‘La Pastorela’ back for Socorro reprise

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Community members can begin Christmas activities with the traditional presentation of “La Pastorela” this Dec. 20, on the historic stage of the Garcia Opera House at 6:30 p.m.

Photo courtesy Paul Harden: A free presentation of “La Pastorela” will be this Friday at the historic Garcia Opera House at 6:30 p.m.

The free event is sponsored by the Friends of the Camino Real Center. Refreshments will be served following the presentation.

The play is performed in colonial Spanish and song by Los Pastores de Belén, a group of amateur adult actors in period dress. The Belén group has been performing and keeping this traditional Christmas play alive for the past 43 years.

The story follows the trek of humble shepherds as they journey to Bethlehem in search of the Christ child. The somewhat comedic rendition dramatizes the human battle with good and evil, the obstacles of Lucifer, and with their own lazy companion, Bartolo. In the end, good triumphs over evil, and the shepherds arrive in Bethlehem to present their humble gifts to the baby Jesus.

“La Pastorela” is as old as New Mexico. Franciscan missionaries brought the play to the missions along El Camino Real in the early 1600s. It taught the Christmas story, in pageant form, to the Native people with little knowledge of the Spanish language, which allowed them to grasp the principles of Christianity, peppered with a few lessons of morality and human temptations.

The popularity of “La Pastorela” spread throughout New Mexico for centuries and became a part of the local culture and church. Los Pastores de Belén actors have revived the traditional play and will offer the people of Socorro the opportunity to experience this historic live performance, music and song as it was presented two centuries ago.

The program concludes with the audience singing a few Christmas carols in both Spanish and English.