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The organist of the Cathedral of Mexico, confidant of Don Juan de Palafox

PhotoLetterby Fabián Pérez Ximeno and cover of the book 'En las entrañas del atardecer en Puebla. Duties and affections encountered/

Recently, we have analysed a collection of letters from different people addressed to Don Juan de Palafox, Bishop of Puebla, as soon as his return to Spain became known. In addition to their feelings about his departure, some senders took the opportunity to confide in him about various matters ranging from his personal and institutional problems, the Audiencia, the University or the municipal and cathedral councils to, in many cases, news of what was happening in the New Spain capital during the interim period with the bishop governor, Marcos de Torres y Rueda, not forgetting issues such as corruption and greed. 

Among the senders we find people from the whole social spectrum, such as magistrates, merchants and high clergy, staff of the Royal Court, University of Mexico, simple people and different professions such as notaries, soldiers, ombudsmen and councillors, merchants, Creoles, friars of different orders, without missing some curious characters, such as Doña María Altamirano y Ponce de León, wife of the military deserter Don Pedro Vélaz de Medrano y Manso de Zúñiga. The names of some of them are well known in the relations of the bishop of Puebla and others less so because they belong to the orbit of personal friendships and farther away from having a public projection, also including women and cloistered nuns. One of the letters is written in Nahualt.

The letter marked issue twenty-three corresponds to Fabián Pérez Ximeno and is dated 22 January 1649 in the New Spain capital. Its author can undoubtedly be identified with the famous organ builder, organist, composer and chapel master of the cathedral of Mexico, who was born in 1595 and died in 1654, and who obtained the position of second organist of that cathedral in 1625, first, in 1642, and six years later the post of master of the musical chapel. The text of his letter speaks of Palafox's close friendship and knowledge and is a further testimony to Bishop Palafox's relationship with music, backed up by other little known data such as the demand he made for tiples from his agents in Madrid in 1642, for which they were to make arrangements with the master of the royal chapel. The letter begins by telling the bishop of Puebla how he had learned of his departure through a letter given to him by the maestrescuela, and its text reads: "I cannot persuade myself that it will be carried out, unless God wants to punish us for my sins and those of this kingdom, because if your excellency leaves, it is certain that his Divine Majesty will begin to punish you, which, up to now, have all been threats. Sad for all this new Spain, if your excellency is absent, because with your absence we lack comfort to all states, protection to the poor, example to the most religious, teaching to the faithful and even to the most remote, justice in the judges. We lack the father, the pastor, the teacher and, finally, the light, the torch of all virtue. And for me, as it is so close to me, I feel it in the depths of my soul, so much so that only your excellency, with your understanding, can judge from my love what Degree this will be. It is so good for your excellency to go to the side of your king and lord, because I believe that he needs your person for his successes and the good things of Spain, and so that from there he can remedy what he has not been able to do in this city. I, Your Excellency, have little to offer him, but that little, with great love, I offer it at the feet of Your Excellency. And if it is convenient for me to serve you, I will run over the obligations of my children and leave them and serve you. May God dispose what is convenient for us and keep Your Excellency for many years to come".

The musician's sympathies for Palafox's reformist cause had their roots. test This is shown by the fact that Father Francisco de la Canal, a Jesuit who kept Palafox punctually informed of all that was being plotted against him within the Society, together with the viceroy and the Inquisition, at a time when the speech between the two had its difficulties, made use of Fabián Pérez Ximeno as a secure courier from the beginning of 1647. Coinciding with Palafox's retirement to San José de Chiapa, the musician continued to act as speech between Palafox and the Jesuit. 

Palafox's empathy with the maestro de capilla of the Mexican cathedral was, if possible, more evident in another testimony, in the period of the aforementioned retreat that Palafox made in the summer of 1647. A few days after the bishop's absence, Don Fabián sent him a letter which we have located among the funds of the visiting bishop's file and transcribed in its entirety in our study mentioned above.

To find out more

FERNÁNDEZ GRACIA, R., Don Juan de Palafox. Teoría y promoción de las artes, Pamplona, association de Amigos del Monasterio de Fitero, 2000.
FERNÁNDEZ GRACIA, R., En las entrañas del atardecer en Puebla. Deberes y afectos encontrados, New York, Institute of Golden Age Studies / high school de programs of study Auriseculares, 2020
GEMBERO USTÁRROZ, M., "El mecenazgo musical de Juan de Palafox (1600-1659), obispo de Puebla de los Ángeles y virrey de Nueva España", Palafox: Iglesia, Cultura y Estado en el siglo XVII, Pamplona, Universidad de Navarra, 2001, pp. 463-496.
PALAFOX Y MENDOZA, J., Manuscritos e impresos del Venerable Señor Don Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, general coordination of the work by J. P. SALAZAR ANDREU; palaeographic transcription, documentary study and indexes by M. M. ARCE Y SÁINZ, León, Everest, 2000.
PEPE, E., "Fabián Pérez Ximeno, presbítero organista mayor y maestro de capilla", Heterofonía Revista de research musical, nos. 130-131 (2004) pp. 129-144.