Son de Sueños: Freedom U's Son Jarocho Music Ensemble!

A message from our director, Laura Emiko Soltis: 

Last week on the first day of our Saturday Arts Classes, we welcomed Pedro Lopez, Freedom University's new Professor of Son Jarocho! Son jarocho is a music and cultural tradition from Veracruz, Mexico that combines three elements: 1) song - sung poetry of written and improvised verses; 2) instrumentation - Mexican stringed instruments including the jarana, requinto, and leona; and 3) dance - a rhythmic "zapateado" of punctuated heel taps on a raised wooden platform called a "tarima." Most importantly, son jarocho is centuries-old rural tradition from the eastern coastal state of Veracruz that combines African, Indigenous, and Spanish influences. Son jarocho has spread across borders and son groups have formed across the United States, and around the world. In the United States, son jarocho has taken on a powerful political significance, and is often played in marches advancing immigrant and workers' rights.

Long before my work with Freedom University, I was active in student/farmworker solidarity work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in South Florida. It was at a march against Burger King in Miami, Florida in 2007 when I first encountered and was captivated by the musicians of Son del Centro, a youth son jarocho group from Santa Ana, California. I immediately fell in love with the music tradition and became quick friends of many of the jaraneras/os, including Pedro. Before long, I was studying son jarocho at El Cason in Veracruz and making annual visits with Son del Centro in California, and began my dissertation research on the music, cultural practices, and human rights strategies of the farmworker movement in the U.S. South. 

Like many ethnographers, my research transformed me. Long after my studies and my time in Immokalee, my friendships continued and so did my commitment to the farmworker movement. Pedro and I continued to see each other once a year for annual actions with the CIW, including week-long hunger strikes, national tours, and even a 200-mile march across Florida. At every action, the music and joy of son jarocho lifted the spirits of everyone - farmworkers, students, activists, religious leaders - and even bystanders. It was central to creating a sense of celebration in our movement, and declaring victory even before we won. The music helped us rehearse the world we were fighting for. 

Over the past six years I've worked at Freedom University, I would mention to Pedro from time to time how great it would be to introduce undocumented students in Georgia to son jarocho and incorporate music into our classes and movement culture. Finally, this October, I asked him: Would you, by any crazy chance, be willing to move to Atlanta to join Freedom University's faculty, and teach son jarocho at our Saturday arts classes? :)

Let's just say that last week, Pedro got in his pickup truck in California and drove 2,200+ miles to join us in Atlanta, Georgia. After picking up some jaranas from our friends in Nashville, he arrived for our first day of son jarocho class this morning. 

And it was magical.

In just the first two hours of class, Pedro was teaching students the verses of La bamba and Colás, the fundamental major chords of the jarana, and the basic steps of zapateado. Most importantly, students couldn't keep from smiling the entire time.

And with that, our group - Son de Sueños (Son of Dreams) - was born.

Since most of our jaranas are now on loan, we have placed an order for four jaranas to be built for us in Veracruz, Mexico. Can you support our music group, Son de sueños, and help us purchase jaranas today? 

Our goal is to raise $1,500 by the end of the week. Any amount will be deeply appreciated by all of us. We already have several performances planned, so we promise you will be hearing music from us soon <3

To donate, please visit: www.freedom-university.org/donate. Please mention "Son de Sueños" in the comment section.

Thank you so very much for your continued support of all of us at Freedom University, and for helping us cultivate joy in the lives of our students and renew their love of learning.

Sincerely and musically yours,
Emiko

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Laura Soltis