Single mother of three sons, Angélica works as a free-lance house cleaner. She speaks about the varieties of nostalgia felt by migrants, and of arriving at a profound gratitude for life.
THEMES AND LINKS
This is a very personal selection—it’s not trying to be comprehensive. We’re always happy to receive suggestions for more themes, items and links!
The Mexican Revolution
There is a huge amount of material about this violent period, still very much alive in the generational memory of modern Mexico. For a basic recounting of events, the Wikipedia article in English is a good starting place; it has a particularly strong bibliography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_Revolution
Here is a very personal line-up of works of fiction or political commentary that deal with some human aspects of the Revolution:
Barbarous Mexico, John Kenneth Turner, 1909
NOVELS (these are all translations from Spanish)
Mariano Azuela, The Underdogs (1916/1929)
Agustín Yáñez, The Edge of the Storm (1947/1963)
Carlos Fuentes, The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962/1964)
¡Viva Zapata! (1952), no less than Marlon Brando as Zapata.
Roger Bartra on Mexican melancholy (a translation from Spanish):
The Cage of Melancholy (1987/1992)
Please, if you buy a book recommended here, DON’T USE AMAZON. We recommend Powell’s Books, https://www.powells.com/ Their selection is awesome, they’ll order what they don’t have, and their mail-order service is fast and reasonable.
The original of today’s interview was recorded in Spanish with Angélica Sánchez. This English re-enactment was recorded with the voice actor Terri Richter.
I came to know Angélica in the context of the son jarocho workshops at the Centro Cultural de México. There, as well as in community fandangos, I started out by admiring her natural facility with the poetry sung in this tradition. She has a fine personal repertory of verses for singing. With time, I also came to admire her commitment, as a single mother, to her sons. She mentions them in the interview.
I also must admit that I have admired—not to say, envied—her very personal, brilliant fashion sense, always topped by a spendid mane of curly hair.th of August,:
AS: I just turned forty-eight.
ELG. No. [laughs] That’s not possible.
AS: I look younger, but, yeah…
ELG: Wow! Incredible. Well, I’m impressed…In what part of the world were you born, and where did you grow up?
AS: Okay…I was born in Mexico City, in the district of Xochimilco. I grew up in a village near there. Well, where I was born and lived until I was seven, from there I went to another community with my parents, also close to the urban area, closer to Mexico City, and I lived there until I was fourteen. After I turned fourteen I had to emigrate here. Here to California, Southern California.
ELG: In what part of Southern California did you arrive?
AS: Orange County! To Orange.
ELG. Directly to Orange?
AS: Directly to Orange, yup. Yeah, I was living here until I was 21; at 21 I returned to Mexico and lived there for another 15 years.
ELG. Uh-huh, interesting.
AS: And now I’m here again; I returned ten years ago.
ELG: That’s interesting! You know, I’m learning so much about my fellow Santaneros and their life histories! It’s a privilege for me…So then, what job or position do you hold now?
AS: I work cleaning houses.
ELG: And you work free-lance, then?
AS: Yeah, yeah, I work free-lance. And I like the work. I like it because I dedicate a lot of time to my sons. You’ve met them, you know my sons.
ELG: Uh-huh, yeah.
AS: And with this work I have the chance to leave them at school, pick them up from school, and do things together.
ELG: Ah, that’s great. So that to a certain point you can choose your own schedule.
AS: Of course, yeah, yeah, that’s one of the blessings I have.
ELG. Uh-huh, uh-huh, I can imagine. Do you want to tell us a little bit about the life experiences that led you to do this work here in Orange County?
AS: Well, I was with my partner, right? With my family, but we separated because of…circumstances, you know? jus…life stuff. And I realized, “Well, I’ve always worked, right?” But I realized that I had to work something closer to full time. Of course, I had to cover the whole economic picture, my economic situation with my family, because my sons stayed with me, right? But at the same time I had to think about my sons. Yeah, my sons… I’m really attached to them, and I realized consciously that they needed a lot of my time, you know? In order to make up for their father’s absence.
