NEW VIDEO SERIES: The Front Porch Sessions

A central part of Los Cenzontles Academy’s mission over the past 30-years has been to expand the range of possibilities and expectations—historically kept stagnant by most public institutions—for youth and families living in a largely Mexican-American community. Cultivating inner strength and resilience in young students has always been a chief aim of the methods employed by our teachers.  Weeks ago, we moved our Academy classes online, and provided virtual instruction at no cost to students and their families and avoiding discontinuity in our instruction has provided critical reassurance and stability to youth and parents alike.

The Front Porch Sessions occupy a place in this larger effort to address the impacts of the current public health threat and restrictions on social gathering on a community that is particularly vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of Covid-19. Los Cenzontles has long worked hand in hand with families to support youth, and along with the move to virtual instruction, Los Cenzontles shifted its teaching focus toward building and training family bands.

With the aim of demonstrating how sharing culture and art can strengthen connections within families, even during this time of great anxiety and disorientation, Los Cenzontles Founder and Executive Director Eugene Rodriguez, along with several of the Academy’s teachers, ventured out with the film crew—donning face masks and observing social distancing—and filmed the families singing, playing, and dancing together in front of their homes. The Front Porch Sessions turned that sacred place between their private and public lives into a performance arena to demonstrate their skills, cultural expression, joy and resilience.

You can watch a trailer for the Front Porch Series by clicking here. And to watch each of the seven videos, visit Los Cenzontles Academy’s Facebook page.

From the Mercury News: “Los Cenzontles drops new video on iconic California history chapter”

Andrew Gilbert has written a fantastic article on our recently released “El Corrido de Anza” video. You can read the article here. Here’s an excerpt from the article…

“El Corrido de Anza” is a striking 10-minute music video that details the 1,200-mile journey in song while capturing the succession of gorgeous landscapes encountered by the travelers (the piece was expertly shot and edited by Los Angeles-based Salvadoran-American filmmaker Armando Aparicio).

If you haven’t seen the video, click here to check it out!

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48Hills: “Los Cenzontles’ ‘El Corrido de Anza’ takes listeners on historic journey from Mexico to the Presidio”

48Hills, a popular, independent source for news and culture in the Bay Area has published a nice article on our new music video El Corrido de Anza.

You can read the article by clicking here.

And you can watch El Corrido de Anza here.

From the article:

“El Corrido de Anza” is a 10-minute journey-song that explores the mission on which Juan Bautista de Anza took the 300 New Spain colonialists who would eventually found San Francisco in the Presidio in 1776. Los Cenzontles teamed with the National Parks Service which, led by superintendent Naomi Torres, was looking for innovative ways to engage Latinos in park history. Los Cenzontles board member and UC Davis history professor Lorena Oropeza, along with her graduate student (and now professor herself) Jessica Ordaz, helped with the necessary historical research to bring the project to life.

To interpret the journey, Los Cenzontles tapped songwriter Gilberto Gutiérrez Silva in addition to Lucina Rodríguez and Trujillo to sing the 45 four line stanzas that follow the expedition. An accompanying music video shows the vocalists progressing down the same paths as Anza and his crew, from the snow fields of the San Sebastián mountains to the wild flowers of the San José Valley via the 1200-mile Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.

Video Premiere–El Corrido de Anza

We are excited to announce that Los Cenzontles has completed an ambitious project with support from the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS sought to promote an understanding and appreciation of the story and legacy of the Juan Bautista de Anza expedition, and the National Historic Trail commemorating that expedition, through music and film.

The nearly 10-minute corrido (traditional Mexican narrative ballad), written by Los Cenzontles founder and Executive Director, Eugene Rodriguez, and lyricist Gilberto Gutierrez Silva, consists of 45, four-line stanzas, that tell in gripping expressive detail an historically-accurate, inspiring portrait of the Anza expedition from its start in Mexico’s Sonoran Desert to its final destination, the founding of the San Francisco Presidio. The challenging piece was recorded by the Los Cenzontles Touring Group, including the vocal duo of Lucina Rodriguez and Fabiola Trujillo, with violinist Shira Kammen, and harpist Leonel Mendoza.

For the video, Lucina and Fabiola accompanied filmmaker Armando Aparicio to regional stops along the entire 1,200 mile stretch of the Juan Bautista de Anza Historic Trail, capturing remarkable images of the natural wonders and historic Spanish missions and presidios interspersed along the trail. The video also features map images and place names that orient the viewer and depict the route taken by Anza and nearly 300 men, women, and children of diverse cultural origins.

You can watch the video here (please click the “CC” button at the lower-right of the screen for English subtitles.):

El Corrido de Anza, released on April 8th, will be a valuable educational tool for the Park Service, and anyone interested in teaching and learning about this decisive historical moment for California, particularly its diverse population and broad cultural resources.

Eugene writes, “With this song and film we hope to engage Latinos, and everyone, in our rich shared history.”

The song’s traditional Mexican instrumentation and corrido style lend themselves to the recounting of this historic event, as does the traditional Mexican dress worn by Lucina and Fabiola in the video. Expressing appreciation for the historically apt nature of the music, Superintendent with the National Parks Service Naomi Torres writes, “We’re so pleased with our partnership with Los Cenzontles and to be able to share the story of the expedition in this traditional musical form.”

The musicians who performed on the recording are as follows:

Lucina Rodriguez: vocals
Fabiola Trujillo: vocals
Shira Kammen: violin
Eugene Rodriguez: vihuela, guitarra de golpe
Leonel Mendoza Acevedo; harp
Emiliano Rodriguez: bass

Dear Familia…

Following recommendations and orders from public health officials, Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy will remain closed and our performing group will avoid public shows for the coming weeks. We are proud to fulfill our social responsibility in helping to protect the community.