In early 2012, the family of the late Dr. Ruben Cobos graciously donated a collection of folk stories and songs to the University Libraries Center of Southwest Research and Special Collections. An alumnus of UNM, Cobos was a distinguished scholar, linguist and folklorist. His life-long goal was to preserve and teach about the Spanish way of life and language of New Mexico and Colorado that was disappearing from the communities. While a professor of Spanish at UNM, from 1944–1974, he made numerous field recordings and assigned his students to tape their elders and add their accounts to his collection.
Together they produced more than 500 reel to reel tapes with the unique and priceless “Voces de los Abuelitos — Voices of the Grandparents.” These reels contain local Hispanic folk tales and music that were commonly heard in the last century. They were recorded from Albuquerque, Belen, Las Cruces, Grants, Las Vegas, Tucumcari, Denver, southern Colorado and tiny places in between. There are even a few from California and Texas. Also among the recordings are Cobo’s own lectures on folk stories and music, based on the collection.
Tobias Duran, director of the Center for Regional Studies at UNM, is funding the cost of reformatting the Cobos collection to CDs and funding a Graduate Fellow to process the collection. When the collection is ready, the CDs will be available for researchers and students to listen to in the Anderson Reading room at the CSWR in Zimmerman Library. A finding guide with the names of the folks interviewed and the titles of their songs and stories will be available on the Rocky Mountain Online Archive.
Cobos loved the Spanish people of New Mexico and their culture. As a UNM professor, he influenced 1,000s of students, teachers, readers and everyone he came in contact with. All who met him were inspired by his kindness, scholarship, teaching and dedication. Now the CSWR at UNM Libaries will assure that his legacy and collection of the recorded “Voces de los Abuelos” will live on and be available for generations to come — just as he intended.
For further information contact the UNM Center for Southwest Research at (505) 277‑6451.