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THE TRANSATLANTIC BALLAD OF "DELGADINA": FROM MEDIEVAL SPAIN TO CONTEMPORARY CUBA Sarah Portnoy Los Angeles, California This two-part study discusses how "Delgadina", a father-daughter incest ballad of medieval origin that still survives in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking worlds, serves as a cultural portrait oftraditional societies and analyzes why women may identify with a tragic figure like Delgadina; in the second half, I examine die children's song version of "Delgadina", explaining how Cuban children appropriated this medieval Iberian ballad and adapted its setting to their own milieu. I propose that while ballads such as "Delgadina" seemingly reflect and reinforce a male-centered system of values, when examined within their cultural and historical contexts, they may also be understood to subvert those norms. The continued ability of die Romancero, the pan-Hispanic ballad tradition, to transcend time and space led me to investigate how it has survived and transformed in Latin America. In 2001, I decided to do fieldwork in Cuba, a country explored by Columbus during the height of the Hispanic ballad's popularity and, more recendy, isolated by decades ofpoverty and American foreign policy - factors that made it a fruitful destination for research on oral traditions. During the summer of 2001 and the fall of 2002, I investigated the medieval vestiges of die Romancero in Cuba, conducting the majority of my fieldwork in cities in the Oriente, the eastern region of die island, Baracoa and Santiago de Cuba, which I chose for dieir isolation and Afro-Cuban population, respectively.1 1 1 did the majority ofmy fieldwork in Baracoa, a small city in the far northeastern tip ofthe island, and in Santiago de Cuba, the second-largest city. I chose Baracoa for its La corónica 35.2 (Spring, 2007): 123-38 124Sarah PortnoyLa corónica 35.2, 2007 When I began my research, I knew that Spanish ballads had traveled with the soldiers and conquistadores to the New World, who lived in a WOrId in which the Romancero wras readily familiar to them, existing in oral tradition as well as in printed broadsides and ballad books. They sang romances on momentous occasions and were so well-versed in the tradition that they could use it to communicate, as demonstrated by Bernal Díaz del Castillo's well-known anecdote relating that during the conquest Alonso Hernández Puertocarrero cited the opening lines of the Carolingian ballad "Montesinos, vengador de su padre" for Hernán Cortés upon seeing the coast of Mexico for the first time in 1519 (Diaz del Castillo 1: 155). The soldiers who remained in Cuba and other parts of the New World passed the ballads on to future generations, initiating a process oftransculturation. Spanish migration to Cuba continued in later centuries, reinforcing or perhaps reviving the existence of the Iberian ballad tradition. The bearers of the Romancero during subsequent centuries included Spaniards born during the Colonial period; criollos, Spaniards born in the New World; and, finally, mestizos and Afro-Cubans. Despite the long history ofSpanish colonization and immigration, before I began my investigation I did not know how many romances, if any, still survived on the island, and little investigation documenting their continued existence in Cuban oral tradition had been done since before the Revolution.2 Over the course of my fieldw-ork, I discovered that not only did the Romancero tradition still survive in Cuba, but also that these Hispanic ballads lead a double life. They are sung by adults remote location. There was no highway connecting it to the rest ofthe island until the 1 960's. I chose Santiago for its large Afro-Cuban population because I wanted to see ifthis Spanish tradition had been passed on to the general populace. My recordings ofCubans ofAfrican and I Iaitian ancestry verified that this was indeed the case. - At the time I began my fieldwork, there weir practically no recent publications on the CubanRomancero. While the groundbreaking study by Carolina Poncet, El Romance en Cuba., from 1914, is useful lor understanding the CubanRomancero and offers many versions of"Delgadina", its assessment is now outdated, and little research was done on the Cuban ballad during the second halfofthe twentieth century. Beatriz...


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