Fandango Jarocho: A Cultural Jam Session

Festival a symbol of our present and multiplicit LatinoLA

By luis carlos rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: September 6, 2002

Fandango Jarocho: A Cultural Jam Session

In an era when an unrelenting, all-encompassing, global capitalism is increasingly dictating the construction of the Los Angeles cityscape, during a time when what is local is a reflection of the economic incentives of multinational corporate America, in an era when LA?s corporate friendly movie theaters, stage houses, museums and coffee huts mirror those visible in New York and Paris, in Tokyo and Beijing, and other major metropolises around the globe, one may begin wonder if Los Angeles? cultural productions are a result of a global character that is synonymous with a Wall Street/e-bay worldview: a mass produced culture beamed around the globe for its exchange value.

There is another cultural reality to Los Angeles, another layer within its cultural sediment that continues to thrive beneath the system?s antiseptic, and economically driven cultural (de)posits. This layer survives in spite of the Starbucks and Blockbusters that that dig into it with neoliberal claws and implant themselves on local walls and masonry, fling themselves on billboards and television antennas, and fixate themselves to the limbs and organs of hundreds of thousands of citizens like a thick film stifling their movements and obscuring their vision.

This is a human layer that, while living and working beneath the gaze and boosterism produced by the dream factory and the corporate capital with which it enjoys conjugal relations, is ignored by the sociopolitical environment that it ironically sustains. This layer is composed of a rich mixture of the cultures practiced by recent immigrants and those native to this land. And this layer, which has been growing exponentially for decades, is starting to make itself seen, and heard.

Amid the asphalt and humming power lines that sway in the economic shadows
of the Los Angeles skyline, survive vibrant immigrant communities within which social, cultural, and political collaborations take shape. These enclaves, and the everyday experiences that are a (in)direct result of living within them, provide the citizenry with much of the social capital with which they realize ad-hoc cultural collaborations. These bustling environments provide fertile ground for the production and intermingling of art and ideologies between those of us native to LatinoLA, those of us whom have just arrived, those of us getting ready to leave, and those of us who are just visiting.

The urban landscapes which surround downtown Los Angeles act as a stage upon which an assemble of social actors, thru the performance of their everyday culture, through collaborations and improvisations with members within and outside their community, succeed in changing their immediate environment and, by extension, the world.

This weekend?s Fandango Jarocho music festival to be held at the John Anson
Ford Theater (2580 Cahuenga Blvd.) can be taken as a case in point. Countering the ?official? culture of LA, and consistent with the underground Chican@ music movement, this event is being produced from the bottom up through a collaboration between native and immigrant communities.

The Fandango, which literally means social gathering and jam session, is completely independent: the first Gente de Arenas Production. Lalo Medina and Aida Salazar (the latter of whom was recently featured on Realidades, the epilogue piece to Gregory Nava?s American Family, as a positive Chicana/Latina role model), with the help of members from the LatinoLA community put this event together. No Coors sponsorship at in this event, no Marlboro Man either. The festival is happening not because of the current economic order of things but in spite of them.

What also makes this event unique and exciting is that the Mexican regional musical style known as Jarocho is, in and of itself, a collaboration of instruments and musical styles that have their origins in different parts of the globe but fused in Veracruz, Mexico?s principle port for 500 years. The son jarocho draws from musical traditions that have their genesis in the Caribbean, Africa, and indigenous Meso America. As stated in the Fandango Jarocho press release:

"In son jarocho, the traditional dance music of Veracruz, the African presence has always been stronger than in other Mexican regional styles due to the historical participation of African populations brought as slaves. African, European, and Indigenous cultures clashed, fused and created a unique cultural form. The festival is a re-creation of a fandango, or jam session common in the southern state of Veracruz, it celebrates the improvisational beauty and the multiple influences it has encountered and generated both locally and internationally."

The Fandango Jarocho, through its hybridity, polyvocality, and improvisational style, becomes a symbol for our present and multiplicit LatinoLA. Similar to the ways in which immigrants and natives organize themselves, communicate with each other, and conceive of community in a metropolis that hosts peoples from around the globe, the fandango also draws upon multiple resources to realize itself. It becomes a congress of voices and instruments, music and rhythms that through collective dialogue becomes a whole.

