Fieldwork Diary #2: Marimba Linda Xelajú at Catholic University

 

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The end of March was approaching, and Marimba Linda Xelajú performed in Washington D.C. as part of the lineup for “Rhythms of Latin America” at Catholic University of AmericaThe walls were decorated with Latin American flags and the hosts offered pupusas and agua de jamaica to the guests that awaited the various groups that represented North, Central, and South America. 

The concert began with a performance by Marimba Linda Xelajú, with cumbias and some folkloric songs. In between performances by the guests, the dance group choreographed by Junior Girón danced to salsa, merengue, and bachata.

Mariachi Águila performed songs including “Las Mañanitas” for the birthday girls in the audience. If you listen closely, you can hear something a little bit unexpected – an accordion. When I asked the mariachis why they included the instrument, they told me that many audiences ask them to perform corridos.

Lastly, Grupo Etnia performed various songs including “El Condor Pasa”, “El Torito Pinto”, and even “Despacito”. This audio is a small section of their performance of “El Torito Pinto”, which they described as a Salvadoran song.

Son Jarocho at Haydee’s with Son La Lucha

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Celebrating “La Paloma at the Wall” at Haydee’s with Son La Lucha

Haydee’s Restaurant features images of musicians such as Juan Gabriel and Selena. However, it’s their relationship with the local music scene that has made this restaurant a place of encounter in the Mount Pleasant, a historically Latino neighborhood in the nation’s capital.

On March 16, the theater production “La Paloma at the Wall” was celebrated through a workshop and fandango with Son La Lucha. The group is described as: “a space to learn and share El Son and other traditions, to organize and resist as a group, to strengthen ourselves, our youth and our community, to learn skills from volunteers and support social justice efforts.”

Referring to Son Jarocho, a musical tradition from Veracruz, Mexico, this event brought a workshop of the jarana and the requinto. After learning about these instruments (both beginners and more experienced musicians are welcome), we walked downstairs where the fandango was about to take place – a participatory gathering where the performers improvise. In addition, dancers are invited to dance on the wooden stage in the middle called the tarima

The participatory nature of the tradition lends itself very well for the context. According to Alfredo, “In the past 8 years the son jarocho movement in Washington D.C. has activated the fandango as a way to create community for progressive politics and community resistance throughout the US, but most importantly to keep the torch of the son jarocho tradition alive for future generations.” 

Fieldwork Diary #1: Marimba Linda Xelajú at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart

 

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The Maryland-based marimba group Marimba Linda Xelajú performed on March 20th after a service that honored the Salvadoran Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero. Located in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in Washington D.C., this service took place in the Shrine of the Sacred Heart and was accompanied by a children’s choir that sang a repertoire that included the Misa Salvadoreña. 

Following the live music and the pupusas, the attendants followed the crowd to the adjacent community hall. There, the smell of Salvadoran food and the group Marimba Linda Xelajú were awaiting for the students and other attendants. As soon as the first song was heard, the middle school students began dancing to the cumbias and other traditional songs from Guatemala.

Cantando la Solidaridad: “Nicaragua, Nicaragüita” en Costa Rica

La canción “Nicaragua, Nicaragüita” del cantautor Carlos Mejía Godoy se ha convertido en un himno de la celebración post-revolución sandinista. Recientemente, ha sido reinterpretada por músicos costarricenses como un acto de solidaridad con los miles de nicaragüenses que han buscado refugio en el país, con el fin de escapar la crisis actual caracterizada por la represión y la violencia. Como muchos otros de sus compatriotas, Carlos Mejía Godoy se exilió en Costa Rica a raíz de las manifestaciones del 2018, como reportó el periódico británico The Guardian  – sin embargo su canción “Nicaragua, Nicaragüita” ha sido interpretada múltiples veces por músicos costarricenses.

1. Éditus en Las Paredes Oyen

“Estos muchachos, con su alegría de vivir y de morir por Nicaragua rompieron todos los esquemas. (…) Ahí están dando esa cuota de sacrificio, de generosidad, para que Nicaragua por fin sea lo que todos soñamos, una patria libre,” expresó en agosto del 2018 el cantautor nicaragüense Carlos Mejía Godoy en una entrevista con el famoso presentador de televisión costarricense Edgar Silva. La entrevista en el programa Las Paredes Oyen incluyó conversaciones sobre su trayectoria, la situación en Nicaragua y brevemente sobre la relación entre los países vecinos. Antes de finalizar la entrevista, miembros del grupo costarricense Éditus interpretaron una versión instrumental de “Nicaragua, Nicaragüita” como una sorpresa para el cantautor nicaragüense.

