Destination: Mexico and the U.S./Mexico Borderlands
Article by Kerry Dexter
Diez y Seis, the Sixteenth day of September, is celebrated as a holiday across Mexicoand in Mexican communities across the border and across the world. On that day in 1810, on the church steps in the town of Dolores Hidalgo, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Castilla read out a proclamation which marked the beginning of Mexico’s war of independence from Spain.
When musician Tish Hinojosa was growing up in San Antonio, Texas, she took part in such celebrations. As the youngest child of parents who had come from Mexico, she heard Mexican singers on the radio in the kitchen and country music from the television in in the living room. As she began to make her own music, she found herself drawn to the work of thoughtful songwriters including Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris. She also began to realize that, she says, “ I had this whole bag of experiences that I carried around with me that I had not heard addressed in song.”
As her life unfolded and she had children of her own, she also began to think about ways to share that experience with her children. One result of that is Hinojosa’s recording Cada Nino / Every Child. On it, there is a song that comes from her memories of visiting her grandmother in Mexico, called Siempre Abuelita, and one called Magnolia, which recalls her time as a young child playing with her sisters under the family magnolia tree. Her own daughter’s violin studies sparked the idea for Niña Violina.
There are songs drawn from the history of Mexico, as well: Señora Santa Ana is about the wife of that famous general, and Las Fronterizas /Frontier Women is a lively song celebrating the courage of pioneer women. Another sort of courage and hope comes in on the title track, Cada Niño, as Hinojosa sings “Cada Niño es fé/ Every child’s our faith…” With Halloween/ El dia de los Muertos around the corner, you may also want to check out Hinojosa’s take on the celebrations, which is called Hasta Los Muertos Salen a Bailar/Even the Dead are Rising Up to Dance.
The dead are not the only ones dancing, as you’ll learn when you listen to El Baile Vegetal/Barnyard Dance. You’ll never look at those vegetables sitting quietly (so it may seem) in your kitchen quite the same way again. They are not waiting for Halloween to dance, either. Most of these songs have lyrics in English and Spanish, and most of them work quite well in engaging adults as well as kids.
Hinojosa has made a number of albums for adults, including her holiday album From Texas on a Christmas Night and her recent release, Our Little Planet. As you are celebrating Diez y Seis you might also want to look for music by Lila Downs, one of Mexico’s most popular singers. On her recent release, Pecados Y Milagros, Downs includes not only traditional and original songs but artwork she commissioned from some of Mexico’s top artists.
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Except for the photo of Hinojosa taken by Kerry Dexter, photos here are from Flickr and used with Creative Commons license. You can click on the photo to learn more about the photographer.