by Melissa Rios
Representation is one of the most powerful displays for marginalized communities. Gathering in numbers in celebration of culture is the acknowledgement that people need to feel represented. The celebration of Música del Corazón’s tenth anniversary as well as the substantial number in attendance are testaments to the importance of this event. Additionally, including local New Mexican singer songwriters as headliners made this event one of great significance in the preservation of New Mexican music.
The pre-concert program consisted of a performance by a high school mariachi group and an interactive folklórico dance lesson.
The concert began with an educational roundtable, which was essential in establishing the connection between the music being celebrated and the deeper meaning it carries for the community (see figure 1). Curator of the event and Distinguished UNM Professor Emeritus Dr. Enrique Lamadrid introduced the musical genre of son jarocho and addressed its reemergence as a popular musical style. The significance of the 1987 film, La Bamba in catapulting Los Lobos and their hybridized son jarocho musical style is a testament to the value of representation in media. UNM Musicology Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Adolfo Estrada introduced mariachi as a pedagogical tool within public schools and higher education institutions and highlighted the importance of representation within school programs. His statement of social empowerment of marginalized groups through mariachi ensembles cemented my feelings of purpose within my own program of study, also centered in mariachi culture. The remarks by Dr. Carmella Scorcia Pacheco (Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati) were a fitting introduction to the group Nueva Luna. Learning about Nina Otero-Warren and her contribution to New Mexican women’s right to vote along with an explanation and translation of “El corrido de la votación” piqued my interest since I was unaware that Nina Otero-Warren was recently featured on U.S. currency.
Hearing Lara Manzanares sing “La finada Pablita Ángel” and “El corrido de la votación” was a treat since she is an incredibly talented singer songwriter, New Mexican music champion, and friend. The inclusion of this group of local musicians whom I have had the honor of sharing stages with and who delight at the most popular locations throughout Albuquerque and surrounding areas was a true demonstration of the concert organizers’ knowledge of current trends within the community (see figure 2). The significance of this cannot be overstated. Oftentimes the world of higher academia can feel distinct from the one lived by community members, especially those in poorer neighborhoods like Barelas. It is for this reason that making the concert free of charge was imperative.
Laura Rebolloso and her son jarocho group provided a musically delightful and educational experience (see figure 3). It is always a wonder to witness people presenting themselves in the areas they are experts in. Feelings of joy and awe tangibly wafting in the air never fail to make me smile as the rest of the audience realizes they are experiencing and actively participating in a once in a lifetime occurrence (see figure 4).
I was also elated that John Truitt was the recipient of the Robb award this year. Mr. Truitt is truly a gem of a human being, and we are incredibly fortunate to have him as an educator and mentor here in Albuquerque. In my conversations with him he has always been generous with his time and wisdom. When I was fortunate enough to play in a guitar ensemble that he composed and conducted the music for, the advice and many anecdotes that he shared are still some of my most treasured and most quoted memories. His touching speech was as inspiring as it was educational, which is precisely how I would describe him. It was also an unexpected gift getting to hear Mr. Truitt play as well as getting to see the impromptu flamenco dance that Eva Encinias and family performed as a tribute to him. To me, that was the highlight of the show (see figure 5).
Concluding the concert with Mariachi Lobo from UNM was a fitting way to close the celebratory evening. The establishment of a mariachi group at the university level also cannot be overstated since it is immensely necessary for representation of the community in which UNM belongs to (see figure 6). The mentorship and engagement with said community is what I am looking forward to being a part of in the next semester when I join the ensemble. Música del Corazón 2023 was a celebration of transnational cultures, cementing that the musical genres included in the program do not simply exist in Mexico and Spain, but are intrinsically intertwined within the fabric of New Mexico. I am enormously grateful to have attended an event that showcased the musical traditions that have been a part of this community for centuries.
About the author
Melissa Rios is a singer, songwriter, and teacher originally from Las Cruces, NM. She has twenty years of performance experience in mariachi and various music genres, and recently released her third studio album of all original songs, Sunlight (2023). She is currently pursuing a master’s in musicology at the University of New Mexico.
Visit Melissa at melissariosmusic.com.