Los Pastores: Ancient Holiday Drama

A performance of Los Pastores at Santa Fe’s Santuario de Guadalupe.

Los Pastores, is a holiday drama that was introduced to the New World in the late 16th century by Spanish missionaries. It has been passed down primarily through oral tradition among families in Mexico and the American Southwest.

In Lieu of Midnight Mass

The play was a significant part of Christmas during the 19th century. Since there was a scarcity of priests, Los Pastores was presented in lieu of midnight Mass. The drama began with the apparition of the angel Gabriel. He alerts the shepherds that the long-awaited Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem that very night.

Birth of the Christ Child

In addition to Gabriel and the shepherds, Michael the Archangel appears. Lucifer is also part of the drama. He seeks revenge from St. Michael for his dethronement from heaven. Gila, the cook, and a hermit travel with the shepherds. Upon arriving in Bethlehem, they walk up to the crib by twos and lovingly present their gifts. After all the gifts have been presented, four of the shepherds place a statue of the infant Jesus on a small blanket and, each taking a corner of the blanket, cradle and gently rock the infant as they sing in gratitude for the birth of the Christ child.

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