EL NIÑO: NATIVITY RECONSIDERED

An AMOC* Production

This chamber music arrangement—written specially for AMOC*—was first performed at The Met Cloisters in 2018, in the beautiful San Martín at Fuentidueña chapel. The New York Times called it “intimate, affecting and quietly rich with activism.” The piece, which celebrates Latin American poets and the voices of women, returned for a one-night-only engagement in December 2022 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. A rarely performed work, El Niño “ruminates on the notion that with the promise of new life, there is the equal threat of inexplicable violence and sacrifice,” said Bullock, “one of opera’s fastest-rising stars” (Vanity Fair), who curated the selections being performed.

Music by JOHN ADAMS
Libretto compilation by PETER SELLARS
Musical selections by JULIA BULLOCK
Musical arrangement by CHRISTIAN REIF

 

JULIA BULLOCK, soprano
JASMIN WHITE*, contralto
ANTHONY ROTH COSTANZO, countertenor
DAVÓNE TINES, bass-baritone
EMI FERGUSON*, flute/piccolo
RONI GAL-ED*, oboe/ English horn
GLEB KANASEVICH*, clarinet/ bass clarinet
ALEXANDER DAVIS*, bassoon/ contrabassoon
NICOLEE KUESTER*, horn
CONOR HANICK, piano
JOHN ARIDA*, keyboard
JONNY ALLEN, percussion
JORDAN DODSON*, guitar
KEIR GOGWILT, MIRANDA CUCKSON, MIRAN KIM*, JULIA CHOI*, QIANWAN SHEN*,
RAVENNA LIPCHIK*, SIWOO KIM*, JOSH HENDERSON*, violin
ZÖE MARTIN-DOIKE*, CARRIE FREY*, TIA ALLEN*, CELIA HATTON*, viola
COLEMAN ITZKOFF, SETH PARKER WOODS*, TITILAYO AYANGADE*, cello
DOUG BALLIETT, CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON*, double bass

THE CHOIR OF TRINITY WALL STREET*

ELIZABETH BATES,  MEG DUDLEY, MADELINE HEALEY,  CHLOE HOLGATE, soprano
TOMAS CRUZ, DEVONY SMITH, KIRSTEN SOLLEK, PAMELA TERRY, alto
TIMOTHY HODGES, LAWRENCE JONES, DAVID VANDERWAL, TOMMY WAZELLE, tenor
JEFFREY GAVETT, STEVEN HRYCELAK, BRIAN MEXTORF, EDMUND MILLY, bass

CHRISTIAN REIF*, conductor

CHRISTOPHER GILMORE*, lighting design
RICK JACOBSOHN*, sound design
RR SIGEL*, tour producer
BETSY AYER*, production stage manager
STEFANO FLAVONI*, assistant conductor
THOMAS McCARGAR*, chorus manager
KIRK BALTZELL*, assistant stage manager
JENNIFER CHEN, music supervisor
LANDON WILSON, supertitles operator
ZACK WINOKUR, director

* denotes guest artist

Premiered December 2018 at The Met Cloisters, Fuentidueña Apse, New York, NY

Production photos by Nina Westervelt

Program Note

by Julia Bullock

Traditions develop out of passionate reactions to events. The nativity story and themes that surround it have preoccupied us for centuries — there are miraculous aspects we celebrate like the unique relationship between birthing parent and child, and acts of generosity through gift giving; held alongside the challenging realities of genocide, forced displacement, and how the promise of new (or liberated) life is often accompanied by a threat and enactment of violence. That’s part of why at the end of each calendar year we seek out opportunities to consider the past cycles we find inescapable.

While the Christian doctrine is steeped in patriarchal structures and often shared through the lens of Western-European perspectives, El Niño brings the voices of women and Latin American poets to the forefront. Contrasting moments of intimate immediacy and ferocious power are what struck me when I first heard the original work by John Adams and Peter Sellars, and they’re what inspired me to find a way to share this piece with as many people and communities as possible.

It’s meaningful to present El Niño: Nativity Reconsidered in this distilled version—whether in the con cert hall or a place of spiritual worship—because anywhere we choose to congregate can be considered sacred when we hear stories, reflect on lessons from those narratives, and witness each other in the process.

