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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Raja’s Nicaraguan Dream: Exoticism, Commemoration, and Nostalgia in Luis A. Delgadillo’s "Romance Oriental"

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Toward the end of a protracted U.S.-American intervention in Nicaragua (1909–33), a catastrophic earthquake and fire razed much of the capital city of Managua on 31 March 1931. Nicaraguan composer Luis Abraham Delgadillo (1884–1961), while residing in New York City, responded to the tragedy with his Romance Oriental (Eastern Romance) for flute and piano, dedicated to María Huezo, a friend who had perished in the earthquake. The work appears to fall within the nineteenth-century French exoticist musical tradition, but its commemorative purpose departs from the typical Orientalist representation. Delgadillo musically transformed Huezo’s memory from that of a “virtuous” woman in life into an “alluring,” voiceless female Other, which revealed particular desires. In this article, I argue that the Romance Oriental manifests a veiled escapist desire and an acute nostalgia for home. His musical response to the tragedy exhibits a binary interplay of spatial (Here/There) and temporal (Present/Past) landscapes, as the composer yearned for a return to the Managua of his childhood. The work was not a mere break with European exoticist tradition, but a resignification of Western musical convention by a Latin American composer.

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