Esta agrupación, que combina géneros musicales como el jazz, música new age, y sonidos autóctonos latinoamericanos se ha convertido en una de las agrupaciones más celebradas del país, especialmente luego de ganar un premio Grammy junto al cantante panameño Rubén Blades. Al finalizar el homenaje, Edgar Silva le expresa al cantautor nicaragüense, “Don Carlos, que esto que Éditus acaba de hacer para usted sea el mensaje de Costa Rica para su pueblo, para su trabajo. Muchas gracias por todo. Como la música es nuestro lenguaje universal, estos extraordinarios costarricenses, le dicen a usted, gracias con esto.” 

2. “Estamos Con Vos Nicaragua” 

Más recientemente, un grupo de treinta y cinco jóvenes músicos costarricenses conformaron el proyecto “Estamos con vos Nicaragua”, definido en su canal de YouTube como: “#estamosconvosNicaragua es una iniciativa artística que nació en un grupo de músicos costarricenses como muestra de solidaridad con el pueblo Nicaragüense.” Liderado por el guitarrista Michael Cruz, el proyecto nace a raíz de lo que él llama una “responsabilidad social”.

En una entrevista vía Skype con el noticiero Confidencial, Cruz explica: “Yo escuché una versión de un grupo importante en Costa Rica, que se llama Éditus, y me conmovió mucho. Y además sé que es una canción que de alguna manera ha sido muy representativa para los nicaragüenses, muy sentida. También en algún momento vi que en alguna de las marchas que hacían en Nicaragua estuvieron cantando la canción, entonces pensé que quedaba muy oportuno que fuera esa canción.” 

3. Los Tenores y la Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica 

Finalmente, la agrupación Los Tenores (conformada por Joaquín Yglesias, Arnoldo Castillo, Rodolfo Gonzalez y Ricardo Bernal) cantaron junto a la Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica para el cantautor nicaragüense en el Teatro Popular Melico Salazar. El video compartido en su página de Facebook, es acompañado por un emotivo comentario de Mejía Godoy: 

Que bella sorpresa la que nos llevámos mi esposa Xochitl y yo en el concierto de Los Tenores junto a la Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica, el pasado 14 de febrero en el Teatro Popular Melico Salazar. Con muchas emociones, escuchar “Nicaragua, Nicaragüita”, fue algo inolvidable.

Gracias Costa Rica por tanto cariño y hermandad.

#8A in San José, Costa Rica

Joining the other protestors in front of the Presidential House of Costa Rica, I wore a purple bandana around my neck that featured a design of a purple orchid and a raised fist. We gathered on August 8th in solidarity with our Argentinian sisters, who wore green bandanas and fought for the legalization of abortion in the South American nation. It did not matter whether the bandanas were purple or green, they were a symbol of the movement that was echoed in multiple cities of the continent and beyond. 

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The sign reads “To be able to choose so we don’t die”. Photo by Alejandra Rojas, via Aborto Legal Costa Rica: https://www.facebook.com/abortolegalcostarica

Although it is legal to have an abortion in Argentina under certain circumstances, half-a-million underground abortions take place each year. This prompted the Argentine Chamber of Deputies to approve a law to make abortions legal on request. However, with 38 votes against, 31 in favor, and 2 abstained, the Argentinian senate rejected the proposed law after sixteen hours of debate that finalized at midnight, on August 9th. 

In Costa Rica, it’s a complicated issue. Abortions are permitted when the life of the mother is at risk. However this procedure, known as a therapeutic abortion, is not regulated which makes it difficult for it to be implemented. The manifestation on August 8th focused on pushing the government of the newly-elected president Carlos Alvarado to sign the Norma Técnica de Aborto Impune, or the technical norm of therapeutic abortion, which would help medical institutions know when to implement this procedure. Regarding this issue, the president declared that the topic of abortion is used to distract from topics that need to be prioritized, while members of evangelical and conservative parties are encouraging the penalization of women. In the following audio clip, you can hear a chant that points at president Carlos Alvarado:

Us women raise our voices today
Sign it now, sign it now, sign it now now now!
The decriminalization of abortion protocol 
It is of course a priority

Hoy las mujeres la voz alzamos
Firma ya, firma ya, firma ya ya ya!
El protocolo de aborto impune
Claro que sí es prioridad

Abortion legislation in Latin America ranges from its complete banning in countries including El Salvador, to its allowance on request in Cuba and Uruguay. Singing among other women, I was surrounded by the energetic dancing and loud drumming that flooded the street on this gloomy afternoon. Regardless of the decisions made by the Argentinian senate and the politicians of Costa Rica, there was a particular chant that encouraged us as part of a transnational movement of organized women who will continue fighting for their rights:

Liiisten up!
Listen, listen, listen up because it’s moving
The feminist movement through Latin America

¡Aleeerta!
Alerta, alerta, alerta que camina
La lucha feminista por América Latina