A Childrens' Book Tells Tale of Connecting to Musical Roots | WBEZ
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A Childrens' Book Tells Tale of Connecting to Musical Roots

A childrens' book written by a Chicago musician shares a tale of how keeping Mexican music alive introduces common roots among unlikely groups of people. For WBEZ, Catalina Maria Johnson has the story.

Saturday, May 22
La Decima Musa 

Diana Hinojosa was born and raised in Chicago after her parents from Michoacan, Mexico emigrated here in the '70s. Music has always a part of her life.


For many years she balanced traditional jobs and musicians' gigs, but about a year ago, everything changed.

HINOJOSA: I had resigned from by job, then the recession hit and I couldn't find another job, Ilost my home, had to sell off my car to pay for school loans, I became penniless literally overnight.

In the face of the crisis, Hinojosa decided to follow her dreams – quite literally.

HINOJOSA: One night I had a dream, about a little boy named Pablo, and he finds a dead turtle, he´s really sad about the turtle´s mortality and he decides to make an instrument. So with that I decided to write a story, and the next thing you know, I´m thinking, I need some illustrations, I had never painted a thing in my life.

The results were a children´s book along with a CD, with the little boy´s music at the center of the story. This genre, born in Veracruz, Mexico, nearly 400 years ago, has now been transplanted by immigrants to Chicago. Called Jarocho music, it flourishes here in the Pilsen community.

There are at least a dozen Chicago-based Jarocho groups, including an adolescent group and a children´s group. Several members from well-established local groups collaborated onthe CD that accompanies Hinojosa´s book.

Hijonojosa´s book Pablo's Fandango or in Spanish, El Fandango de Pablo tells the story of a little boy´s efforts to keep Jarocho music alive. The books words and materials are in both English and Spanish.´

Do you think the book has a special purpose for kids in Chicago and in cities like Chicago.

HINOJOSA: I´m actually a former CPS teacher, I taught at Farragut High School, we had race riots, I had to lock myself in the classroom with my students, sometimes locked up for 3 hours, and then the rest of day was useless, the kids were all riled up, a lot of the problems stemmed from the Mexican American kids and African American kids did not know of their common history that they share, Jarocho is important to establish a common root.

Because Jarocho is actually Afro-mexican music (on tape)

HINOJOSA:  It´s birthplace is Veracruz Mexico, a trading port, a lot of people don't realize 80 percent of slaves were in Latin American, you had the Native Americans, African, they hooked up, got together.

They made music.

HINOJOSA: Yea, and Flamenco musicians were coming from Spain and before you know it they gave birth to this beautiful music

In fact Pablo´s own family reflects that diversity of heritage, African and Mexican and indigenous, in the drawings.

HINOJOSA: Yes in fact you can tell his grandfather is of European descent. Spanish, but his mom is mixed, green eyes, her feature and “mestizo”, Native American, his father is Afromexican - native American and African - you look at his siblings that mixture is represented and you can actually see it, the ethnic mixing that took place, has taken place in Veracruz.

HINOJOSA: The music establishes a common ground between Mexican American kids and African American, establish a common root in history, we have a past together, a connection, and when we work together we can make beautiful things.

But besides making us aware of the shared history of Mexicans and African Americans there is another moral to the story of Pablo and his Fandango, says author Hinojosa…

HINOJOSA:…Do what you love to do, explore your talents, you really never know what you have locked inside.

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