Los Cenzontles

Los Cenzontles

By Jorge Fuentes

Click aqui para español- >Los Cenzontles

If music reflects the soul of a people, then the band Los Cenzontles is one of the clearest representations of Mexican identity in the U.S. Eugene Rodriguez is the director; he began the band as part of an artist-in-residence program he was working on in Richmond and San Pablo, California, north of San Francisco, where his family has lived for three generations.

“We started to share traditional music and dance with the kids and teens in the area,” Rodriguez said, and made it clear that having good results was important. “We were in a tough neighborhood at the time, and we began to see a huge influx of Mexican immigrants,” he said, so he founded Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy to promote traditional Mexican music, and in this way “the cultural work was helpful.”

The band became the focal point for the rest of the work carried out by the academy, which keeps a strong sense of community. The other members of the band began as students at the academy. They share their work with the rest of the world online, where they feature a collection of hundreds of videos of their performances.

Even though they don’t tour much outside of San Pablo, they have recorded 29 albums and bring a lot of musicians as guests, and have also collaborated with artists such as Ry Cooder, Linda Ronstadt, Taj Mahal, and The Cheftains.

This month, they are the artists in residence at Preservation Hall here in New Orleans. “I’m excited about New Orleans,” said Rodriguez. “It’s really a special opportunity for us. We want to maintain our links to Mexican traditions through music, so that people realize that we are all connected. We love to share the beauty, the pride and the quality of our music, and we want people to understand the historic and current connections that bring us together; that is important to us,” he said.

Jorge Fuentes

Writer/Escritor

Colors & Note/Colores & Notas

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Publisher's Note

Mixing Traditions

It is no cliché. New Orleans has a wonderful mix of traditions that add to the charm of this amazing city. With the holidays in full-swing, we can enjoy holiday-centered, free events like simple walks around traditional neighborhoods to see the elaborate Christmas decorations, Caroling in Jackson Square, attending the gospel and jazz concerts at St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church, watching the technological light display during Luna Fête, and visiting the beautifully decorated hotel lobbies in town, among others.

 There is one tradition in Louisiana that is so unique and that I hope to experience this year: The Bonfires on the Levee. Just thinking about seeing the pyres, the fireworks display and its reflection on the river during a cold night and having a warm drink while learning about this tradition from our River Parishes' neighbors sounds like an amazing way to soak in some of the culture around us.

Though the original purpose of the bonfires is unconfirmed, fitting the storyline of Papa Noel following the lights on a pirogue being pulled down river by alligators to deliver presents is such a tale. It involves a mix of many elements that are unique to the culture that has shaped the city of New Orleans.

I just love being able to experience different traditions and learning about the ways diverse groups of people who have made New Orleans their home, celebrate the holidays

Happy Holidays!