Two weeks ago, October 1, Martha and Fabián spent the day transcribing a very old two paragraph story about a group of farm workers planning to rob their boss, the land owner, for the Inquisition. The struggle to understand chapurreo, a mixture of Valenciano* and Castellano was engraved in Martha’s mind. Later that evening, looking for Fabián at the Harwood Art Center, Martha bumped into Tomás Lozano (author of Cantemos al alba: Origins of Songs, Sounds, and Liturgical Drama of Hispanic New Mexico, UNM Press 2007) and immediately began telling him the story and the problems with the transcription. Tomás is familiar with the transcribing process of oral traditions and is a Catalan speaker. He offered to listen to the recordings with us.
*Valenciano is considered by some a dialect of Catalan.
Last night, October 13, Martha and Fabián drove to Corrales to pickup Tomás at 5:15 pm and drove him to Martha’s house in central Albuquerque. A little before 6:00 after fortifying himself with a glass of Mexican Coca-Cola Tomás began working immediately on the story about the robbery. We were comforted to see that it was almost as hard for Tomás as it had been for us. The interview in a cavernous kitchen/dinning room/sitting room setting in an old stone house in Calig produced an irritating echo. We all strained to understand the 94 year-old informant and his 63 year-old niece who was talking as she preformed household chores. The recently digitized recording made it possible to distinguish the Valenciano. After more than an hour Tomás suggested that Martha try to talk to the niece for more clarification of this story.
Then we began to work on the story of La Abuela Beata and her grandsons.
Listening to the recording we were charmed by the 94 year-old narrator whose neighbors and relatives also contributed to the story they had heard so often. Everyone was talking and laughing throughout the story of how the family got the nickname Beata.
Fortunately Tomás could understand old Catalan words that gave a richness to the story that had escaped us. He enjoyed listening to the story as much as we had and all three of us laughed heartily throughout our evening’s work.