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Since then, he says, the constant communication maintained between Son del Centro, Los Cojolites and other groups has created a kind of transnational bond. “When groups come from Veracruz, the idea is to really support them, because they’re all sister projects,” Sarmiento says. He and members of Son del Centro who teach son jarocho workshops in Santa Ana on Thursdays and Saturdays now work to educate young people locally and dream of having a similar impact to the work Perry and Los Cojolites have had down south.
“The workshops have been the bridge to the history and understanding of our son,” Perry says. “And students have learned to play at the same time, [which] has led to the growth and recovery of this manifestation of our culture at all the important events in our daily lives. I’m actually thrilled to see that son jarocho is never missing at any of the regional festivals because without son jarocho, these events are incomplete, and 15 years ago, son jarocho simply didn’t exist anymore at these events.”
However, their musical trajectory doesn’t wrap up neatly with record deals, money and a move to the big city. Los Cojolites had one of their songs featured on the Oscar-nominated Frida soundtrack and have toured throughout Europe and the U.S. Two years ago, when they returned to Santa Ana for the third or fourth time, they packed the Yost Theater and dazzled hundreds of fans with their turbulent, sparkling son jarocho style, which has earned them a global following.
Although they’ll be recording their third album in San Francisco during this year’s round of tour dates—which includes stops in San Diego, San Bernardino, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Sacramento—the band are in no way living large off their music. The Center for the Documentation of Son Jarocho in Jaltipan is also where Perry, Cortés, González and Lara (and the couple’s two young boys) all live. It’s a small, lovingly decorated compound that smells of wood chips and home-cooked frijoles that houses hundreds of old son jarocho photographs and books, dozens of instruments, and the workshop where González and his father-in-law turn out handmade jarocho instruments.
But the path the group have chosen was never intended to lead them away from Jaltipan, Perry says. “Our role is to be here, in Jaltipan and in the pueblos where some of us live. Here, they appreciate not only our musical work, but also our educational work around the conservation of our customs, our way of eating—because like the music, we have to preserve all the expressions that make up our culture, our way of being,” he says. “Son jarocho is a music that is intricately tied to its pueblo, to its home. In that, we find the basis of our identity, our spiritual sustenance—our music is inspired by that particular daily-ness, our lyrics are inspired by it.”
Still, he dreams that someday they will be able to buy the small buildings that house the Centro and perhaps find a way to live off of their music without having to worry about where next month’s rent will come from.
“The difference between the old musicians and today’s musicians is that they didn’t live from their music, they lived from the land. . . . Today, there are a lot of us who dedicate ourselves to maintaining our music and our culture. It’s not easy, there are some months where it doesn’t feel like we’ll make it . . . but we don’t let it get to us too much. We will continue as ourselves, as Los Cojolites, and that’s what this tour is partially for, to also earn some pesos to see us through the end of the year.”
Al Ritmo de Un Mismo Son presented by El Centro Cultural de México and Son del Centro at the Fiesta Marketplace, 300 E. Fourth St., Santa Ana. Sat., 2-9 p.m. Workshops to be held prior and a fandango after at El Centro Cultural de México, 310 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, (714) 543-0095; www.el-centro.org.