.

Cumbia: from the former banana plantations of coastal Colombia          near Santa Marta and before that it was a word meaning “dance” among the 17th century African slaves.

Danza: a semi‑classical composition with intricate rhythms       associated with the upper classes of Puerto Rico. Juan Morel Compos is said to have composed 549 of them himself in the 19th Century, including; “No me Toques” (Don’t Touch Me), “Felices Dias“, “Sueno de Amor“, (Dream of Love), “Cede a mi Ruego“, (Give in to my Plea). The National Anthem of P.R. “La Borinquen” also became a danza.

Decimas: the ten line decima travelled from Renaissance Italy

to Spain, and from thence to virtually all of Latin America. It also underlies the Aguinaldo.

Flamenco: Very intense Spanish dance and music

Mambo: A form that came out of the sugar cane fields of Cuba into the nightclubs of Havana. The Cha‑Cha is an off‑shoot of the mambo.

Mariachi: Mexican songs with trumpet interludes between the phrases of music.

Merengue: Musical form and dance from the Dominican Republic

Paso Doble: double step from Spain

Plena: from the drum signals of the Tiano Indians of long ago, mixed with pulsating African rhythm. The plena probably originates from around Ponce, but some Spanish songs also resemble the Plena. The Cuban guaracha is derived from the Plena.

Rumbas: from Black ghettos of Cuba

Salsa: means “sauce”: hot and spicy P.R. in New York, fusion of jazz with a Latin form

Samba: National dance of Brazil. The bossa nova is an adaption of the samba.

Tango: the song and dance from the gauchos of Argentina, which could go back to Bizet’s “Habernia“, was highly stylized, and became the rage in Paris during the 1930’s, much as the excitement from some of these other song/dance forms swept North and East in other times.

Velorios: funeral wakes for children in which the baquine was        danced

Vallenato: a more recent 20th century descendant of the cumbia, with a similar rhythm

Villancicos: they are like our Christmas Carols and come from        Spain. They must have three parts.

Musical Instruments

Bomba: wooden drum covered by a goat’s skin

Charanga Band: traditional flute and fiddle

Cuatros: a kind of guitar

Conga Drum

Guiro: (also called a carracho in the country) a gourd with       notches on it, against which a metal comb is rubbed

Maracas: Gourds with seeds or pebbles in them which are shaken         in rhythms

Palillos:  Wooden sticks

Timba: small wooden drum

OCTOBER 5,1989: Perhaps it is wrong to close a diary. I had a long interview with Lorraine Florindez after coming back from Puerto Rico, and several other conversations. The new Hispanic minister at Trinity Lutheran Church Fourth Avenue, Nitza Rosario, told of her having heard “A Mighty Fortress” in Decima, and a new liturgy composed for her worship in Bayamon by an indigenous composer, who waited for the rain and the singing of the coquis to be able to have the right mood for the musical composition. For a woman from P.R. to come to New York and hear an Anglo Hymn and state that the people in New York were singing a Spanish hymn, seemed truly tragic to her, because people had had their own culture erased completely, and had mistaken another culture for their own. Why would a people’s own indigenous culture be taken away from them and hidden from them so that it would be lost and disappear? Puerto Rico is not only a lovely Island, but it has had a lovely Spanish culture that is not only worth preserving, but also is worth developing so that it can enrich other cultures.

L. Florindez had purchased a coveted new Methodist Hymnal, copyright, 1989, which came out in May. It has 18 bi‑lingual Spanish hymns. “Camino Pueblo de Dios” is the best hymn that Cesáreo Gabaráin has composed, a high standard not yet surpassed by his other compositions. She was shocked that one booklet “Jesus nuestro amigo” in the “Cantando al Senor” series attributed “Vienen con alegria” to Gabaráin. But it is also attributed to him in our PDC. #64. He is a very great hymn writer, but should not receive credit for writing the Spirituals, nor for the one selection in his Christmas tape, that again has a recognizable melody from another German Carol: “Am Weinachts Baum, Die Lichter Brennen“. But from time immemorial melodies have been borrowed and used for new lyrics often in other languages. In reviewing the tapes of our workshop in Connecticut, she was surprised that Dimas Planas had skipped the Danza, “Una voz invita y llama!” No. 16 PDC. Lorraine said that Frieda Hoh, from a famous Lancaster family, who has one hymn in CC, was her mother superior. Checking out the CC, she seems to have translated thirteen hymns into Spanish.

L. Florindez had a Lutheran Hymnal from Guatemala called, Cantico Nuevo it was printed in Methopress, Doblas 1753, Buenas Aires, Argentina. It seemed completely filled with chorales merely translated into Spanish. The origin and distribution of the hymnal remains a mystery. It must be the product of a very conservative Lutheran church completely unconscious of cultural issues and questions.

