The quartet Molotov, the biggest hiphop act in Mexico for many years, is bringing its brash and political show to Milwaukee’s Rave this month.

An example of their clenched-fist political work is the hit “frijolero”, which uses a florid version of both English and Spanish. Notice the mocking “gringo” accent.

Jo Ellen Burkholder is an archaeologist at UW–Whitewater specializing in Andean cultures. Her position is within the Women’s Studies Department. In between her semesters in the classroom on campus she is often in Peru and elsewhere in Latin America, either participating in the excavations that archaeologists conduct to uncover relics of the time before the arrival of Europeans, or leading students to begin their own discovery of the richness of the region’s heritage.

Dr. Burkholder uses a short film made by the Peruvian government to explore the idea of cultural heritage and how it is packaged and presented. Here is a link to that film, which was cleverly shot in the town of  Peru, Nebraska.

At the present she is preparing another travel study experience that will depart next spring.

The festival website provides the showing schedule, location and cost.



The series of news articles were reworked to become this book

Former Los Angeles Times Miles Corwin takes an admiring look at the work of one of our most important living writers at the time when a young Gabriel García Márquez was a newspaper reporter. The breakthrough was a series that García Márquez wrote about a shipwrecked sailor.

By the time the series ended, El Espectador’s circulation had almost doubled. The public always likes an exposé, but what made the stories so popular was not simply the explosive revelations of military incompetence. García Márquez had managed to transform [the shipwrecked sailor] Velasco’s account into a narrative so dramatic and compelling that readers lined up in front of the newspaper’s offices, waiting to buy copies.

I wouldn’t think a reporter could manage that much popularity, except in the case of  García Márquez. The article author Corwin delves into some well-done side routes into biography, the pros and cons of newspaper work for literary writers, comparisons to Hemingway, and a comparison of the first lines in the writings of el maestro.

Worth a read.

Judith Lizmeth Soliz Cortez, known as Elize to her friends and family, turned fifteen years old on Saturday, November 28, 2009. I had the pleasure of attending because she is my step-father’s cousin. In her Mexican culture it is common for a fifteen year old girl to celebrate what is called a quincenera. A quincenera is an extravagant party to celebrate a girl entering womanhood. They are very similar to a sweet sixteen in American culture.

Before the party, all guests attended a special mass in honor of Elize. She was dressed in a very beautiful, white ball gown and had her hair done. During mass the family prayed for Elize and it continued on like a typical Catholic mass. After mass, the family left in a limousine to the reception hall. Elize was standing at the door to greet all the guests to take a special picture with her and to have them sign the Guest Book. Once we were finished with pictures, all guests ate a large meal with chicken and red mole sauce, Mexican rice, and beans. My step-father explained to me that this is the typical meal at a quincenera. Both alcoholic and nonalcoholic Pina Coladas were the drink of choice at this particular party.

The tables we were seated at were decorated with recuerdos which the guests were given to take home. Usually recuerdos consist of little hats, like Elize had, or stuffed animals, dolls, or figurines. Sometimes they even give out salt and pepper shakers. Another gift given to the guests were ribbons from her doll. We each wore them as corsages.

Elize was given a crown, which is very common for a quincenera. She, then, participated in a special dance. First, she danced with her chambelanes, which are her escorts for the party. They danced to upbeat, cumbian music. Next, she danced with her mother and father. Then, all the padrinos and madrinas were invited to dance. Padrinos and madrinas are the people who help pay for the party. My family helped pay for the cake.

After that, she was given her last toy which was a large doll. Then, the band played Feliz Cumpleanos (Happy Birthday) and cut the cake. The cake resembled a wedding cake. It was a white cake with strawberry filling and had multiple tiers. Once the cake was cut, everybody loosened up and enjoyed some drinks and dancing.

I believe this event ties into our class because I got to see a Spanish Catholic mass. I learned that Spanish mass is very similar to the mass performed in my church. Also, I was able to hear the Mexican music and learn which genre it came from. My step-father explained to me that it was Cumbian music. Another topic we covered in class was dance. Although the dancing was very different from the Capoeira, I believe it was beneficial for me to observe. There was not one Mexican person that did not know how to dance. I found this very interesting.

After leaving this party I was curious if there was a special party for men to celebrate their transformation into manhood. My parents explained that there was not. I truly enjoyed myself at this party. I think that all people should attend one to see the great lengths they go to. It also showed the closeness of the Mexican families. Overall, I was very glad to be there and I have learned a lot.

It’s tough to pick, but I can give six types of music as a tour of the variety of Latin American music. These are chosen because they are influential throughout the Americas and world, but still recognized as of a certain place. All Brazilians embrace samba as their national sound, for example, and likewise tango in Argentina or merenque in the Dominican Republic.

So the six types of music are: reggaeton from Puerto Rico, salsa from Cuba, merengue from the Dominican Republic, Andean music from the entire Andes region from Chile up to Colombia, Cumbia, originating in Colombia (but performed in this case by the late Texas singer Selena, and Samba from Brazil.

