Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Roots and Rhythms of Latino Music

In March 2011, the U.S. Postal Service released a series of stamps in honor of five Latino musicians—Celia Cruz, Carlos Gardel, Carmen Miranda, Tito Puente, and Selena Quintanilla—who made important contributions to music history and culture in the United States. In the abridged commentary below, University of Houston professor Nicolás Kanellos offers his analysis of the dynamic and syncretic nature of music. He also makes the case that Latin American musicians and musical styles have had an important impact on popular music in the United States that stretches back centuries, though these contributions have gone largely unrecognized.

In celebrating "Latin Music Legends" in a new series of U.S. Postal Service (USPS) stamps, the United States, through one of its most important institutions, is recognizing Latinos as a major cultural force in the nation. It is a force that has always been with us, although rarely acknowledged in the past as a dynamic contributor to our national history, images, and symbols...

In fact, Latin music is one of those cultural markers that sets the Western Hemisphere, in general, and the United States in particular, apart from the "Old World." For it is the centuries' old blending of contributions from three continents—Africa, Europe and indigenous America—that has brought about Latin music's dynamic wedding of musical idioms, instruments, dances and rhythms. Long before there were recordings of country and Western music, the songs of the vaqueros, their fandangos and stringed instruments, and even their clothing, planted the base on which this American vernacular music would thrive, not only inducting the Spanish guitar and its playing styles but the indigenous vocal expressions that would characterize it....

The story of the USPS stamps celebrating the legendary Selena, Gardel, Miranda, Puente and Cruz is not an indication that Latinos have arrived, for we were always here, always contributing to U.S. culture....These "legends" are only commercial and popular culture manifestations of what has always been below the surface of U.S. culture and from time to time emerges, as in the sudden appearance of these icons on official postage, to help us remember who we are and where we come from.

Read Dr. Kanellos's full commentary by checking out the April Feature Story, "U.S. Postal Service Stamps Honor Latino Music Icons," on the Latino American Experience. If you are not already a subscriber, click here for a free trial.


Additional Resources

The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience

Comprehensive, informative, and now even easier to use, The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience is the latest version of the first-ever database dedicated to the history and culture of Latinos—the largest, fastest growing minority group in the United States.

No comments:

Post a Comment