July 27, 2010

Salinan violin stolen from mission

Tribe hopes melody will summon precious violin

Recovering the 200-year-old instrument, stolen from a mission, is a matter of Salinan Indian pride.

By Steve Chawkins
Jose Maria Carabajal was toiling for the friars at Mission San Antonio on California's Central Coast when he first heard the exalted strains of a violin.

His people—the Salinan Indians—had been making music for thousands of years, but he'd never heard anything like the sounds soaring from the priest's polished chunk of wood and gut.

Intrigued, Carabajal decided to make his own. The instrument he crafted in 1798 from bay laurel and other native woods was solid enough to last more than two centuries and sweet enough to build a reputation of its own.

The Carabajal, as it came to be known, was handed down through generations. It was played at fiestas and in saloons, at Masses and barn dances. Salinans came to see it as an important piece of their past. Scholars saw it as a rare artifact of the Mission era.

Now it's gone—stolen from an unlocked display case at the mission's tiny museum seven years ago.
Comment:  For more on Natives and violins, see Violin Concerto with Lenape Melodies and Native Plays Toe-Tappin' Fiddle.

Below:  "John Warren, artistic director of the New World Baroque Orchestra, holds photographs he took of the Carabajal violin that was later stolen from the San Miguel Mission." (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles Times)

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