La Mariposa en la Pared

The everyday experiences of latino immigrants through the eyes of an outsider. Las vidas típicas de unos inmigrantes latinos a través de los ojos de una forastera.

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Location: Upstate NY, United States

"To me it’s always interesting when you get accepted somewhere you don’t really belong. It’s interesting when people open up and let you in their world." - Gilles Mingasson

Friday, December 07, 2007

Cantando Para No Llorar

La música es el arte más directo, entra por el oído y va al corazón.
- Magdalena Martínez

It's happened again.

Few things are sadder to me than the murder of people who make it their livelihoods to enrich our lives with music. I never knew Sergio Gomez, Zayda Peña, or Jose Luis Aquino. As for their art, I was familiar with only Sergio's music.

The loss of someone with whom you've become familiar through the appreciation of his or her music is a loss that feels more personal than it seems it should. Their music has become part of us as it has accompanied episodes in our lives. Their songs belong to our memories, and carry special meanings assigned by our experiences. When we have raised our imperfect voices with their polished ones, learning the lyrics by heart and matching them verse for verse, grito por grito, we begin to feel like we know them in a way. Certain songs evoke feelings from long ago as strongly as if I felt those feelings just a moment ago. If scent is the most powerful conjurer of memory, music has to be a close second.

The music that once made me smile now makes me sad.

All I want to do is toss back shots of tequila and cry. I want to spend the whole night drinking and listening to music with my friends.

I want to properly mourn this loss.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cantando, Bailando, y Llorando

Last Saturday night I danced the night away, packed into a tiny Mexican restaurant with dozens of ecstatic, sweaty people, gritando con gusto to the singer's inquiries, "Who's from Guatemala? ¿De México? Colombia? El Salvador?" She crooned karaoke style to Grupo Montez de Durango. Her partner did his best to imitate the inimitable Vicente Fernandez. We swayed to bachata, bumped to reggaeton, and bounced to duranguense. You won't find happier sounding music than duranguense, the sped-up polka is absolutely infectious. The mexicano stepping with me sang into my hair, a song by K-Paz de La Sierra. I thought, I love it that he's singing. When the song ended, I missed his uninhibited singing as much as I did the actual dancing.

As we were singing and dancing, none of us had any idea what was happening to the man who helped make our night so special.

As mis amigos were losing themselves in the music that made them feel like they were home again, the band K-Paz de La Sierra was performing for a similarly festive crowd far away in Morelia, Michoacan - the town some of my friends call Home.

By the time we fell exhausted into our beds at the end of our blissful evening, K-Paz singer Sergio Gomez was missing. As we slept with his music still ringing in our heads, he lay dying by the side of the road. Targeted by members of drug gangs who had warned him not to perform that night, he was tortured and murdered that night after his concert.

Hundreds of miles away in Matamoros, another singer, Zayda Peña, was executed in her hospital room, where she was recovering from a gunshot wound she suffered just a day earlier.
Like Gomez, Pena had no known drug associations. While Gomez was famous for his up-tempo "Pasito Duranguense" rhythm and Pena wrote more in the ballad-like "grupero" style, both essentially sang songs whose themes went little beyond love.
- Associated Press
John Lennon did not even enter my mind until I read that.

I remember the day John Lennon was killed, it will be twenty-seven years ago this coming Saturday. Waiting for the school bus, I could hear my mother crying in the kitchen. She told me he was just full of love. Why would anyone want to kill someone like him? she asked through her tears.

Last night when Jaime told me about Sergio Gomez, his eyes were full of tears, too.

Sergio Gomez's family has decided his final resting place will be in his adopted country, in the city of my birth. (Gracias a Tomás for that news.)

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