Thank you for joining us for this offering, which I do hope will become a tradition.

With warmth and respect,

Julia Bullock

Translations

Translations by JULIA BULLOCK and MYRNA DIAZ.

With Spanish Language Biblical text from the Reina-Valera Bible. Special thanks to ELENA PULGAR LONZACO and JOSE MANUEL CRUZ VELAZQUEZ.

The libretto you hear presented on the stage is in bold, with its translation to the right (or below on mobile). Or read a PDF version here.

THE ANNUNCIATION

THE ANNUNCIATION

Rosario Castellanos (Mexico, 1925 – 1974)
from The Sterile Virgin (1950)

Because since the beginning you were destined to be mine.
Before the ages of wheat and of the lark
and even before the fishes.
When God had nothing more than horizons
of unlimited blue and the universe
was a will not yet pronounced.
When everything lay in the divine lap,
intermingled and confused,
you and I lay there, complete, together.

Because since the beginning you were destined to be mine.

And here, you announce yourself.
Among contradictory angels you approach,
pouring yourself like a soft music,
like a glass of aromas and balsams.

You exalt my humility,
Your gaze, benevolent,
Transforms my wounds into ardent splendors.

And now, you approach
And you find me surrounded by prayers
Like high leaping flames.

 

LA ANUNCIACIÓN (extracto)

Rosario Castellanos (México, 1925 – 1974)
de De la vigilia estéril (1950)

Porque desde el principio me estabas destinado.
Antes de las edades del trigo y de la alondra
y aun antes de los peces.
Cuando Dios no tenía más que horizontes
de ilimitado azul y el universo
era una voluntad no pronunciada.
Cuando todo yacía en el regazo
divino, entremezclado y confundido,
yacíamos tú y yo totales, juntos.

Porque desde el principio me estabas destinado…

He aquí que te anuncias.
Entra contradictorios ángeles te aproximas,
como una suave música te viertes,
como un vaso de aromas y de bálsamos.

Por humilde me exaltas,
Tu mirada, benévola,
Transforma mis llagas en ardientes esplendores.

He aquí que te acercas
Y me encuentras rodeada de plegarias
Como de hogueras altas.

1. SE HABLA DE GABRIEL *

Rosario Castellanos (México, 1925 – 1974)

Como todos los huéspedes
mi hijo me estorba ocupando un lugar que era mi lugar
existiendo a deshonra,
haciéndome partir en dos cada bocado.

Fea, enferma, aburrida,
lo sentía crecer a mis expensas,
robarle su color a mi sangre,
añadir un peso y un volumen clandestinos
a mi modo de estar sobre la tierra.

Su cuerpo me pidió nacer, cederle el paso;
darle un sitio en el mundo,
la provisión de tiempo necesaria a su historia.
El paso, el paso.

Consentí.
Y por la herida en que partió,
por esa hemorragia de su desprendimiento
se fue también lo último que tuve de soledad,
de yo mirando trás de un vidrio.

Quede abierta, ofrecida
a las visitaciones, al viento
Quedé abierta a la presencia.

* El hijo del poeta Castellano, Gabriel, nació en 1961.


Apocryphal Gospel of James
(coda of GABRIEL WAS SPOKEN OF)

Now I, Joseph, was walking about
and I looked up and saw the heaven standing still,
and I observed in amazement,
and the birds of heaven at rest.
I looked down at the earth
and I saw a vessel lying there,
and workmen reclining,
and their hands were in the vessel.
Those who were chewing did not chew.
Those who were lifting did not lift up,
and those who were carrying to their mouths
did not carry, but all faces were looking upward.

I saw sheep standing still,
and the shepherd raised his hand to strike them,
but his arm remained up.

I observed the streaming river,
and I saw the mouths of the kids and the water,
but they were not drinking.

The winds stopped; they made no sound:
there was no motion of tree leaves.
The streams did not flow;
there was no motion of the sea.

The maiden stood looking intently into heaven.

1. TALK OF GABRIEL *

Rosario Castellanos (Mexico, 1925 – 1974)

Like all my guests my son impeded me,
occupying a place that was my place,
existing at inopportune times,
making me divide each bite in two.