L. Florindez questioned the indigenous music of the corito and felt that it really derived from a revivalist, almost Salvation Army type tradition, rather than from indigenous Spanish musical forms. That will place her into a debate with Abraham Caceres, who in his instruction manual for cross‑cultural music for English and Spanish congregations called, “Somos Uno” – (We Are One) classified “Somos Uno” itself as a Plena, “Mirad Cuan Bueno” and “Amarte Solo A Ti“, as Boleros, “Que Viva Cristo” and “Ven Habita En Mi” as Merengues, “Jehova Esta En Su Templo” a Tumbao, etc. He could be playing these coritos in Spanish forms as much as a few of us ministers in Brooklyn joyfully play some Sunday School songs, such as “In My Heart There Rings a Melody” as a Polka. Coritos may well come from refrains from songs from other cultures whose stanzas were forgotten. But some may well be indigenous to the Spanish culture, and often Pentecostalism is erroneously confused with indigenous forms, because of a lack of knowledge about the subject. That reverts back to the example at the beginning of this diary, where the indigenous Spanish melody turned out to be Ducannon composed by W. Kirkpatrick (1838‑1921), but the Pentecostal workshop leaders asserted it to be an indigenous Spanish composition. This is not even true of the refrain added to the Ducannon melody.[11]

Perhaps an analysis of aesthetics by Aristotle as presented by Prof. Brian Stonehill of Pamona College, Claremont, Calif., is also helpful for our hymns, which are also artistic creations. According to Aristotle, every attempt at persuasion is composed of three elements: “logos” (intellectual content), “pathos” (emotional content), and “ethos” (authority based on personal charisma).[12] Prof. Stonehill applies these terms to television viewing. A day’s network programming begins with ethos, interviewing celebrities, goes to pathos for the Soap operas, and continues with logos in the news broadcasts, and ends with ethos again, late night, which is not so demanding as logos.

Using this schema, our Lutheran hymns emphasize logos to a large extent. Coritos emphasize pathos, and their ethos is not to be underestimated, because when their worship leaders, or indeed anyone with a musical gift comes forward to sing, they take the microphone, and become transformed into the celebrities they see singing on TV. There is incredible power in the image of the TV superstar singing with the microphone in hand, cutting records in the private studio, making millions on record albums and tapes sold, in the TV formation of our present culture. As much as we might have an aversion to this ethos in our hymns, we can see how effectively Pentecostals, Assemblies of God denominations, electronic evangelists, etc. have used it to become more indigenous to our modern technocratic cultures than Lutherans have wanted to become. In both cases where Pentecostal worship leaders have helped me in my ministry, this identification and fusion of superstar‑singer and spiritual leader has played a role.

This reminds me of the time Bob Dillon, in the folk song tradition decided to go from the regular guitar to the electric guitar. Traditional folk musicians were aghast and shocked into dismay feeling he had sold out to commercialism. I too cannot bring myself to sing using a microphone. I think of celebrities in the definition of C. Wright Mills: those rewarded by our society to divert us from realities. But all too often, we Lutherans are hankering about that something lost, while they are capitalizing on masses of media mind‑molded people gained.


The Gospel, the Media, and Culture

An Excursion from the Topic

Of course, the latter sentence above locks the gospel within ideology so that ideology seems to have the last word. But our lessons this Sunday remind us that the Word of God is not bound.[13]

It will not be limited to entertainment and diversionary methods of dissemination. For to return to the article in the Christian Science Monitor and insert our topic at hand: More Churches should become aware “of the fact that TV, in particular, is now the way our culture is being disseminated.” (p.11)

This brings us to the logical conclusion that we will also have to use the media more effectively for the dissemination of the Gospel and the Christian Mission and purpose in life. The traditions that tend to confuse religion and entertainment have had the upper hand in using the media for the advantage of “evangelical” self‑serving influence. To us the challenge is presented to use the same media effectively for witnessing to the Good News around the world and at home, glorifying, praising and enjoying God forever.

