May 5, 2020
Music can preserve culture and be a bridge between cultures. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a look at some of the ways music is used to celebrate Mexican history and traditions, as well as promote intercultural connection.
Today is Cinco de Mayo, and my guest is Eugene Rodriguez, founder of Los Cenzontles. Los Cenzontles is an award-winning California non-profit that started with the idea that connecting young people to art and their cultural roots empowers them to build on the past to create a better future. Los Cenzontles is a band, a nonprofit organization, a music academy, a community space for youth and families, and a hub for Latino artists – all working together to celebrate and preserve Mexican heritage and culture, through music.
(quotes are from https://www.loscenzontles.com/)
- Los Cenzontles (LC) fosters creative cross cultural collaboration with masters of blues, bluegrass, zydeco, rock, and Irish roots musicians.
- Woven throughout all these activities are themes of inclusion, education, and social justice.
- LC events feature performances by their students, their own professional touring group, and well-known world musicians and visiting artists.
- Los Cenzontles means “The Mockingbirds”
- Nationwide, the Latino population is nearly 70% of Mexican-origin.
- LC instills a “sense of cultural pride and participation in living traditions.”
- LC remains “unique among non-profits nationally in demonstrating the potential of Latino cultural programming and production to transform individuals and communities from within.”
- LC media productions capture its journey in documentary series, web-based video shorts, and “digital scrapbooks” that capture Mexican American stories of resilience.
- LC is a second home for many families.
- As Americans, we all are indirect beneficiaries of LC’s work: “Los Cenzontles has demonstrated that artistic quality and accessibility to the arts can and must co-exist in working class, ethnic communities to ensure the democratization of American identity. For that reason, non-profits across the country have looked to Los Cenzontles as a model of successful arts education. Of course, the students, many who come from disadvantaged backgrounds economically, are the immediate beneficiaries. But by inspiring creative engagement by the America’s Latino population, the work of Los Cenzontles stands to benefit the entire nation.”
Eugene recommends thinking about a song that was sung to you by an adult when you were a child – and that you would sing to a child as an adult. Consider the role that song plays in your life.
- Los Cenzontles website
- Facebook: Los Cenzontles Academy
- Facebook: Los Cenzontles Band
- Los Cenzontles has a library of almost 500 videos on their very active YouTube channel
- Documentaries and Featured Shorts
- Conexiones: A Cuban Mexican Connection now available for free streaming! Referenced in conversation, distributed thru PBS
- El Corrido de Anza: In April 2020, Los Cenzontles collaborated with the National Park Service on a 10-minute corrido (traditional Mexican narrative ballad) telling the (historically-accurate) story of the Anza expedition from its start in Mexico’s Sonoran Desert to its final destination, the founding of the San Francisco Presidio. Read about it in the news article, “Los Cenzontles drops new video on iconic California history chapter” AND “A song of San Francisco’s origins, via national parks.”
- Hay Unos Ojos: Released April 15, 2020; a classic Mexican ranchera using social distancing:
Linda Ronstadt has been a Los Cenzontles supporter and friend since 1993. Linda was a successful and influential artist in her native Mexico before becoming well known in the US. Listen to the audio of Ronstadt’s “Play Por Un Amor (For A Love)” from this YouTube video. If you click through the link to play the video on the YouTube site, be sure to check out the comments people have left – it’s really touching to see the ways this song and artist have impacted the lives of so many people!