A (harplist) reply to Cindy in Austin, further details on harps in Latin America

Cindy, thanks so much for the further info, and your interest.

As you are in Austin, Texas, I strongly encourage you to make contact with Rene Devia, a Colombian harpist now located in San Antonio. Here's a link to a youtube, Cuando el Llano Despierta (when the plains wake up). 

I corresponded with him one time, he replied he would be willing to travel. Maybe other harplisters in that region can read this and take some action to bring him into more public attention. 

You say...

You get an idea here of the difficulties of trying to revive a broken tradition. It's wonderful that the harp tradition in South America is so strong and is not broken, or showing signs of becoming so. Do you know how far back the harp tradition there goes? 
You hit it right on the nose! 

This is a living tradition, no need to revive and wonder what it was really like. I'm not strong on historical inquiry, but from notes by Alfredo Rolando Ortiz in one of his books (Latin American Harps: History, Music and Techniques), I understand harp came with Spaniards in the early 1500's, arriving at ports such as Veracruz, Cartagena, Buenos Aires, and points between.

The harp reached landlocked Paraguay, up river from Buenos Aires, and bloomed into what we have today. I believe some insights might be found in a movie The Mission, set in the 18th century and depicting what was by then a very mature syncretic musical tradition.

From Colombia (Cartagena) the harp spread to Venezuela, splitting in two regional styles. The arpa llanera style developed in the lowland plains of the vaste Orinoco river. A highland style developed in the present Venezuelan state of Miranda, on the river Tuy. I call it Mirandina, but it is also called Tuyera or simply Central. I gather that this style is much less persistent than the arpa llanera style which is prevalent in much more sparsely populate areas. (You can google these various terms to find examples on Youtube.)

The harp entered Mexico through Veracruz, where the Jarocha style is still very strong; and penetrated inland.
Is it a written tradition?
Mostly not written music, but the traditional forms have been written down in recent times or after the fact. Written history, I don't know, but there is a book, in Spanish, called El Arpa en Venezuela, written by a friend of mine, a pedal harpist, Fernando Guerrero. (The book contains some photos I took on a trip with him in 2005).
Do they still play any of the older music and older styles, or have things mostly moved on to modern styles?
This is the greatest news! Although there is evolution, the older music and styles are very much alive. I will probably write more about this. More importantly, I hope OTHER PEOPLE will take an interest in the living history of harps in Latin America, and of course in the music itself.
For Colombia and Venezuela, the most clearly ancient music consists of a couple of dozen fixed forms called joropo; this is the dance music I have mentioned. A form called tonada is gentle, associated with milking and lullaby. In between is a form called pasaje which includes generally romantic songs.
Just for fun, here's a list of ten joropo forms, maybe someone will recognize a term from early Spanish music:
quitapesares, diamantes, cari-cari, kirpa, zumba que zumba, guacharaca, gavilan, cunavichero, mamonales, caracoles
A modern or more evolved approach is called estilizado, "stylized". I first heard this term applied to Carlos Orozco. Among other harpists with modern styles are Edmar Castañeda  and Enki Bello.

Thank you, Cindy, for your interest, it has been a motivator for me to write.