Ugly, sick, bored,
I felt him grow at my expense,
steal the color from my blood,
add clandestine weight and volume
to my way of being on the earth.

His body asked to be born, to yield to his passing,
to give him his place in the world
the provision of time necessary for his history.


I consented.
And through the wound of his departure,
through the hemorrhage of his detachment,
also went the last of my solitude,
looking alone behind a glass.

I remained open, offered
to the visitations, to the wind,
to presence.

* Poet Castellano’s son, Gabriel, was born 1961


Evangelio apócrifo de Jacobo
(coda de SE HABLA DE GABRIEL)

Ahora yo, José, caminaba,
y miré hacia arriba y ví detenido el Cielo,
y observé en asombro,
y las aves del Cielo en descanso.
Y miré hacia abajo a la tierra
y ví allí una vasija,
y los obreros reclinaban,
y sus manos dentro de la vasija.
Aquellos que masticaban no masticaron.
Aquellos que levantaban no levantaron,
y aquellos que no comían
no comieron, pero todos miraban hacia arriba

Ví ovejas detenidos en su lugar,
y el pastor levantaba la mano para golpearlas,
pero su brazo permaneció en alto.

Y observé el río que fluye,
y ví las bocas de los corderos y el agua,
pero no bebían.

Y los vientos se detuvieron en silencio:
no había movimiento en las hojas de los árboles
Los arroyos no fluían;
no había movimiento en el mar.

La doncella se quedó mirando intensamente al Cielo.

2. MAGNIFICAT

King James Version (1604 – 1611)
Luke 1: 46-55

And Mary said,

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regard the low estate of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth,
all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;
and holy is his name.
And, his mercy is on them that fear him
from generation to generation.
For he hath shown his strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud
He hath put down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath helped his servant Israel
in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham,
and to his seed for ever.

2. MAGNIFICAT

Reina-Valera Versión
San Lucas 1: 46-55

Entonces María dijo:

Engrandece mi alma al Señor;
Y mi espíritu se alegró en Dios mi Salvador.
Porque ha mirado á la bajeza de su criada;
porque he aquí, desde ahora
me dirán bienaventurada todas las generaciones.

Porque me ha hecho grandes cosas el Poderoso;
y santo es su nombre.
Y su misericordia de generación á generación
á los que le temen.
Hizo valentía con su brazo:
esparció los soberbios
Quitó los poderosos de los tronos,
y levantó á los humildes.
A los hambrientos hinchió de bienes;
y á los ricos envió vacíos.
Recibió á Israel su siervo,
acordándose de la misericordia,
Como habló á nuestros padres á Abraham
y á su simiente para siempre.

3. SHAKE THE HEAVENS

King James Version (1604 – 1611)
Haggai 2: 6-7

For thus saith the Lord […] :

Yet once, it is a little while,
and I will shake the heavens
and the earth and the sea and the dry land.
And the desires of all the nations shall come.

And I will fill this house with glory.
And in this place, I will give peace.

 

Apocryphal Gospel of James

They drew near to Bethlehem.
They were three miles distant,
and Joseph turned and saw Mary weeping
and he said
“Probably that which is in her is distressing her.”

Once again Joseph turned and saw her laughing,
and he said:
“Mary, how is it that I see your face at one moment laughing and at another time weary?”

She said to Joseph,
“It is because I see two peoples with my eyes,
the one weeping and mourning,
the other rejoicing and glad.”

3. SACUDE LOS CIELOS

Reina-Valera Version
Haggeo 2: 6-7

Porque así dice Dios […]:

De aquí á poco aun haré
yo temblar los cielos
y la tierra, y la mar y la seca.
Y vendrá el Deseado de todas las gentes.

y henchiré esta casa de gloria,
y daré paz en este lugar.

 

Evangelio apócrifo de Santiago

Se acercaron hacia Belén. 
Estaban a tres millas de distancia,
y volteó José y vió a María llorar
y dijo
“Probablemente lo que hay en ella la está angustiando.”

Otra vez volteó José y la vió reir,
y dijo:
“María ¿cómo es que veo tu rostro unas veces
riendo y otras veces cansada?”

Le dijo a José,
“Es porque veo en mis ojos dos pueblos,
el que llora y se lamenta,
el otro regocijado y contento.”

