THE ARTISTIC ODYSSEY OF HIGINIO V. GONZALES: A TINSMITH AND POET IN TERRITORIAL NEW MEXICO

After more than a century of obscurity, art historian and tinsmith Maurice Dixon discovers that a New Mexican artisan, formerly known only as the Valencia Red and Green Tinsmith, is actually Higinio V. Gonzales, a prolific and bilingual 19th-century educator, artisan, poet, and musician. This exhibition traces the life of Gonzales and, for the very first time, explores his influence on music, poetry, and the arts in New Mexico.

On Sunday February 7, 2016 the Museum will host a talk and performance inspired by the Gonzales corridos with UNM's David Garcia and Enrique Lamadrid.

Higinio Valentin Gonzales (1842-1921) lives on as part of our New Mexico musical heritage thanks to John Donald Robb and his collection in University Libraries’ Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections. Gonzales composed the Corrido de La Muerte de Antonio Maestas (The Ballad of the Death of Antonio Maestas). John Donald Robb recorded the song in 1946, as sung by Jose Gallegos in Abiquiu, and then studied it at length. The corrido tells us that Antonio Maestas was a Hispanic vaquero/cowboy from the El Rito area of Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. In July 1889, while out searching for lost cattle, Antonio's horse fell and he was pierced by his own lance. His friends found him, buried him in the field, and marked his grave with a pile of stones.

In 1949 Robb visited El Rito, interviewed locals about Maestas and the composer Gonzales, saw the grave and took photos. He also visited the Gonzales home in San Pedro, near Espanola, took more photos and obtained a copy of the composer's 1901 cuaderno or notebook. Robb transcribed the melody and the text of the Maestas ballad in Spanish and English and studied the cuaderno. He also learned that Gonzales had composed several other songs that he had recorded. Robb included parts of this corrido study in his 1954 and 1980 Hispanic New Mexico folk music books and in a 1973 folklore article.

These musical treasures and more are in the John Donald Robb Collection at UNM’s Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections.

For more on the Robb Collection contact Nancy Brown-Martinez at nbrown@unm.edu.