Osea, obvio, I don’t celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and any forced things of that nature. Pero, obvio también, I definitely do celebrate my heritage (chicana/latine/mexican-american/tejana/chicagoense) in my own personal way. One way I show my appreciation and celebrate it is by dedicating time to carefully selecting and then sharing contemporary music rooted in the sounds of my ancestors, some of it in its purest presentation, some of it in reconfigured tributes, all of it shining a light on mi cultura.
If you’ve read some of my articles, you’ll know my affection for and connection to cumbia—it was a big part of my soundtrack growing up, from the tropical, sonidera and cumbia grupera style of artists like Rigo Tovar and Los Angeles Azules, to the norteña and tejano vibes of Ramon Ayala or Bobby Pulido, and everything in between. There’s just something about the raspy ch-chchch-chchch on the güiro that makes my heart fill with joy.
There is also everything else that I don’t listen to all the time because it’s emotional; it takes me down dark paths or makes me relive moments of sadness, anger, regret, isolation, or despair. Those are the tearjerkers, the songs made for “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!” evenings.
There is also the music left for special occasions, or no occasion at all you just happen to have some (insert elixir of your choice) and you need some buenas rolas. This is where the following comes into literal play—the emotive and novela-ish ballads about long-lost loves the silly boy and girl group pop jams that helped us dance our way through teenage heartbreaks; the menagerie of sounds heard from my place sleeping underneath a coat at some family gathering where everyone danced to polkas, norteñas, corridos, rancheras or son jarocho and duranguense fueled zapateados. And everything in between.
Later, and throughout my life, artists and producers like Camilo Lara, Combo Chimbita, or Lhasa de Sela, to name a few, guide my curious ear to find the origins of their beats. I love to dig and find the source of that lyric, that beat, that note. “How does it make you feel?” I ask them in my head. Tributes, remixes, and new edits have led me to Latine greats like Petrona Martinez, Carmen Rivero, or Mercedes Sosa—again, to name a few. The joy of hearing the original source of these transformed songs—wow!
Anyway, this playlist features a little bit of all of those sounds. The past, the present, and whatever the future holds—these are some of the sounds I’ve sought in search of my cultural identity. This is my way of celebrating the rich diversity of Latinidad. There’s so much more and this list of 75 is barely, just barely, touching the surface.
Featured image: Reconstructed Mayan fresco from Bonampak in what is now the Mexican state of Chiapas, original c. 800CE, showing procession with trumpets and percussion instruments (Ygunza/FPG/Encyclopedia Britannica)