4. PUES MI DIOS NACIDO A PENAR – VILLANCICO V *
(NAVIDAD, 1689, no. 287)

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Mexico, 1648 – 1695)

Pues mi Dios ha nacido a penar,
déjenle velar.

Pues está desvelada por mi
déjenle dormir.

Déjenle velar,
que no hay pena, en quien ama,
como no penar.

Déjenle dormir,
que quien duerme, en el sueño
se ensaya a morir.

Silencio, que duerme.
Cuidado, que vela…

Déjenle velar.
Déjenle dormir.

4. BECAUSE MY LORD WAS BORN TO SUFFER
(CHRISTMAS, 1689, no. 287)

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Mexico, 1648 – 1695)

Since my God was born to suffer,
let him stay awake.

Since he stays awake for me,
let him sleep.

Let him stay awake,
for there is no pain,
in one who loves as if there’s no suffering.

Let him sleep,
for one who sleeps,
while dreaming, rehearses death.

Silence, let him sleep.
Take care, let him stay awake…

Let him stay awake.
Let him sleep.

5. WHEN HEROD HEARD

King James Version (1604 – 1611)
Matthew 2: 1-3, 7-8

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea
in the days of Herod the king, behold,
there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying,

“Where is he that is born King of the Jews?
for we have seen his star in the East
and have come to worship him.”

Now when Herod the king had heard these things,
he was troubled […] and he privily called his wise men,
inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying,

“Go and search diligently for the young child;
and when you have found him bring me word again
that I may come and worship him also.”

5. CUANDO HERODES ESCUCHÓ

Reina-Valera Version
San Mateo 2: 1-3, 7-8 (p. 2391)

Y como fué nacido Jesús en Bethlehem de Judea
en días del rey Herodes,
he aquí unos magos vinieron del oriente á Jerusalem, Diciendo:

¿Dónde está el Rey de los Judíos, que ha nacido?
porque su estrella hemos visto en el oriente,
y venimos a adorarle.

Y oyendo esto el rey Herodes,
se turbó,[…] y llamando en secreto á los magos,
entendió de ellos diligentemente el tiempo del aparecimiento de la estrella;
Y enviándolos á Bethlehem, dijo:

Andad allá, y preguntad con diligencia por el niño;
y después que le hallareis, hacédmelo saber,
para que yo también vaya y le adore.

6. AND THE STAR WENT BEFORE THEM

King James Version (1604 – 1611)
Matthew 2: 9, 11

When they had heard the king, they departed;
and, lo, the star which they saw in the east,
went before them,
till it came and stood over where the young child was.
And when they were come into the house,
they saw the young child with Mary his mother,
and fell down and worshiped him:
and when they had opened their treasures,
they presented unto him gifts;
gold, frankincense, myrrh.

6. Y LA ESTRELLA IBA DELANTE DE ELLOS

Reina-Valera Version
Mateo 2: 9, 11 (p. 2392)

Y ellos, habiendo oído al rey, se fueron:
y he aquí la estrella que habían visto en el oriente,
iba delante de ellos,
hasta que llegando, se puso sobre donde estaba el niño.

Y entrando en la casa,
vieron al niño con su madre María,
y postrándose, le adoraron;
y abriendo sus tesoros, le ofrecieron dones,
oro é incienso y mirra.

7. THE THREE WISE KINGS*

Rubén Darío (Nicaragua, 1867 – 1916)

– I am Gaspar. I have brought frankincense.
and I have come here to say: that life is good.
That God exists. I have come here to say that love is
everything.
I know it is so because of the heavenly star!

– I am Melchior.
I have brought fragrant myrrh
Yes, God exists. He is the light of day.
The whitest flower is rooted in the mud.
And all delights are tinged with melancholy!

– I am Balthasar. I have brought gold. I assure you
God exists. He is great and strong.
Know it is so because of the perfect star
that shines so brightly in Death’s diadem.

– Gaspar, Melchior, Balthasar, be still.
Love has triumphed and bids you to its feast.
Christ reborn turns chaos into light,
and on his brow, He wears the crown of life!

