Honors Theses


Samuel Dorf, Ph.D.



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Honors Thesis


Within Latin America’s tumultuous political atmosphere during the 1960s through the 1980s, a grassroots musical genre called the Nueva Canción emerged. Meaning “new song,” it sought to unify the poor and marginalized through a combination of folk influences, indigenous musical styles, and politically-charged lyrics. Although they achieved similar commercial success to U.S. contemporaries such as Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Joan Baez, the folkloristas [folksingers] of the Nueva Canción often incorporated references to and elements of Catholic liturgical practice. Considering the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and the advent of a Latin American Liberation Theology, the time was ripe for cultural revolution by the poor, for the poor. While military dictatorships and civil wars ravaged many Central and South American countries, many of those who were suffering sought refuge in Christian Base Communities. These small groups of lay Catholics would meet regularly to discuss the week’s Scripture, to sing and pray together, and most importantly, to heal. The unorthodox, yet explicitly religious, nature of these groups offered opportunities for non-liturgical and popular music to enter a paraliturgical setting. In this project, I contextualize the Nueva Canción within this distinct intersection of the sacred, the secular, and the genre’s specific mission of social justice. Considering the Catholic Church’s significant influence in Latin America, by studying the surrounding social and political context and by examining the lyrics and performance practices of the Nueva Canción from a theological perspective, I interpret how Catholic theologies and liturgical practices affected the reception of this unique genre.

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