Gonzalo de Cordoba

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Gonzalo de Cordoba is an anonymous Philippine metrical romance (awit at korido) which retells the life and exploit of Gonzalo de Cordoba, nicknamed “El Gran Capitan,” one of Spain’s epic heroes.


The main characters are: Fernando, King of Aragon; Isabella, Queen of Castille, Gonzalo de Cordoba, the brave and feared most vassal of King Fernando and Queen Isabel; Lara, bosom friend of Gonzalo; Hernando Cortes, a vassal; Medina, a vassal; Tellez, maestre of Calatrava; Princess Zulema, daughter of King Muley-Hassem by Leonor and sister of Almanzor; Leonor, a beautiful captive princess from Castille; Almanzor, brother of Zulema killed by Lara in a duel; Boabdil, son of King Muley-Hassem by Alixa and usurped father’s throne; Alixa, a Moorish princess, a Zergri; Seid, King of Fez in Africa; Pedro, an old captive former servant of Gonzalo’s father. Alhamer, Prince of Ethiopia who, for his assistance to Boabdil, demanded Princess Zulema as a prize; Abencerrages chiefs: Zeir, Omar, and Velid; and Princess Zora, an amazon from Numidia who Zulema appealed for help to escaped marriage to Alhamer.


Spain for 800 years was under Moorish rule before he regains independence after the defeat of Rodrigo the Goth by General Tarif l. Pelayo, Rodrigo’s cousin, who was able to escape from the Moors, gathered the scattered nobles and priests together and together they live in the mountains of Asturias. He made war on the Moors and succeeded gradually in recovering the Spanish kingdoms: first Leon and Navarre, and then others whose monarchs are inspired by Pelayo’s example. The Moors, retreated to Granada, their last stronghold. During this period, King Fernando of Aragon married Queen Isabella of Castille combining the strength of the two kingdoms. Gonzalo de Cordoba, one their vassals, is the bravest and feared most by the Moors. Wishing to conquer Granada, King Fernando sent an army headed by Gonzalo, Lara, Hernan Cortes, Medina, and Tellez. Gonzalo, leaving his forces outside of the city, entered Granada alone. At the sight of Gonzalo, all the people flee including the king of Boadil. Gonzalo went to the Alhambra where he first sees princess Zulema and was immediately attracted to the princess. Thus began the love story of Gonzalo and Zulema.

The story provides a historical background of the Reconquest and centers on Gonzalo’s falling in love with Princess Zulema, a Moorish princess, who later turns out to be a Christian, and his conquest of Granada. It concludes with the marriage of Gonzalo and Zulema in a mosque that was converted into a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.


The comparative study of Gonzalo de Cordoba with its foreign sources and analogs by Damiana L. Eugenio (Awit at Corrido: Philippine Metrical Romances) find that it must have been derived either directly or from the Spanish translation of M. Jean Pierre Claris de Florian’s Gonzalve de Cordove, a romanticized account of the conquest of Granada by the Spaniards led by Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordova (1453-1515) and this hero's love for the lovely Moorish princess Zulema. It could also be from Gonzalo de Cordova o la Conquista de Granada (translation by D. Juan Lopez de Peñaver, Madrid, 1804). The study reveals some similarities and differences in the narrative. The study found the Philippine romance followed Florian’s narrative faithfully; in many episodes, the Philippine romance reads like a paraphrase of the French work and the names of the character are preserved. It differs in the love story of Gonzalo de Cordova and Zulema which seems to be the invention of the Philippine poet.

This romance is important because Juan Atayde, in his article "Theaters of Manila" (pp. 70-74], refers to Philippine metrical romances which had been distorted and augmented by poets to complement Philippine folklore and he hopes that its language would be studied by future Filipino scholars. Gonzalo de Cordoba, as one of the most popular Philippine romances of his time and had been reworked could be one of those that Atayde was referring to and one that Filipino scholars today should study for its cultural and artistic relevance.

Philippine Versions

As a romance, Gonzalo de Cordoba is available only in Tagalog. As a comedia (or ''moro-moro'') it is available in Pampango and Ilocano. The Tagalog version Dr. Eugenio used is titled Buhay ni Gonzalo de Cordoba na Pinalayaw na Gran Capitan, at nang Princesa Zulema. This is an undated version published by J. Martinez in 92 pages. The “Master List of Philippine Metrical Romances” (Appendix A, of Eugenio’s Awit and Corrido: Philippine Metrical Romances) records two undated copies. One, published in Manila by P. Sayo in two parts (Pt. 1, 71 pp . 7 sts/p; Pt II, 60 pp. 8 sts/p.) with the title Buhay na pinagdaanan ni GONZALO DE CORDOBA, na pinalayaw na Gran Capitan at nang princesa ZULEMA. The other copy has the following information: Buhay ni GONZALO DE CORDOBA na pinalayao –ang gran capitan at nang princesa ZULEMA; o, ang pagcabawi sa reynong Granada nang Haring Fernando at ni Doña Isabel Catolica nang manga taong 1476 hanggang 1492 na natapos ang Guerra. No imprint. 105 pp. 8o Valladolid.

Another undated copy is listed the Checklist of Philippine Linguistics in the Newberry Library. It has a note that reads: Bound in is a manuscript Spanish version, translated by Maximino de Jesus, with title-page Corrido del Gran Capitan y la Princesa Zulema con su traduccion Española. Manila, 1887. 120 p. (Ms. 1761)


  • Atayde, Juan. “The Theaters of Manila,” translated by Concepcion Rosales and Doreen

Fernandez, Philippine Studies, Vol. 30 / First Quarter 1982. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1982.

  • Eugenio, Damiana L. Awit and Corrido: Philippine Metrical Romances. Quezon City, Philippines: University of the Philippine Press. 1987.
  • Doris Varner Welsh. Checklist of Philippine Linguistics in the Newberry Library. Chicago,

Illinois: The Newberry Library, 1950.



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