*originally written in Spanish and translated into English for
this piece

7. LOS TRES REYES MAGOS

Rubén Darío (Nicaragua, 1867 – 1916)

– Yo soy Gaspar. Aquí traigo el incienso.
Vengo a decir: La vida es pura y bella.
Existe Dios. El amor es inmenso.
¡Todo lo sé por la divina Estrella!

– Yo soy Melchor.
La mirra aroma todo.
Existe Dios. Él es la luz del día.
La blanca flor tiene sus pies en lodo.
¡Y en el placer hay la melancolía!

– Soy Baltasar. Traigo el oro. Aseguro
que existe Dios. Él es el grande y fuerte.
Todo lo sé por el lucero puro
que brilla en la diadema de la Muerte.

– Gaspar, Melchor y Baltasar, callaos.
Triunfa el Amor, y a su fiesta os convida.
¡Cristo resurge, hace la luz del caos
y tiene la corona de la Vida!

8. AND WHEN THEY WERE DEPARTED

King James Version (1604 – 1611)
Matthew 2: 13

And when they were departed,
behold, the angel of the Lord,
appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying,

“Arise and take the young child
and his mother and flee into Egypt,
and be thou there until I bring thee word:
for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”

8. Y CUANDO SE FUERON

Reina-Valera Version
San Mateo 2: 13 (p. 2392)

Y partidos ellos,
he aquí el ángel del Señor
aparece en sueños á José, diciendo:

Levántate, y toma al niño
y á su madre, y huye á Egipto,
y estáte allá hasta que yo te lo diga;
porque ha de acontecer, que Herodes buscará al niño para matarlo.

9. AND HE HATH SLEW ALL THE CHILDREN

King James Version (1604 – 1611)
Matthew 2: 16

Then Herod, when he saw that he
was mocked [by] the wise men,
was exceeding wroth, and he sent forth,
and he slew all the children that were in Bethel.

9. Y MATÓ A TODOS LOS NIÑOS

Reina-Valera Versión
Mateo 2: 16 (p. 2392)

Herodes entonces, como se
vió burlado de los magos,
se enojó mucho, y envió,
y mató á todos los niños que había en Bethlehem.

10. MEMORIAL DE TLATELOLCO

Rosario Castellanos (México, 1925 – 1974)

La oscuridad engendra la violencia
y la violencia pide oscuridad
para cuajar el crimen.

Por eso el dos de octubre aguardó hasta la noche
para que nadie viera la mano que empuñaba
el arma, sino sólo su efecto de relámpago.

¿Y a esa luz, breve y lívida, quién? ¿Quién es el que
mata?
¿Quiénes los que agonizan, los que mueren?
¿Los que huyen sin zapatos?
¿Los que van a caer al pozo de una cárcel?
¿Los que se pudren en el hospital?
¿Los que se quedan mudos, para siempre, de espanto?

¿Quién? ¿Quiénes? Nadie. Al día siguiente, nadie.
La plaza amaneció barrida; los periódicos
dieron como noticia principal
el estado del tiempo.
Y en la televisión, en el radio, en el cine
no hubo ningún cambio de programa,
ningún anuncio intercalado ni un
minuto de silencio en el banquete.
(Pues prosiguió el banquete.)

No busques lo que no hay: huellas, cadáveres
que todo se le ha dado como ofrenda a una diosa,
a la Devoradora de Excrementos.
No hurgues en los archivos
pues nada consta en actas.

Ay, la violencia pide oscuridad
porque la oscuridad engendra sueño
y podemos dormir soñando que soñamos.

Mas he aquí que toco una llaga: es mi memoria.
Duele, luego es verdad. Sangra con sangre
y si la llamo mía traiciono a todos.
Recuerdo, recordamos.
Ésta es nuestra manera de ayudar a que amanezca
sobre tantas conciencias mancilladas,
sobre un texto iracundo sobre una reja abierta,
sobre el rostro amparado tras la máscara.
hasta que la justicia se siente entre nosotros.

10. IN MEMORY OF TLATELOLCO

Rosario Castellanos (Mexico, 1925 – 1974)

Darkness engenders violence
and violence demands darkness
to coagulate the crime.

That is why October the second waited until night
So that no one could see the hand that gripped
The weapon, but only its lightning flash effect.

