Zapateado Sonorense

Asi Se Baila Zapateado en Hermosillo, Sonora

A charming video documenting a localized style of zapateado dancing from Hermosillo, Sonora in Northern Mexico. The homeland of my maternal ancestors. Interstingly, I dance a lot like this and I had no idea that I probably learned this style from my family.

Also from Sonora, a mesmerizing video showing the skill required to make perfectly round and paper-thin flour tortillas. Crossing my fingers traditions like these continue in our bulldozer of cultures world.

Best of Banda 2011

I listen to a lot of the local Banda/Norteno/Ranchero/Cumbia stations here in Los Angeles – there are quite a few! My favorite station is La Rockola 96.7 from Santa Ana, unfortunately their signal strength is not always reliable way up here on the Eastside. La Rockola station seems to have a “no Grupero or sappy love song” policy (unless it’s Pitbull or Aventura) which I quite appreciate because nothing gets on my nerves more than a sappy Banda ballad. Despite this, there are a couple of Banda ballads in this bunch, the vocal styles overcome the deficiencies of the genre.

I like the fast stuff, the music you can dance to, double beats, twiddling accordions, big tamborazo sounds and snappy tuba rhythms. The weird thing about Spanish radio is they never tell you the name of the song or the artist’s name. You are just supposed to KNOW. Where you find out, I’m not quite sure. The swapmeet? El Mercadito? Letreros on light poles announcing the latest show at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena? I’m saying this because there are songs I would have liked to include here but didn’t include for lack of information. For instance, there’s this song La Rockola plays about a “Toro Loco.” Anyone?

Below is a small offering of some of my favorite Mexican tunes from this year. The lyrics are horrible, I’ll just say that straight off the bat, all bling bling (lumi lumi), show off-y, bad ass womanizing drug dealing kinda stuff. My dream for 2012 would be a feminist and political themed detournment of Banda. Now that would be something!

Banda Los Recoditos – A Toda Madre
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El Llorar con Picardia

Anonimo- Huapangos con picardía- El llorar

I am always on the hunt for versions of El Llorar, my favorite song, the most wonderful song ever created by Mexicans. The perfect synthesis of our musical ethnic heritage: African rhythms, European instrumentation and the heart and soul of our indigenous/Native ancestors vocalized in every note. In this mellow suave version, the vocalist lingers here and there on the notes, making light of the rhythm. But it’s in the falsetto is where he lets loose, every little crack of his voice making me feel as if I’m melting into the floor. Add in the scratchy, heart-string pulling fiddle that makes Son Huasteco my favorite son of Mexico and we have another excellent interpretation of this bittersweet song.

Previous El Llorar/Son Huasteco posts:
Mexico Son Huasteco
El Llorar

El Llorar

Los Hermanos Fajardo y Rodolfo Gonzalez – El Llorar

Dreaming of Mexico and Son Huasteco…Put your ear close to the screen, you can hear Africa.

Previous post on Son Huasteco with mp3s here.

Trio Dinastia Hidalguense – El Llorar

Listening to the fiddle in this version is like having an itch in my musical soul scratched. An auditory tiny death.


Eaten in Queretaro, QTO. Mexico

My great-grandmother Guadalupe Nuñez Martinez from Pastor Ortiz, Michoacan and founder of Las Guadalupas de San Antonio de Padua Church in Boyle Heights was the queen of buñuelos at the church ferias. Around Christmas time, every countertop in her tiny cottage kitchen would hold stacks of them. They towered over me like skyscrapers made of sugar.

Halloween and Dia de los Muertos

Dia de Muertos altar in Queretaro, Mexico.

I think I’ve lost some of my holiday spirit. At one point in my life, I lived for the end of October: halloween parties, dia de los muertos, ofrendas, costumes. Friends and I would gather and spend months making decorations for our celebrations out of paper mache, papel picado and designing graphics for our party invitations.  Lack of time and money combined with the commercialism of dia de los muertos have all contributed to my lack of enthusiasm these days.

Nopales, chiles, seeds…

The DIY element of dia de los muertos had always appealed to me. Now you can go into any old boutique, Target for that matter and come across some Mexican-looking calavera. No, thanks. These pictures I took last year in Mexico are examples of what can be done with just simple everyday objects.

Halloween and Dia de los Muertos related posts from the past.

Halloween en Mexico
Dia de los Muertos: Altares
El Pan de Muerto

Masks from Queretaro dia de muertos festival stall

Halloween’s gruesome influence on dia de muertos stalls-El Choki!

Una vampirita de Oaxaca

My grandmother and great-grandmother’s headstone, Montebello.

Altars made with cardboard and paper mache

Pan de muerto in Oaxaca

Have fun tonight, you ghouls!

Rio Grande


Through the efforts of helpful genealogists and far removed cousins on the Tellez side of my family, I’ve come to discover some of the geographic roots of my family. I’ve known for awhile my family had a long history in the Southwest, mostly in southern New Mexico and Arizona but I didn’t know my family was one of the first to move to the northern territories, then known as New Mexico. There are records that show early relatives living in El Paso del Norte as early as the 1700s. At one time, El Paso was part of New Mexico but eventually was annexed by Texas. I became curious about the history of the area and came across a book called Rio Grande, a very subjective historical look at the regions surrounding the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo). There’s lots of references to “peasants” “savages” and other language that is now unacceptable in the book’s many anecdotal passages. Despite the writer’s old school perspectives, he is quite honest when describing historical vignettes, such as this short excerpt on the story of Socorro, New Mexico.


After the war with Mexico, Texas claimed the Rio Grande as it’s eastern boundary, Socorro was just over the river, safely on New Mexican soil, but it was a focal point for westward-drifting Texans. These early Texans were hard men, fighting men, and they hated Mexicans. A few brave words about the Alamo and Davy Crockett would work any Texan into a Mexican killing-mood. The Texans came with came armed with “head rights” which were bits of paper issued by the government of Texas to veterans of its wars and other settlers, entitling the holder to any quarter section of Texas land not already occupied. Head rights were brought and sold and were practically currency.

…They [Mexicans] had a certain skill with knives but they were helpless before these men with six shooters on their hips. It was a part of the Texan tradition that all Mexicans were cowards but in fact the westering Texans were an armed invasion of an unarmed community. It was one of those gradual and unrecorded movements that work more change than formal wars and often spill more blood.

The Texans were not empowered to take occupied lands but Mexicans did not count with them as occupants. They took lands that had been supporting families in undisputed possession for a century. Murder and bluff were their methods and the short and deadly six shooter was their only attorney. The Texans were all cattlemen. They came driving their herds of longhorns before them. The Mexicans were shepherds and sheep were driven off the range wherever the cattle went. Whole herds were stampeded over cliffs and killed. Sheep-herders were terrorized or killed. It was a favorite device to surround a sheep camp at night and shoot into its cooking fire as a gentle intimation to move on.

…Many Mexicans gave up their homes and migrated. The town of Dona Ana was spotted with Texas head rights and filled with belligerent Texans. Sixty of the inhabitants packed up their goods and led by Don Rafael Ruelas, their ruling rico, departed to find new homes in Old Mexico.

—excerpt from the book Rio Grande by Harvey Fergusson, William Morrow and Company, New York, 1955.