This research project includes the creation of a digital collection of manuscripts found in several towns located near Jesuit missions along the Rio Sonora (Mexico). Placing these manuscripts within a cultural context and making them available to the general public, free of charge, will benefit and strength the shared culture on both sides of the border.


BNAI acts as a needed intermediary in this project, supporting the researchers and their assistants on both sides of the border.


The collaborative research team is a group of bi-national scholars including a librarian, historian, chemist, ethno-musicologist, and musician in addition to music historians.  The project historians and the ethno-musicologist will work together in organizing manuscripts, developing a database for all manuscripts, transcribing works, discussing aspects of significance seen in the documents, and preserving them.  


Any written publications will be supported by the umbrella Bi-national Arts Institute, as well as the affiliated universities of each scholar.  This research will be of value to the universities (University of Arizona, Universidad de Sonora and Cochise College) and institutions (Museo Regional y Casa de Cultura, Ures, Sonora, MX ) participating in the collaboration.  All written publications will be bilingual.



In the latter part of the twentieth century, a plethora of research and unearthed manuscripts appeared in the field of Mexican musicology, with many compositions found in the cathedrals of Mexico City, Puebla, and Oaxaca.  These discoveries led to the acquisition and performance of colonial Mexican music that has enriched the historical music scene with otherwise forgotten compositions. 



Musicological research continues to explore the importance of these revealed treasures from the colonial world.  Their performances are now part of many early music ensembles' repertoires.  Musicologists in the Americas realize the importance of this type of work as it relates to cultural research in our region. 



Mexican musicologists state the importance of discovering more of these treasures in missions and cathedrals throughout the country. Manuscripts (whether colonial or later) from the region's churches reveal a great deal about the culture and daily life in these towns.

The Rio Sonora region lies within hours of the international border with Arizona.  The seven townships near the river include Ures, Baviácora, Aconchi, Huépac, Banámichi, Arizpe, and Bacoachi. Each has a mission that was established at the end of the 17th century by Jesuit missionaries. After the Jesuit expulsion in the 18th century, Franciscan priests became the administrators of these communities as well as other regional missions like the relatively nearby rural town of Cucurpe.  

Some files from this early period are extant, including baptismal and confirmation records.  Research into the existence of possible music manuscripts within these missions began informally six years ago.  This project proposes to continue research of existing manuscripts from the missions of the Rio Sonora, and within archives in Hermosillo.

The collaborative team of researchers and student interns will publish music manuscripts within a digital library, and preserve original manuscripts from the Rio Sonora within the Museo Regional y Casa de Cultura, Ures, Sonora, MX.  



Events that occurred in this northern Mexico state affected people in Arizona.  Due to their geographic closeness and their distance from the more populated central Mexican states, reciprocal influences between Sonora and Arizona are prevalent in economic and cultural ways.



The Mexican Cristero conflict of the 1920s received funding by faithful Catholics in Arizona.  Priests exiled from Sonora came to Arizona.  Migration, economic dependency, and familial ties between the two states are well known.  This cultural interchange can be seen as well in the music of Sonora.  For example,  influences from the United States can be seen in Sonoran dance music, which incorporates such names as the two-step and the waltz.  Influences on 20th century norteño music include the polka, Columbian cumbias, and American rock music.



Research will help answer the question of how the sacred music in this rural region has incorporated influences from both its northern neighbors and central Mexico, with that region's changing culture in this important century.


The study of sacred music in 20th century Sonora is consequential since current music scholarship includes studies of the region's celebratory and folk music, such as corridos and other popular music of the twentieth century, but not the music of the evolving Catholic Church.  

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Bi-National Arts Institute

5 Gardner Street

Bisbee, AZ  85603


The Bi-National Arts Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Bisbee, AZ. Working on each side of the U.S. Mexico border (Arizona and Sonora), we cultivate the arts through training, performance and exchange opportunities for the youth and adults of our region. As a catalyst, the Institute channels the creative expression of music, poetry, film and other media by celebrating our shared human experience across the border.