And in that light, brief and pallid, who? Who is it
that kills? Who are those who agonize? those who die?
Those who flee without shoes?
Those who run to fall into the pit of a prison?
Those who rot in the hospital?
Those who remain mute, forever, with terror?

Who? Who? No one. On the following day, no one.
Dawn broke on the plaza cleanly swept **;
the newspapers reported as the main news
the state of the weather.
And on the television, on the radio, in the cinema
there was no change of program,
no interrupting news bulletin, nor even one
minute of silence at the banquet.
(Thus the banquet proceeded.)

Don’t search for that which is not there: traces, corpses
for all has been given as offering to a goddess,
to the Devourer of Excrements. +
Do not rummage through the archives
for nothing has been recorded.

Oh, violence calls for violence
because darkness breeds sleep
and we can sleep dreaming that we sleep.

But behold, I touch a wound: it is my memory,
It hurts, then it is true. Bleed with blood
and if I call it mine, I betray everyone.
I remember, we remember.
It is our way of awakening
amidst so many tainted consciences,
amidst an angry text, amidst an open gate,
amidst a face concealed behind a mask.
until justice is felt by us all.

* written after the military and police massacred students
and
civilians protesting the government in the Plaza de las
Tres Culturas on October 2, 1968, in the Tlatelolco
section of Mexico City.

** literal translation: “the plaza day-break sweep”;
“barrida” can be translated as: to sweep clean;
a political sweep; or a slaughter

+ refers to the goddess Tlazoltéotl, the Devourer of
Excrement

11. PUES ESTÁ TIRITANDO

King James Version (1604 – 1611)
Isaiah 30: 25, 26

IN THE DAYS OF THE GREAT SLAUGHTER

In the days of the great slaughter, when the towers fall,
the light of the moon shall be the light of the sun,
and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold,
as the light of seven days […]
And there shall be upon ev’ry high mountain
and upon ev’ry high hill, rivers and streams of waters.

 

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (México, 1648 – 1695)

POR CELEBRAR DEL INFANTE – VILLANCICO I *
(NAVIDAD, 1689, no. 283)

1––Pues está tiritando
Amor en el hielo,
y la escarcha y la nieve
me lo tienen preso,
¿quién le acude?
  2––¡El Agua!
    3––¡La Tierra!
         4––¡El Aire!

1––¡No, sino el Fuego!
Pues el Niño fatigan
sus penas y males,
y a sus ansias no dudo
que alientos le faltan,
¿quién le acude?
  2––¡El Fuego!
    3––¡La Tierra!
      4––¡El Agua!

1––¡No, sino el Aire!
Pues el Niño amoroso
tan tierno se abrasa
que respira en Volcanes
diluvios de llamas,
¿quién le acude?
  2––¡El Aire!
    3––¡El Fuego!
      4––¡La Tierra!

1––¡No, sino el agua!
Si por la tierra el Niño
los Cielos hoy deja,
y no halla en qué descanse
su Cabeza en ella,
¿quién le acude?
  2––¡El Agua!
    3––¡El Fuego!
      4––¡El Aire!

1––¡No, mas la Tierra!

11. FOR HE IS SHIVERING

Reina-Valera Version
Isaías 30: 25, 26

EL DÍA DE LA GRAN MATANZA

En el día de la gran matanza, cuando caerán las torres,
la luz de la luna será como la luz del sol,
y la luz del sol siete veces mayor,
como la luz de siete días,
Y sobre todo monte alto,
y sobre todo collado subido, habrá ríos y corrientes de aguas


Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Mexico, 1648 – 1695)

TO CELEBRATE THE INFANT
(CHRISTMAS, 1689, no. 283)

1––Since Love is shivering
on the ice, and the frost and the snow
have imprisoned him from me,
Who attends to him?
  2––The Water!
    3––The Earth!
      4––The Air!

1–– No, but the Fire will!
Since the Child becomes exhausted
with pains and ills,
and his anxieties no doubt
leave him breathless
Who attends to him?
  2––The Fire!
    3––The Earth!
      4––The Water!

1––No, but the Air will!
Since the loving, tender Child,
burns himself
as he breathes floods of flames
like in Volcanoes,
Who attends to him?
  2––The Air!
    3––The Fire!
      4––The Earth!

