Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Culture as a resource for strength and resilience

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September 15 through October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. To celebrate this heritage, I’m sharing some of my favorite music. I’d like to bring your attention to two very different stars from the Hispanic tradition: Linda Ronstadt, a multi-Grammy Award-winning Mexican- American singer and Jose Ortega y Gasset, a Spanish journalist and philosopher from the first half of the 20 th century.

We ‘Hispanics’ or Latinx people (a more recent moniker) represent broad and diverse
backgrounds with family and ancestors who hail from Mexico, Central and South American, the
Caribbean and Spain. My heritage is Hispanic New Mexican heritage, a ‘mestizo’ combination
descending from indigenous peoples of Mexico and Spaniards who settled the area that is now
the U.S. state of New Mexico in the late 1500s through the late 1600s (at that time part of the Spanish
colonies). These Hispanos, my ancestors, were both Catholic and Sephardic Jew, those of
Jewish origin fleeing to escape the Inquisition. Friends and colleagues who know me well
understand my love of ‘classical’ music and how much I enjoy playing Bach, Chopin, Beethoven,
de Falla and others on the piano. What many may not realize is that Mariachi music also
inspires my passion and has accompanied me for important family celebrations. For those who
are not familiar with this musical form, Mariachi music had its origin several centuries ago in
western Mexico. It has evolved into a band of violins, trumpets, and guitars playing rancheras,
corridos, boleros, polkas and other traditional music. The musicians usually alternate as solo
vocalist with others singing back-up. The musicians almost always dress in identical ‘charro’
suits. Mariachi music has become a symbol of Mexican identity.

LINDA RONSTADT: Linda Ronstadt, born in Tuscon, Arizona, is a Mexican-American rock star who gained prominence in the 1970’s and is considered by many to be the most gifted rock vocalist of her era. Through several decades she performed rock, country, folk, light opera and Latin, earning 10 Grammy awards. She had 14 Platinum albums. When she began performing and recording Mariachi music in the 1980s, she returned to songs her family had sung at home during her childhood.
Please enjoy this cut from Linda Ronstadt’s first Mariachi album, “Canciones de mi Papá (Songs of my Father).
ORTEGA Y GASSET: I’ve been saddened recently by what I observe to be a societal trend of diminished appreciation for different cultures and a lack of understanding of how every culture adds value to our individual and shared efforts to address our problems. Every culture offers different perspectives and adaptations. We are richer and more resilient as humans in drawing from all these cultural resources.
José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955) was a philosopher and essayist who consistently opposed Franco. I fell in love with his writing while studying in Spain in my youth. See the passage below which has reminded me for decades of the value of diverse cultures.
“Life is a collection of challenges to which we respond with a group of solutions we call ‘culture’ and given that many solutions are possible, so are many cultures. What has never existed is an absolute culture with solutions for all problems.” (My translation)
“La vida es un conjunto de desafíos a los que respondemos con un conjunto de soluciones las que llamamos “cultura” y puesto que muchas soluciones son posibles, lo son también muchas culturas. Lo que nunca ha existido es una cultura absoluta, con soluciones para todos los problemas.”
¡Viva la diferencia!
Credits for the photo: Linda Ronstadt singing Los Laureles from her first Mariachi album, Canciones de mi Padre (Songs of my Father)

Comments on “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Culture as a resource for strength and resilience”

  1. Thanks Sandra: what a nice blog combining your musical interests, cultural expertise and personal heritage across centuries. Interesting also to learn more about music’s many cross impacts.
    Best wishes and congrats on Hispanic heritage month. Paul Schoemaker

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