I am an American — carrying the DNA of my Mexican, German, English, Scottish and Irish ancestors with more pride than you can imagine. I am deeply thankful for all the sacrifices and lessons, for all the food and language and music passed down from my Scottish ancestor who landed in 18th century America as an indentured servant, from the German intellectuals who fled their country fearing persecution in the 19th century, from the Irish great grandmother from “lovely County Kerry” suffering a potato famine, from the Gilded-Age grandfather of English descent who loved his thoroughbred horses and his private railway car, from the Mexican grandmother who passed down tears, laughter, pride, shame, superstition, chocolate and her namesake, the Virgin Mary.
All this explains why the music of Los Cenzontles pulls my heart hither and thither. Doesn’t matter whether you’re German, Mexican, or Irish — this diverse group has your roots covered because it plays music with links to all these cultures, and many more. Los Cenzontles has created music with the Chieftans, David Hidalgo, Chavela Vargas, Taj Mahal and Linda Ronsdadt, among other superstars.
The California-based group produces more than music. They’re an art center and a community center, one of those rare beloved fusions of culture and community.
Here’s a song called “Regresa Ya” about a migrant having a phone conversation with his wife in Mexico. He’s trying to “triumph” in the USA because he’s a guy who feels he must support his family. But he’s not triumphant, not by any stretch. He doesn’t have enough money to send home. And the wife says over the phone that it’s better to be poor together than poor apart. One word of warning — this is a Mexican country song but don’t peg Los Cenzontles as a just a country group. What’s important here is that the music choice fits the story and characters in the song.
Los Centzontles sing of our American life. The music confirms who we are.
Azcvoices.com is a network of community bloggers created by The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com and 12 News to highlight diverse viewpoints. Members' opinions do not represent the views of Republic Media.
Bio: Journalist Terry Greene Sterling has lived in Arizona most of her life, and has reported on the political brawls and human tragedies that have long made Arizona the focus of national news. She was raised on an Arizona cattle ranch, and learned to speak Spanish at the same time she learned English. The author of Illegal, Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone, Sterling has been honored with more than 50 national and regional journalism awards. She was named Virg Hill Journalist of the Year, Arizona’s highest journalism honor, three times. She was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times for 14 years before branching out on her own. She is a contributor for The Daily Beast, and Writer-in-Residence at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, Newsweek.com, Salon.com, Rollingstone.com, The Nieman Narrative Digest, Phoenix Magazine, The Arizona Republic, Arizona Highways, High Country News, and Preservation Magazine. She tweets @tgsterling and blogs about immigration in Arizona at terrygreenesterling.com.