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      Latino Music   ¡Mi Musica: Colombia, Panamá, and México!
the country latinos in iowa music & rhythms instruments
  musical examples      
  lesson plans resources traditional artists  


Image of Map of México, Central America, and South America Latin America
Latin America encompasses nearly half of the Americas and includes México (North America) and the countries in Central America and South America as well as most of the Caribbean. Languages spoken include Spanish, Portuguese, English, German, Italian, and over 100 indigenous languages. Native and European cultures as well as those of India and Western Africa have combined to create diversity in all avenues of life..    TOP

Image of Young folklorico dancers in Sioux CityLatinos in Iowa
Latinos first came to Iowa in significant numbers in the 1890s and early 1900s. They first came to Keokuk, Burlington, the Quad Cities and Des Moines to work on the railroad as well as in central Iowa coal mines. Like other immigrant groups seeking a better life for their children, Mexican immigrants stayed and raised their families here. Their children went to school and established their own businesses, including restaurants, law offices, and Image of El Campesino Vaquero in Des Moinesmedical practices.

Further waves of immigration occurred during and after both World Wars and, most significantly, in the late 1980s and 90s. At that time immigrants from México as well as Central America and South America came to Iowa, often via California and Texas, to work in packing plants and the businesses that grew to serve a burgeoning Latino community. The demographics of small towns and Image of a Street scene at Columbus Junction's Festival Cultural Hispanocities such as Muscatine, West Liberty, Marshalltown, Waterloo, Des Moines, Perry, Ft. Dodge, Postville, Storm Lake, Council Bluffs, and Sioux City have changed dramatically since then. A variety of restaurants, tiendas (food markets), pastelerías (bakeries), tortillarías, Image of Marshalltown musicians Edgar Cruz and "Luz del Mundo"clothing stores, churches, and community centers have contributed to the diversity in Iowa. Community festivals around the state provide a way for Latinos and Anglos alike to enjoy a variety of traditional music, food, dance, and more.    TOP

The Music & Rhythms
Image of Matachines dancers and drummer from West LibertyLike other aspects of culture, the musical traditions of Latin America are derived from a variety of cultures. From polkas to waltzes, salsa to calypso, Latino music is about rhythm and harmony, drums and strings, identity and heritage. The African roots of Latino music are apparent in the syncopated rhythms, which emphasize the offbeat. Guitars, violins, and harps recall Spanish and Portuguese ancestors, while the lively polka beat and strains of accordions pay homage to Germans, Poles, and Czechs. Indigenous sounds and tunes emerge from panpipes, flutes, rattles, and marimbas.    TOP

Image of Panpipes The Instruments
"Typically, thirty to sixty people will play panpipe songs together during festivals. The melody is shared by the players, who alternate notes on the two separate sets of tubes which comprise a complete panpipes. This technique allows people to conserve their breath playing in the heights of this mountainous country." — Karin Stein

Image of Traditional Latino musical instrumentsAs in many cultures, Latino musical instruments create their sounds from bowing, strumming, striking or rubbing, breathing into or across, or shaking. Indigenous instruments were all wind and percussion, while Europeans brought the strings, which include violins, mandolins, and harps such as the arpa llanera from Colombia and Venezuela, as well as variety of guitars including vihuela, cuatro, guitarra, requinto, bajo sexto, mejoranera, and guitarrón. Percussion sounds come from rattles or shakers made from gourds (maracas, chulus), animal hooves (chaj'chas), or shells; drums (congas, bongos, timbales, bombo) with skins from fabric or animal skins and bodies from wood, clay, or gourds; and instruments like giros, which are ribbed güros played by rubbing a stick over the ribs. Wind instruments include panpipes (siku from bound reeds, bamboo, or canes) and flutes (flauta, quena, tarka) of metal, wood, or molded clay animals. Many of the instruments, originally from other lands, have been adapted and changed to make use of local materials. Like the peoples of Latin America, all of these instruments derive from a variety of cultural backgrounds    TOP

Image of Las Guitarras de México of Des MoinesMusical Examples
While there are many Latin American traditional musicians in Iowa, the most well- known are from México, Colombia, and Panamá. Most Mexican American groups here pImage of Mariachi Nuevo Guachinango of Sioux City lay mariachi, banda, big band, Tex-Mex, and trio style music. Mariachi bands, such as Mariachi Los Charros de Jalisco of Sioux City, include trumpets and violins as well as guitars and vocalists. Romantic trios or quartets like Las Guitarras de México of Des Moines feature requinto, guitarrón, guitarra, and rhythm instruments playing and singing boleros, cumbias, rancheras, corridos, huapangos, and jarochos. Banda music appeals to a younger audience and features the sound of marching bands. Tex-Mex groups such as Norberto y los Muchachos of Muscatine feature accordions and play the music of northern México and southern Texas.

Image of Los LlanerosColombian music includes the now-well known sounds of the Andes Mountains, the panpipes common to the highlands of neighboring countries as well as the llanero (plains) music of the cowboys and the arpa, also shared with Venezuela. The African-influenced cumbia from the Caribbean coast of Colombia is perhaps the country's best known musical export, while the vallenato or valleys of eastern Colombia feature the accordion. Los Llaneros play a variety of Colombian traditional music, as do Ed East (Waterloo) and Karin Stein (Kellogg) of Calle Sur.

Image of Calle Sur: Karin Stein and Ed EastThe traditional sounds of Panamá unite folk poetry with popular dance music among a people whose heritage combines mestizo (Spanish and Indian) or a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Chinese, and West Indian traditions. Salsa, merengue, and reggae are all produced in Panama. Most typical of Panama are the Afro-Caribbean rhythms of the pujador and repicador (upright hand drums) along with the smaller, higher-pitched cajas (stick-played drums)), exemplified by the music of Ed East.    TOP

Text by Riki Saltzman. Photos by Riki Saltzman, Will Thomson, and Karen Heege. Photos of Calle Sur, Latino instruments, and panpipes courtesy of Calle Sur. Photo of Los Llaneros courtesy of Los Llaneros.

the country latinos in iowa music & rhythms instruments
  musical examples      
  lesson plans resources traditional artists  
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