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January 3, 2019

The legacy of Eleazar Cortés

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Eleazar Cortés (1947–2018) was one of the most important and recognized composers of Spanish liturgical music in the U.S.

Eleazar was born in Michoacán, Mexico and lived in New Mexico. He studied philosophy and theology at the Interdiocesan Seminary of Montezuma and would later complete his theory and composition studies at the Cabrillo University in Aptos, California. Being immersed in regions where English speakers lived and practiced their faith with families of Hispanic origin, Eleazar treasured Latin American traditions. Through his compositions, Eleazar highlighted cultural elements that transcended physical boundaries.

During his life Eleazar shared his talents by teaching in schools and universities, and serving as music director. Eleazar composed four collections of liturgical music, each with a variety of songs that are learned and sung by various generations of Catholics in Mexico, the U.S. and the rest of the American continent. These songs can be found in the collections Somos La Iglesia and Pueblo de Dios. Meanwhile, the albums En el País de la Vida, with songs for funerals and El Amor Nunca Pasará, for weddings have also been used throughout the world; both, singers and listeners benefit from Eleazar’s gift of capturing and expressing intimate feelings of faith and love in moments of happiness or sadness.

Following Eleazar Cortés’s footprint as musicians and as Catholics

Eleazar's versatility and creativity is matched only by his readiness and eagerness to collaborate with both Spanish and English-speaking musicians, as was the case with Bob Hurd and Jaime Cortez in Cantaré Eternamente/For Ever I Will Sing and Gracia y Amor/Grace and Love. His songs and compositions spread his devotion and are witnesses of his faith. Many have also inspired musical performances, movies and television series. Orchestras, as well as mariachi and folk music groups, enjoyed playing his compositions for decades and thus, pay homage to Eleazar, keeping his legacy alive.

Through his songs, Eleazar gave a glimpse of the life and spirit of most Mexicans by reflecting on the beauty and authenticity of a specific region or tradition and highlighting the nation's unique musical instruments or rhythms that characterize the nation’s joy and richness.

Thank you Eleazar for the music that shaped and guided the liturgical expression of the Hispanic community and for not only being an example for musicians, but for Catholics as well, inspiring us to share our gifts and to offer comfort, faith and love to those who surround us. Descansa en paz.