New Mexican Spanish, a unique American dialect, survives mostly in prayers

by | May 23, 2023 | Religion

HOLMAN, N.M. (AP) — On a spring Saturday afternoon, two “hermanos” knelt to pray in the chapel of their Catholic brotherhood of St. Isidore the Farmer, nestled by the pine forest outside this hamlet in a high mountain valley.Fidel Trujillo and Leo Paul Pacheco’s words resounded in New Mexican Spanish, a unique dialect that evolved through the mixing of medieval Spanish and Indigenous forms. The historic, endangered dialect is as central to these communities as their iconic adobe churches, and its best chance of survival might be through faith, too.
“Prayers sung or recited are our sacred heritage,” said Gabriel Meléndez, a professor emeritus of American Studies with the University of New Mexico, who’s also a hermano. “When prayers are said in Spanish, they’re stronger. They connect us directly to people who came before us.”
Preserved mostly in devotions, particularly in humble “moradas” – as the brotherhoods’ chapels are called – built of mud and straw in rural communities across the northern reaches of the state, New Mexican Spanish is different from all other varieties of the language.
“Unlike most other forms of Spanish used in the U.S. today, it’s not due to immigration in the last 100 years, but rooted back to the 1500s,” said Israel Sanz-Sánchez, a professor of languages at West Chester University in Pennsylvania who has researched the dialect.
Spanish expl …

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