Son Jarocho

The Son Jarocho is one of the most dynamic variations of the Son Mexicano, the “folk music of Mexico.” It can be distinguished by its percussive rhythms, syncopation, vocal style and improvisation in its harmonic and rhythmic framework and verse. Jarocho musicians always say that they never perform two identical versions of the same son.

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The Son is one of the most identifying characteristics of Veracruz, a state known for its lively people full of music and dance. The history of the Son can be traced to colonial times, when the Spanish introduced indigenous people to string instruments, influenced by the these instruments the Mestizo and indigenous people created their own versions such as the “jarana jarocha,” “requinto” and the “arpa jarocha.”  These new tools mixed with the influence of African and Spanish musical styles, created the Son Jarocho.  The lyrics of the Son are also influenced by the African and Spanish music that was introduced, the rest came from everyday life, they include humorous verses and subjects such as love, nature, sailors, and cattle breeding. The words reflect life in colonial Mexico.

This new music was not alone; it was accompanied by a characteristic dance. The “zapateado” footwork that comes from this music is an important element since it is very loud and provides a rhythmic complement to the music. The dance becomes part of the essence of the music.

All of these elements, from the instruments to the dance, are what create the Son Jarocho, a unique and identifying factor of Veracruz.  It is an important part of our history that lives on today. On the streets of Veracruz you can hear Son Jarocho, usually played only on jaranas and sung by just one jaranero or several singers sometimes exchanging improvised verses called décimas, often with humorous or offensive content.

El Butaquito (the bench)

When the moon rises

And the sun sets,

A streetlight comes on, and people

Come out of nowhere.

…out of nowhere

A son jarocho is heard

Because tonight

There will be a fandango

On 18th Street.

Bring out your bench, darling,

But don’t sit down!

Sones are here,

So you can’t complain.IMG_7488

Bring out your bench

And dance!

There is no better fandango

Than the one

That takes place here.

All are welcome, ladies and gentlemen,

Make yourselves at home!

Go tell Don Carlos to bring

The whole gang!

…the whole gang!

Come all!

Tell them there’s fish, guitars

And even toritos.

Bring out your bench, sweetheart,

And come to the shelter!

Our friends from Mono Blanco

Are now coming through the door

El Butaquito

Cuando la luna sale—bien de mi vida—

y el sol se esconde,

se prende un farolito, y sale la gente,

no sé de dónde.

No sé de dónde, no se de dónde,

es un son jarocho.

Y es que esta misma noche,

se hará un fandango

aquí en la dieciocho.

Saca tu butaquito—bien de mi vida—

mas no te sientes,

IMG_7594que llegaron los Sones, pa’ que no digas

y no me cuentes.

Saca tu butaquito

para bailar,

que no hay mejor fandango

que el que se logra

en este lugar.

¡Sean todos bienvenidos—damas, señores—

que aquí es su casa!

Avísenle a Don Carlos, pa’ que se traiga a

toda la raza.

Toda la raza, toda la raza

vengan toditos.

Díganles que hay mojarras, unas guitarras,

y hasta toritos.

Saca tu butaquito—corazoncito—

vente al tapanco

que por la puerta llegan

nuestros amigos de Mono Blanco


First Liberator of the Americas

Gaspar YangaThe history of the African slave and his fight for freedom is often focused on the United States, their emancipation by President Lincoln in 1863. Yet the history of their fight for freedom extends further back in history and reaches the depths of the American continent.

In 1570, a community of African slaves, led by Gaspar Yanga, started a rebellion in Mexico during the early period of Spanish colonial rule. This uprising took refuge in the difficult terrain of the highlands, near Cordoba outside the city of Veracruz, and established San Lorenzo de los Negros.

The small community of runaway slaves, or palenque, living on the mountaintops, grew for nearly 40 years. Yanga assumed leadership of the palenque, he structured the agricultural community in an ordered capacity, allowing its growth. Part of the survival tactic was looting caravans of trade goods along the Camino Real (Royal Road) between Veracruz and Mexico City. They were also believed to have attacked nearby haciendas. In 1609, the Spanish colonial viceroy decieded to try and regain control of  Yanga and his Palenque, not only to control these slave but to send a message to others.

While most of the slave troops were armed only with primitive weapons, they were able to take advantage over the Spaniards with their knowledge of heavy terrain. The goal was to cause the Spaniards enough pain to corner them into negotiation and after years of battle, the Spaniards agreed. The negotiation also lasted years, Yanga had 11 conditions for peace, most important of which was recognition of the freedom of all of the palenque’s residents. Yanga, in turn, promised to serve and pay tribute to the Spanish crown. Finally, in 1618, the town of San Lorenzo de Los Negros was officially recognized by Spanish authorities as a free black settlement. This town would later be referred to as Yanga, named after its founder, the first liberator of the Americas.


Preserving Indigenous Cultures



Veracruz was the conquistadors’ gate to Mesoamerica. These native cultures were the first to be introduced to ‘civilized societies,’ and 400 years later many still survive. Veracruz has the third highest presence of indigenous cultures in Mexico; and their preservation is of great importance. These cultures have great knowledge to share and are an important part of our national identity. Yet as time progresses the pressures to modernize or conform to the dominant society threatens their existence.

In Veracruz, we still live in close proximity to many indigenous cultures, yet we know very little about them. History is written by the victors, and to this day Mexican history has neglected to tell another side to the story of the battle won against the barbarians. Since that victory, all of history is modern, what has happened since, but what do we know about the people that preceded us here on this land? We don’t know much about them or about their traditions, celebrations or rituals. But they are not long gone. We still have a chance to learn about them and from them. There is still a living opportunity to supplement our history and enrich our present. We can still help ensure that there will be future generations of various cultures and their knowledge.

One of the most important things that they can teach us about is their ability to find nature’s balance. Being ecologically aware is a growing world trend, in the last decade there have been green movements around the world, developing new ways of living that are earth friendly. Yet, we do not realize that cultures that are aware of nature’s delicate balance have always existed. Their cultures co-existed with nature long before us; they are the best examples of sustainable living. And yet, unfortunately, our ignorance now affects them. Our inability to protect our finite resources affects the least guilty the most.

Practicing ecotourism is not making sure that your travelling has minimal environmental impact but also that there is a higher awareness of local culture that your money goes to provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people.