The Hanacpachap Cussicuinin is a choral jewel of colonial South American music.
When, in 1631, the Franciscan Friar Juan Pérez Bocanegra included the Hanacpachap Cussicuinin in his Ritual, Formulario e Institución de Curas – a liturgical manual for priests, written both in Spanish and Quéchua, the aboriginal language — he probably couldn’t have imagined his gesture would enthrone this anthem as the first polyphonic musical work of the “New World.”
Bocanegra claimed authorship for this hymn, but such claim remains disputed to the day: some historians and musicologists think this might have been the work of a native, instead. Here’s an excerpt of the first two verses of the hymn, both in English and in the original Quéchua:
Huaran cacta muchas caiqui.
Runa cunap suyacuinin.
Diospa rampan Diospamaman
Yurac tocto hamancaiman
a thousand times shall we praise you.
O tree bearing thrice-blessed fruit,
O hope of humankind,
helper of the weak.
hear our prayer!
Attend to our pleas,
O column of ivory, Mother of God!
Beautiful iris, yellow and white,
receive this song we offer you;
come to our assistance,
show us the Fruit of your womb.
Composed in classic European fashion, its harmonic structure strictly following Renaissance structures, this hymn nevertheless resembles, rhythmically speaking, some forms of traditional Quechua (that is, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Bolivian and even northern Chilean and Bolivian and Southern Colombian) music. In the video below, the Hanacpachap Cussicuinin is sang in the Vatican.
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?