1––No, but the Water will!
Since the Child today
leaves the heavens for the earth,
and can find here
some place to rest his head,
Who attends to him?
  2––The Water!
    3––The Fire!
      4––The Air!

1––No, but the Earth will!

* villancico was a common poetic and musical form of
Latin America, popular from the late 15th to 18th centuries.
With the decline in popularity of the villancicos in the 20th
century, the term became reduced to mean merely
Christmas carol.

12. A PALM TREE
Two works interwoven

I. Apocrypha of the New Testament
Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew 20

And so it happened
that on the third day after their departure
Mary was fatigued by the heat of the sun in the dessert
And seeing a palm tree said to Joseph
“I want to rest a bit under its shadow.”
Joseph quickly led her to the palm
and let her get down from the animal

While Mary sat,
she looked up at the top of the palm
and saw it full of fruit.
She said to Joseph,
“I wish I might have some fruit from this tree.”

Joseph said to her,
“I am astonished that you say this,
when you see how high this palm tree is.
You think to eat from the fruit of the palm,
but it is not possible.
I think more of the lack of water,
which already fails us.
We now have nothing by which we can refresh ourselves
and the animal.”

Then, the infant Jesus,
who was resting with smiling face
on his mother’s lap,
said to the palm tree
“Bend down tree and refresh my mother with your fruit.”
And at this voice
the palm bent down its head to the feet of Mary,
and they gathered its fruit,
and all were refreshed.

Then Jesus said to it,
“Rise up, palm, and be strong,
be a companion of my trees
which are in my Father’s Paradise.
Open a water course beneath your roots
which is hidden in the Earth,
and from it let flow waters to satisfy us.”
And the palm raised itself at once,
and fountains of water,
very clear and cold and sweet,
began to pour out through the roots.

II. Rosario Castellanos (México, 1925 – 1974)
de El rescate del mundo (1952)

UNA PALMERA
(interpola en A PALM TREE)

Señora de los vientos,
garza de la llanura
cuando te meces canta
tu cintura.

Gesto de la oración
o preludio del vuelo,
en tu copa se vierten uno a uno
los cielos.

Desde el país oscuro de los hombres
he venido, a mirarte, de rodillas.
Alta, desnuda, única.
Poesía.

12. UNA PALMERA
Dos textos entrelazados

I. Apócrifa del Nuevo Testamento
Evangelio del pseudo-Mateo 20

Y así sucedió
que en el tercer día después de su partida
María estaba cansada por el calor del sol en el desierto
Y al ver una palmera le dijo a José
“Quiero descansar un poco debajo de su sombra.”

Rápidamente José la llevó hacia la palmera
y la bajó del animal

Mientras María se sentaba
miró hacia arriba a la palmera
y vió su fruta
Le dijo a José,
“Quisiera comer alguna fruta de este árbol.”

José le dijo,
“Me asombro a que me lo digas,
cuando veas qué tan alta está la palmera.
Piensas comer la fruta de la palmera,
pero esto no es posible.
Pienso más en la falta de agua,
que aun nos falla.
Ahora no temenos nada para refrescarnos y el animal

Y luego el niño Jesús,
quien descansaba con su rostro sonriente
en el regazo de su madre,
le dijo a la palmera
“Inclínate árbol y refresca a mi madre con tu fruto.”
Y al escuchar su voz
la palmera se inclinó a los pies de María,
y recogieron su fruta,
y todos se refrescaron.

Luego Jesús le dijo
“Levántate, palmera, y se fuerte,
se una compañera de mis árboles
que están en el Paraíso de mi Padre.
Abre un curso de agua debajo de tus raíces
escondidas en la Tierra,
y deja que fluyan las aguas para satisfacernos.”
Y la palmera se alzó en seguida,
y las fuentes de agua,
muy claras y frías y dulces,
comenzaron a brotar por todas las raíces.


Rosario Castellanos (Mexico, 1925 – 1974)
from The rescue of the world (1952)

A PALM


Lady of the winds,
heron of the plain
when you sway,
your waist sings.

Gesture of prayer
or prelude to the flight of wings,
into your cup are poured the heavens
one by one.

From the dark land of men
I have come, to look at you, kneeling.
Tall, naked, unique.
Poetry.