The playlist player gives an example of each of the six types I am featuring. Click on the button for a pop-out player.

For a much broader survey, see this Website  that also locates each of the myriad styles in his home region and links to some samples.



Christopher Washburne quotes, “Although Salsa consists of Cuban and Puerto Rican roots, the passion and pain for the dance shouts from the rooftops of New York City.”  In Washburn’s book titled, “Sounding Salsa,” it discusses the importance of the dance and music, its origins and how Salsa changed the lives of New Yorkers forever.  After talking with a fellow dancer, this book was recommended to me in hopes of explaining how Salsa became successful in both Latin America and United States cultures. 

Salsa is a sensual dance created by Spanish-speaking people from the Caribbean.  Salsa mixes African and European dance influences through the music and dance fusions that are the roots of Salsa.  The steps involve large amounts of shaking, shimmying and hip action which requires you to be in touch with your body and your partner.  Although the dance was created in Latin American territories, New York came up with the term “Salsa” and made it what it is today.  Washburne particularly discusses the importance of the Latin and American influence on the dance.  If there wasn’t a collaboration of cultures and traditions, Salsa would not be as popular as it is today. 

Washburne, a professional Salsa musician describes how the music and dance was brought to New York City, the violence and drug abuse that has followed the style and how salsa has affected New Yorkers and Americans alike.  Salsa was brought to New York City in the 1990’s and the dance grew as it intrigued gang members and other people seeking a new style.  Americans became intrigued by the laid back partner dancing and especially the music.  However Salsa also gave gang members reason to battle.  These battles started out in Queens and would generally result in violence.  This brought some Americans at a crossroad as to whether Salsa had a positive or negative influence on the city.

After reading Washburne’s book, it inspired me to get out in the community and experience Salsa for myself.  I contacted a local dance company that offered a wide range of Salsa and other Latin American classes.  Dando Mambo Dance Company is a well known studio that offered social courses at the Cardinal Bar.  I was able to take a partner and actually participate in a class.  My instructor was Edgar Molina, who started dancing at age 6 and learned Salsa by age 10.  In his words, “Salsa is more than just a dance, it’s a unique feeling.  The rush and energy that occurs on the floor brings fire to the dance.  It’s a spiritual experience that I try everyday to share with others.”

In conclusion, reading and being able to experience Salsa has allowed me to get into the depths of the dance.  One question that occurred to me was would Salsa be what it is today without the music?  Washburne explained that even if salsa was put with a different genre of music, it still wouldn’t be the same.  It’s the music that makes the dance and the dance that makes the music; one is nothing without the other.  Salsa dancing relates to many topics we’ve discussed throughout the semester, one including Alma Guillermoprieta’s lecture on culture and what it is to be Mexican.  Culture is a very important aspect of salsa dancing, without following tradition this technique would not still be around today.  Salsa also relates to DJ Luis Islas’ music and previous discussions on violence with music.  I’m very fortunate to have been able to experience this topic and I hope to be able to continue studying and taking classes in the future.      


               Nachito Herrera Nachito Herrera is a Cuban pianist quickly gaining recognition in the United States. Originally from Havana Cuba, he has become a familiar face at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, MN since moving to St. Paul a few years ago.

Herrera’s career as a musician began at a very young age. When he was only twelve years old, he performed with the Havana Symphony Orchestra. In his twenties he worked as a pianist and musical director at the famous Tropicana nightclub in Cuba. During the 1990s, he was a member and director of the Cubanismo. As a member of Cubanismo touring in the United States, Herrera’s name started to become known around the country. Since then, he was invited to play twice at the Gilmore Festival, the preeminent piano festival in North America. Recently he played at Joe’s Pub in New York and just finished a forty city tour with the Afro-Cuban All-Stars.

 While in general a very talented musician, Herrera’s signature style is combination of Western Classical music with Cuban rhythms. Click on this link to get a quick lesson from Herrera on how he combines Classical music with Classic Cuban.Music lesson from Herrera 

The performance I attended at the Dakota Club on Nov. 28 truly showcased his ability to mix different styles of music smoothly. Cuban music and rhythm itself was created by drawing upon Spanish, African, and Indigenous influences. Herrera continues the tradition of mixing different cultures by combining Cuban rhythms with American Jazz. His music will easily change from what could be considered Cuban to Jazz and back again, but the underlying Cuban rhythms are never lost. An electric bass player, Yohannes Tona from Ethiopia, a drummer, Kevin Washington also from Havana, and a singer, his daughter Mirdalys Herrera, were the only accompaniment Herrera had. Tona and Washington kept the beat as Herrera’s fingers flew over his keyboards and piano. Occasionally Washington added in a bit of steel drum, emphasizing the Cuban flair in the composition. Mirdalys’ vocals added the richness of the music already being played and gave me a chance to practice my Spanish. She would also dance some salsa while singing which gave the audience a look at another aspect of the Cuban culture.

