Son Jarocho: Resisting borders through music and culture

Around 80 students, faculty and staff gathered at the Cross Cultural Center (CCC) to watch the performance of Son Jarocho, a Mexican style of music originated from the state of Veracruz. Photo by Kento Komatsu, staff photographer

The tapping of shoes, flowy long skirts, a donkey jawbone, singing and folklore music and instruments brought a lively environment to a packed Cross-Cultural Center (CCC) at the Fandangos, Borders, Guacamayas and Resistance: Documenting the Daily Accords of Our Communities event. This unique event took place Oct. 10 as part of La Frontera semester-long activities.

The aim of the event was to teach students that borders are man-made and should not be divisive, said Professor Jorge Rodriguez of the Attallah College of Education, who performed and presented at the event, which was meant to show students they can connect with one another through music and culture.

“The current administration is developing a rhetoric and ideology that is creating a lot of hate for specific communities,” Rodriguez told The Panther. “The border becomes a rallying cry to motivate and stimulate hate in our communities. The more conscious and education we raise around the politics and issues of the border, the more we are informed and understand.”

Around 80 students, faculty and staff gathered at the CCC to watch the performance of Son Jarocho, a Mexican style of music originated from the state of Veracruz. Rodriguez performed alongside his wife, Esmeralda, a professor at the Attallah College and Teri Saydak, a jaranera.

The instruments used were the jarana, a guitar-like instrument that can also be used as a drum, the quijada, which can be a horse or donkey jawbone and the pandero, a tambourine instrument. Zapateado, the dance, is similar to tap dancing and done on top of a tarima. The lyrics of Son Jarocho documented and educated attendees about the environment, daily accords and social injustice.

Son Jarocho creates bridges and links and acts as a unifier, Rodriguez told the audience.

“Borders aren’t just physical, they are ideological too,” Rodriguez told The Panther. “To be able to support the event was something really important to me and to show how borders can be pushed out through music, poetry and dance. Consciousness and education can be raised through music and culture.”

Betty Valencia, who ran for Orange City Council in 2018, attended the event and commented about the unifying aspect of Son Jarocho.

“When I hear this music, it immediately connects me to my homeland, even though I’ve been out of Mexico since 1978,” Valencia said. “What is beautiful about this music is that it’s open to everyone to be able to speak, participate, communicate and enact your identity as a participant. Right now we are connected, a community this style builds.”

Professor Prexy Nesbitt, from the Department of Peace Studies, agreed with Valencia and pointed out how the music resonated with African music and instruments.

Son Jarocho is part of the resistance against borders. Fandango Fronterizo, an event that takes place at the U.S.-Mexico border, acts as a resistance against the fenced border that is meant to separate and divide the two countries. People from both sides of the border gather at the fence and play Son Jarocho music, while others sing and dance.

“Borders separate people and this event showed how even though the border is there, you can defy it by going to the border and sitting face to face behind a fence,” said Sophie Friedland, a junior integrated educational studies major. “That was really cool because they showed that they didn’t let the border affect how they connect with one another and unified because of the music, culture and values they share within the music.”

At the end of the event, attendees were invited to stay and practice the dancing and singing style of Son Jarocho.