The analysis must begin with the limitations of TV and the particular strengths TV introduces. The manipulation accomplished by TV must be exposed, by the exclusion of the middle to heighten the drama by the mere presentation of extremes, and the extensive use of hyperbole, overstating a case visually. “TV has a filter that enhances conflict.” etc. (Ibid. p.11) But TV is unequaled in taking viewers to places far away and showing them what is going on, even showing them cultures of other countries. People have been welcomed to the floor of Congress by TV, and so have gotten a view of democracy they could never have gotten otherwise. TV is a perfect window into such issues as global environment, depicting the devastation of rain forests or beaches, etc. (Ibid.) This is of course an untapped resource for the churches to give us a view into the missions, into the struggles of inner‑city churches, into the life of rural and suburban churches, into the deliberations of the World Council of Churches, The Lutheran World Ministries, the National and International Assemblies that are searching for the genuine way to disseminate the Gospel around the world today. What a shame that the “Evangelicals” who are so unconscious of their ideological confusion, and who have been given media power for the sake of enhancing the powers that be, have gotten such an advantage over an appropriate way of using the media for the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord.


Some Spanish Music Hymnals and Song Books and Other Resources

  1. El Peublo de Dios Canta: Adviento, Navidad, Epifanía y otros (1989: Augsburg Fortress).
  2. Liturgia Luterana: Provisional (1978: Lutheran Church in America).
  3. Cantoral Litúrgico Nacional, (1982: Comisión Episcopal Española de Liurgia).
  1. Cantares de Navidad. A Hymnal (P.R. Publishing Co.)
  2. Celebremos I and II. Discipleship Resources of the Methodist Church, P.O. Box 840, Nashville, Tenn. 37202.
  1. Himnos de Fe y Alabanza, (1960: Compilado por Robert C. Savage).
  2. Himnos de Fe y Alabanza: Palabras Solomente: (1960: Compilado por Robert C. Savage).
  3. Culto Cristiano, (1964: Publicaiones ‘El Escudo” Iglesias Luteranas).
  4. Cantemos al Señor, (1986: Archdiocese of Miami).
  5. La Confessión de Augsburg, (1980: Fortress Press).
  6. Estrategia Misional Multicultural: Uas estrategia para la proclamation del Evangelio, (1991: ELCA). (Three copies)
  7. Cantaremos Coritos, (1987: Caracas, Venezuela).
  8. Himnario de Cánticos Especiales: Nueva Vida Hallé en Cristo, (1989?: Manati, Puerto Rico).
  9. Canciones, (Received from Pastor Gerard S. Valdivia, Brooklyn, NY). (No cover and it starts with No. 14 or 15).
  10. Manual del Ministro de Iglesia Pentecostal de Chile, (1968: Curico). (Photocopy)
  11. Canticos Navideños (Multiple Copies of each page)
  12. My 1989 study of Coritos and Musical Genres in Puerto Rico.
  13. Tapes from Pablo Sosa Cama Chia 282, Buenas Aires, Argentina.
  14. C. Ball, Himnos de Luz, (San Antonio Texas, 1968).
  15. Nuevo Himnario Canticos Especiales, (La Piedras, Puerto Rico: Distribuidora Cristiana, no date).


_______________________________ Endnotes

[1] Again, the slashes signify repeats: “////” means four times, “//” twice, etc.

[2] These asterisks signify inserts from later knowledge and information.

[3] Note the date of this interview is 1989.

[4] These are the syllables in the lyrics of songs and when different melodies accommodate the same number of syllable, the lyrics can use that other melody.

[5] L. Florindez first informed me that this melody is of 19th Century American origin ‑ not Spanish. She was certainly referring to Ducannon.

[6] Searching for it on Youtube, I could not find it. But La fuerza escondida’s melody is also that of an old German Folk Song: Mein Vater war ein Wandersman.

[7] Also see the resources listed at the end of this study.

[8] “Song” can be a metaphor for a whole way of life: “Like Father, like son, Godd!!! second verse, a little bit louder, a little bit worse.” For example, in generation after generation of alcoholics, it is not enough to become the next verse in the same song, but one needs to pray for the grace to become a whole new song.

[9] Goodheart, p. 24.

[10] The thesis of James Clifford in The Predicament of Culture.

[11] Again, See No. 293 in Himnos de Fe y Alabanza, where the melody and that of the refrain are both ascribed to Wm. J. Kirkpatrick. This is the song that really started my questioning for this study: “Que Mi Vida Entera Esté” (Take My Life and Let It Be).

[12] Christian Science Monitor (10/04/89), p. 10‑11.

[13] 2 Timothy 2:9.


A Partial Bibliography

James Clifford’s The Predicament of Culture, (Cambridge, Mass.,

 Harvard University Press, 1988).

Rev. Virgilio P. Elizondo, Christianity and Culture:

an Introduction to Pastoral Theology and ministry

for the Bicultural Community, (San Antonio, Texas:

Mexican‑American Cultural Center, 1975.)

And Eugene Goodheart, Culture and the radical Conscience,

 (Cambridge, Mass: A Harvard paperback, 1973.)

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