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Spanish play immerses Goliad audience in history (Video)

By chirst
Jan. 5, 2013 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 5, 2013 at 7:06 p.m.

A devil named Esturiel, played by Felipe Barajas, right, walks away dejected after the angel, Norma Vasquez, proves that she has defeated Lucifer, Richard Vasquez, under her foot, while standing in front of the altar at the Mission Espiritu Santos with Mary, played by Anna Vasquez, during a performance of "Los Pastores - A Shepherd's Play" on Saturday.

The flowing Spanish resonated off the whitewashed walls of the Mission Espiritu Santo.

The actors, dressed brightly in Spanish-style costumes, played out a story thousands of years old.

Even though most of the visitors in the mission Saturday did not speak Spanish - as the Native Americans did not in the 1700s - they understood the story.

"I would say that it was about temptation, liberation and devotion. I think community, too. You could feel that," said Rachel McClelland, a visitor in the Goliad State Park from New York.

McClelland and the 15 other guests could guess the themes of "Los Pastores - A Shepherd's Play" performed by Los Pastores De Belen (The Shepherds of Bethlehem), because of the symbolism and lively animation.

Franciscan priests created the action-filled dramas in the 16th century to share Catholicism with the Mesoamerican Indians who did not speak Spanish, according to a release by the Goliad State Park.

"My opinion is that it is important that people get a feel for what the Native Americans went through ... and it is an aspect that takes you back to what the mission was like," said Tammy Zellner, ranger at the park.

She said Saturday's audience, as well as the Native Americans, used observations to learn the story.

"It is amazing how, without knowing the language, you can still follow along just knowing the body language and the symbols," Zellner said.

Connie Rodriguez, assistant director of the group out of San Antonio, said they have performed in Goliad for the past seven years, since the site probably hosted these plays.

"It is about the fight between good and evil, and that way the indigenous got to learn about the birth of Christ. ... This is the mission of the Holy Spirit, and we feel that when we come here we are touched by the spirit," Rodriguez said.

Made up of 18 volunteers, she said some members of the group have been acting in the plays since they were children.

They depict the birth of Jesus, meant to remind people of the reason for Christmas, about 12 to 16 times in December and January.

"I really felt the devotion of the people. It was obvious that they were loving it and loving what they were doing. They cared deeply about it, and that is what made it special," McClelland said.



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