Music in Latino Culture Featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

May 4, 2009
News Release
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The 43rd annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival will explore music and its meaning in Latino culture in "Las Americas: Un mundo musical/The Americas: A Musical World," the fourth and final program in the “Nuestra Música: Music in Latino Culture” series, an initiative that explores and presents the diverse, evolving and expanding universe of Latino music.

The Festival will be held Wednesday, June 24, through Sunday, June 28, and Wednesday, July 1, through Sunday, July 5, outdoors on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. Admission is free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with such special evening events as concerts and dance parties beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

“What we often call ‘música latina’ is not just an inviting rainbow of musical sounds, styles and traditions,” said Dan Sheehy, ethnomusicologist and program co-curator. “It is a vivid testimony to how music can be much more than melodies and rhythms. Each tradition represented in the program is a musical flag of identity, a beacon that unites cultural communities and a means of cultural self-actualization.”

Program co-curator Olivia Cadaval said, “This Festival program provides a unique opportunity to bring together a range of music traditions that have shaped what we call Latino music in settings that encourage exchange and dialogue. In addition to performances, workshops will give artists the opportunity to compare common traditional threads and differences and to discuss how their traditions may be changing in this era of migration and globalization.”

“Las Américas: Un mundo musical” will feature outstanding artists from the United States and Latin America in an engaging cultural dialogue. The core of the artists will be from the Tradiciones/Traditions series of recordings published by Smithsonian Folkways. Launched in 2002, the Tradiciones/Traditions series has grown to 30 new recordings that, together with the nearly 200 historic albums in the collection, showcase the diverse musical heritage of the more than 40 million Latinos living in the United States. The Tradiciones/Traditions CD series will be available for purchase at the Folklife Festival marketplace tent, and also is available on CD and digital download formats from

The Festival will feature several groups from different regions in Mexico including Son de Madera, who perform “son jarocho” music, a style emblematic of the southern Veracruz gulf region of Mexico; Los Camperos de Valles, a trio of musicians from the Mexican cattle-herding region known as La Huasteca, who play in the “son huasteco” style; and Alberto “Beto” Álvarez from Sonora, who specializes in the “corrido,” a popular narrative song and poetry style.

The musical styles of three different regions of Colombia will be represented at the Festival. Festival visitors will hear the sounds of Grupo Cimarrón, which performs “joropo” music, heard in the plains region of Colombia; Grupo Vallenato, which plays “vallenato” music, a popular style of folk music from the country’s Caribbean coast; and Las Cantadoras del Pacífico, a group from the Pacific coast of Colombia, which specializes in “currulao” marimba music.

Festival visitors will experience the sounds of Venezuela from Maestros del Joropo Oriental, which performs regional "joropo" music from the eastern portion of the country, and Grupo Cuero Madera y Costa CUMACO, an Afro-Venezuelan drumming ensemble from the Caribbean coast.

Dominican Republic
Renowned accordionist La India Canela and her ensemble from the Cibao region of this Caribbean nation will perform “merengue típico” for Festival visitors. This musical style, which is centered on the accordion and percussion, is widely recognized as the national music and dance of the Dominican Republic.

Marcelo Rojas is a leading performer of one of Latin America’s most celebrated traditions of harp music. While he has toured abroad extensively, this will be his first appearance in the United States. Rojas specializes in Paraguay’s signature music, the “polca paraguaya,” which is characterized by virtuosic technique, cascading melodies and lively rhythms.

United States
Festival visitors will hear mariachi music from two well-known groups in the United States. Mariachi Chula Vista is a 14-member youth ensemble from Chula Vista High School in Chula Vista, Calif. The group has won numerous awards and has performed in many mariachi festivals. The Los Angeles-based Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano has been performing for nearly 50 years and continues to be a major force in mariachi music in the United States. The group won a Grammy Award in 2009 for Best Regional Mexican Album.

Also performing at the Festival will be La Chanchona de los Hermanos Lovo, a group that performs Salvadoran “chanchona” music. The six-member ensemble, which features two violins, two guitars, percussion and a bass, takes its name from the large bass, which resembles a “chanchona,” or sow.

Arpex, from Fresno, Calif., will perform “música de arpe grande” (large harp music). This musical tradition has its roots in Michoacán’s Tierra Caliente, and it is one of Mexico’s liveliest and best-kept musical secrets.

Festival visitors can hear the music of Puerto Rico from two groups: Ecos de Borinquen will play “jíbaro” music, which has its origins in the hilly regions of the island, and Viento de Agua is a group that specializes in the “plena” and “bomba” traditions of Puerto Rico.

Los Texmaniacs also will perform at the Festival. This contemporary-sounding “conjunto” ensemble from San Antonio, combines traditional instrumentation and repertoire with blue, rock, rhythm-and-blues and country.

“Las Americas: Un mundo musical/The Americas: A Musical World" is produced through a major donation by the Smithsonian Latino Initiatives Fund. Other donors include the Government of the Republic of Colombia and the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Contributors to the program include The Embassy of Mexico; Government of the State of Veracruz; Government of the State of San Luis Potosí; and the Mexican Cultural Institute.

About the Festival
The 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will feature three programs. In addition to "Las Americas: Un mundo musical/The Americas: A Musical World", the other programs are “Wales Smithsonian Cymru” and “Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture.”

The Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors people from across the United States and around the world. With approximately 1 million visitors each year, the Festival unites presenters and performers in the nation’s capital to celebrate the diversity of cultural traditions. It is produced by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The Festival’s Web site is

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