Herrera’s music is colorful and exciting. The Cuban rhythms will make your toes tap along inadvertently and put you in a good mood. His performances are casual and interactive as he encourages the audience to clap along to the beat. The atmosphere he creates is so warm, comforting, fun, and Cuban, that you will feel like you are in the Tropicana.  

The next performance by Herrera at the Dakota Jazz Club will be on December 18th and 19th. It is titled ‘Cuban Christmas’ and he will be adding his Cuban rhythms to Christmas classics. Check out the Dakota club’s website at and make reservations early because Herrera’s performances always fill up quickly.

For many years the United States and Cuba have not been on very good terms in the sense of traveling between the countries.  Finally, here is some change that we can believe in.  The U.S. blockade on Cuba is alive and well, but Obama’s given some leeway.  For the first time since the start of W’s second term, Cuban artists can get visas to visit the States.  With a lot of help from the Madison- Camaguey Sister City Association, support from Edgewood College, Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, and the Overture and Pleasant T. Rowland Foundations, painter Orestes Larios Zaak and sculptor Gregario Perez Escobar are the exhibitors in the Di Ricci Gallery.

Keeping up with Cuba’s events can be difficult, but many people are surprised by the events that we have Cuban artists in the States showing us their story.  The island faces technological challenges largely linked to the blockade, but the Internet access is expanding, and personal cultural exchanges like these pieces create new connections.  Larios and Perez, widely known in Cuba, are represented in private collections in Europe, South America, and Canada.  “When our messages reach everyone, we can say we’ve left behind local artists behind; today we’re universal artists, “ Larios says.

When visiting the gallery it showed that Larios and Perez showed some global characteristics and a naturalist way of doing things.  Perez’ wooden objects are what he would call universal paradoxes, which range from things you would find in the environment to psychology.  For example, Perez had a brain’s impaled on the shaft of a hand- crank motor and a denuded tree is stuck in a pencil sharpener.  I really felt that you had to think deeper on each piece because they all had a deeper meaning that did not always jump out at you.

The gallery also pointed out that Perez works almost always with wood, including mahogany and guayacan.  Wood’s a prominent part of Cuban sculptors works because it is a very available object.  “Above all I try to be a man of my times, I want to think critically.  I look for universal problems and create sculptures with the objective of getting the viewer to react to how to improve our human condition.”

Even though Perez and Larios have a similar connection with their works, Larios expresses himself by doing paintings.  Either by oil on canvas, or sometimes acrylics on cardboard they are all beautiful.  All of his pieces are very soothing to look at.  It is almost as if they are supposed to be meditative.  Larios has been trained in photography and influenced by European and U.S. hyperrealists.  He creates beautiful images of nature with plants and insects in almost every piece.  Each piece is very simple with usually an insect and some grass or flowers.  Do not let the simplistic look to think that they are not elegant.  Each one has a lot of detail, as if the photo is alive right before your eyes.  “We live in an aggressive world, where nature and human beings are constantly assaulted, “ he says.  “When I sit down to paint I feel a spiritual peace that isolates me from that violence.”

With my visit to the Di Ricci gallery, it reminded me of Diane Soles’ experience with Cuba.  With the Cuban artists shown at the gallery it was basically the same thing Diane Soles experienced.  All of them are artists in some way, whether they are studying art forms or actually partaking on the event.  Diane Soles like Perez and Larios were given visas to travel and share their works, but has been hard since the Bush Administration.

I really learnt a lot from my experience at the Di Ricci gallery.  It showed me that the artist’s way of conveying a message did not have to have words at all.  The artists had a deeper meaning to their works and it showed how talented they really are.  Instead of the U.S. and Cuba focusing on each other’s governments, maybe we should pay more attention to the experiences we may be missing out on.

To look at images of these artists go to

To speak about Latin American music is to enter into a universe-sized space filled with complexity, combinations, historical flow, and tunes. It is vast. A quick tour of Mexican music is more manageable, since it is a single country, but its own history and complexity takes up a galaxy of space on its own.

Luís Islas, a native of the Mexico City area of Mexico and a long-time resident and business man in Whitewater, was our guide in this quick tour during an appearance at the UW-Whitewater University Center.

Mexican music offers its riches in part due to the influences that it absorbed.  Probably the sound that first comes to mind to a U.S. resident when Mexican music is mentioned is the sound of  banda, conjunto, norteña, ranchera, with brash horns or accordian. These types reflect the influence of German immigrants, both to run the breweries of northern Mexico or in the mixed quilt of cultures in what is now  the state of Texas. But a traditional sound in the south of Mexico and among Maya peoples is the marimba, a xylophone-like instrument with made of tropical wood and containing a vibrating reed. This instrument is evolved from similar instruments brought from Africa as part of the legacy of  slavery in the Americas.

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