 

 

Reference Guide

A novelist, short-story writer, poet, essayist, and diplomat who was probably the most important Mexican woman writer of the 20th century. She was deeply compelled by the writings of Spanish 16th Century religious activist and author Saint Teresa of Avila and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. Learn more.

Written in 1950, this was an early collection of poems by Castellanos

A 2nd Century apocryphal text not appearing in the King James Bible or modern Reina Valera Bible, the Protevangelical Gospel of St. James tells the story of the birth, childhood, and early adolescence of Mary, mother of Jesus. The text featured in El Niño is drawn from Chapter 17. Read the full text here.

The primary English translation of the Old and New Testaments in current use. It was made in 1604—by a commission brought together by King James—in response to issues with earlier English language translations developed in the prior century.

Initially translated by former Catholic Monk Casiodoro de Reina in 1569 and revised by his student Cipriano de Valera in 1602, the Reina Valera Bible is the common Spanish-language translation of the bible used by Spanish-speaking protestants.

Living in Mexico in the 17th century, Sor Juana was a poet, dramatist, scholar, and nun, an outstanding writer of the Latin American colonial period and of the Hispanic Baroque. Learn more.

The Nicaraguan poet— who lived from 1867-1916 —is credited with initiating the Spanish-language literary movement of “modernismo” in the late 19th century. Learn more.

On October 2, 1968 in the Tlatelolco section of Mexico City, the Mexican Armed Forces opened fire on a group of unarmed civilians in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas who were protesting the upcoming 1968 Summer Olympics. 300 people —most of them students—were killed. Learn more.

Aztec goddess who represented sexual impurity and sinful behavior. Learn more.

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (Ps. -Mt.) is one of the most important witnesses in the Latin West to apocryphal stories about the lives of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and Mary’s parents, Anna and Joachim. Learn more.

A collection of Rosario Castellanos poems, El rescate del mundo (The Ransom of the World), was published in 1952; these are short, spare poems that provide rare descriptive tributes to indigenous women and their work. Learn More.

Company

JOHN ADAMS

JOHN ADAMS

PETER SELLARS

PETER SELLARS

JULIA BULLOCK

JULIA BULLOCK

CHRISTIAN REIF

CHRISTIAN REIF

JONNY ALLEN

JONNY ALLEN

TIA ALLEN

TIA ALLEN

JOHN ARIDA

JOHN ARIDA

TITILAYO AYANGADE

TITILAYO AYANGADE

DOUG BALLIETT

DOUG BALLIETT

JULIA CHOI

JULIA CHOI

ANTHONY ROTH COSTANZO

ANTHONY ROTH COSTANZO

MIRANDA CUCKSON

MIRANDA CUCKSON

ALEXANDER DAVIS

ALEXANDER DAVIS

JORDAN DODSON

JORDAN DODSON

EMI FERGUSON

EMI FERGUSON

CARRIE FREY

CARRIE FREY

RONI GAL-ED

RONI GAL-ED

KEIR GOGWILT

KEIR GOGWILT

CONOR HANICK

CONOR HANICK

CELIA HATTON

CELIA HATTON

JOSH HENDERSON

JOSH HENDERSON

COLEMAN ITZKOFF

COLEMAN ITZKOFF

CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON

CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON

GLEB KANASEVICH

GLEB KANASEVICH

MIRAN KIM

MIRAN KIM

SIWOO KIM

SIWOO KIM

NICOLEE KUESTER

NICOLEE KUESTER

RAVENNA LIPCHIK

RAVENNA LIPCHIK

ZOË MARTIN-DOIKE

ZOË MARTIN-DOIKE

QIANWEN SHEN

QIANWEN SHEN

Ⓒ Noah Elliott Morrison

DAVÓNE TINES

JASMIN WHITE

JASMIN WHITE

SETH PARKER WOODS

SETH PARKER WOODS

ZACK WINOKUR

ZACK WINOKUR

RR SIGEL

RR SIGEL

BETSY AYER

BETSY AYER

CHRISTOPHER GILMORE

CHRISTOPHER GILMORE

JENNIFER CHEN

JENNIFER CHEN

“…elevated an already-revisionist work into something much more powerful”

Gallery*

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