The cultural exchange exemplified by this festival, which will incorporate members of local bands Quetzal and Ozomatli, is consistent with current studies that show how Latin@ immigrants are playing an increasing role in the development of new cultural and political models while making an impact on society in general but LatinoLA in particular.

LA has seen Mayan descendents playing ancient ball games in an improvised ball court composed of the dry banks of the Los Angeles River, as graffiti artists watch during an artistic break. LA has also seen Zapotec immigrants shoot hoops in Venice as they compete with local basketball leagues. We have also witnessed the hundreds of soccer clubs that serve as socializing agents and home news outlets as politicians contemplate turning the Coliseum into the home for a professional Mexican soccer club. Mexican and south and central American immigrants have also played a crucial role in the development of a new labor movement which ia challenging the ways in which business is conducted in LatinoLA.

This social phenomenon is happening in the wake of a post NAFTA global capitalism that is causing major immigration around the world but from Latin America in particular. The Fandango Jarocho then, can be read as a social document that counters the ?official? culture of Los Angeles by illustrating the development of a transnational and transcultural LatinoLA. The festival becomes a sociocultural testimony to the richness that the Latin@ Diaspora is contributing to the world and, in this particular case, to el norte.

A few years ago my cousin migrated to Los Angeles from his humble Guadalajara suburb in our Jalisco que nunca se raja. During his visit he communicated to me his conception of pacific-rim culture, which he equated with the elite of LA. He had a vision of a business-suited, sunscreen-covered, cell phone holding stiff driving his hum-vee toward Malibu, his surfboard nestled safely atop a white cushion of carelessly tossed Starbucks coffee cups in the mega-SUV?s grande trunk. Not surprised by his definition/vision (and actually finding some truth to what he said), I
realized how much of the ?official? culture of the city of angels, especially that which is exported to the rest of the world, reflects only a small percentage of the many things Los Angeles is. This cultural mist obscures the other, equally important, social and cultural realities that comprise LatinoLA.

The world is sold LA?s financial authority rather than its lack of affordable public housing; its open shop policies rather than its progressive labor movement; its scenic backdrops of mountains, beaches, and desert oases, rather than its smog, traffic congestion, and poverty; its proximity to Hollywood, Disneyland and major theaters rather than its community-based art houses, local art collectives, and its vibrant local eclectic musical culture.

For these reasons, what the producers of Fandango Jarocho have accomplished can also be seen as revolutionary, an honest attempt to illustrate the polyvocal and transnational nature of LatinoLA by harnessing what is readily available and taking advage of current sociopolitical trends. The Fandango Jarocho attempts to show what is real as opposed to cosmetic, what exist on the street as opposed to what is constructed by conglomerates and focus groups in film studios.

The ?official? exported images of our metropolis are in reality carefully edited montages of cinematic profit angles rather than a city of multi-colored angels; an MTV trailer of what Los Angeles presently is, an economic proclamation rather than a fandango in-progress, a close up of the top and forefront, not a wideshot of what is down.

?[We?re] ready for [our] closeup Mr. DeVille.?

9/7 - 7:00PM Music
Fandango Jarocho - A jam session Veracruz style! Mono Blanco and Son de Madera, Mexico's premier son jarocho ensembles, are joined by some of L.A.'s finest interpreters and leader of this musical genre, including Quetzal, Luna Negra de Aztlan, and Conjunto Jardin. Emceed by Betto Arcos of KPFK's Global Village. A benefit concert for El Cason (School of Popular Music of Veracruez).
Venue: Ford Amphitheatre
Address: 2580 Cahuenga Blvd, East , Hollywood,90068
Ages: All Ages
Admission: $25 General Admission
Discount: 20% off if you mention LatinoLA.com
For more information call: 323-461-3673
Or visit: http://www.fordamphitheatre.org

About luis carlos rodriguez:
luis carlos rodriguez is a student @ the University of Southern California
he can be reached @lcr@usc.edu

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