ELG: Yeah, yeah.
AS: And it seemed to me that by working three or four hours [a day] I could earn what I’d earn in a factory. Because I don’t have any academic training, no career or anything like that. So, I could work less time, not neglect my sons, and economically, well! I could earn almost the same or a little bit more. And that’s how I decided, and I said, “It’s something I know how to do, I know how it’s done, because I do it all the time, every day in my house!”
ELG: Yeah, of course! That makes a lot of sense. So, how has it been for you recently, in the last six months, with the pandemic? It’s affected your kind of work a lot, hasn’t it?
AS: Yes, definitely yes. The first two months I stopped working altogether. I wasn’t working at all.
AS: It’s been hard, really hard…but now things are normalizing already…
ELG: Yeah, little by little. Bit by bit we’re getting used to the new protocols, with face masks and so on…
AS: Uh-huh. It’s a new, a new system, a new…I don’t know. Sometimes it frightens me, you know? Because it’s a new…there are new rules, that are coming to us bit by bit, right? And when we least realize we’re going to be inside of this new system, this change that’s so…
AS: …that right now seems so strange to us. Someday we’re going to see it all as normal. I’ve always said that this thing of using face masks, someday we’re going to use them like any other item of clothing, completely naturally. [laughs] Yeah, really, like wearing socks or underpants. That’s how we’ll use them.
ELG: Well I say that it would be ideal if we got used to that way of doing things. Because even when we’ve defeated this virus, there’ll be other viruses, right? It’s that public health is a real thing, with so many people on the planet we have to be more careful with each other. I feel like this is a warning from the Universe…
AS: Yeah, yeah, and also with so much pollution, we should have been doing it before, right? With all the pollution we have…
ELG: Yeah, that’s true.
Well then, many thanks for sharing these various versions [of your songs].
ELG: Yeah. I learned a lot. Okay, well so let’s talk for a little bit about the Canción Mixteca, because we have several versions. Which one do you want to begin with?
AS: Well, I like both of them, but let’s begin with the first one, OK?
ELG: Sure, okay.
Trío Jaime Ramírez:
How far I am from the land where I was born!
Tremendous nostalgia invades my thoughts.
Seeing myself so alone, so sad, like a leaf in the wind,
I want to weep, I want to die of my feelings…
ELG: Angélica chose, for the song representing where she comes from, the “Canción Mixteca” of José López Alavés; and for the one that represents her hopes for the future, Violeta Parra’s “Gracias a la vida” as interpreted by Mercedes Sosa.conflicts. It is told that in:
We explored several of these versions together. The ones featured in this interview are by Trio Fantasía de Jaime Ramírez, and later on, another by Lola Beltrán.
ELG: Oh, my goodness…Okay…well…I wonder when you listen to this song. Is there, like, a specific occasion or a time in your life that inspires you to listen to this song?
AS: Yeah, there is. So look—this song, I remember it from when I was little, I used to hear my maternal grandmother sing it. She often sang it with…when she got together with my grandfather, my paternal grandfather, who she was related to. They’d get together and sing, have a drink or two and sing. I remember it like that, with guitar.
ELG: They’d sing with guitar.
AS: Yeah—my grandfather sang and played the guitar, and my grandmother sang too. I didn’t know—I tell you, when I heard it [later in life], a lot of memories came to me and I said, Ohh! I know this song, and I began to remember. My grandmother had very few memories of her childhood because it was during the Revolution, when they had to move around a lot.
ELG: Well, so she, in effect, she came from the same period of time as the song, which is a song from the Revolution.
ELG: Ahhh, that’s wonderful! And so, where were you all when you, as a child, heard your grandparents playing and singing this song?
AS: In Mexico City. Yeah…but my grandparents came from Veracruz.
ELG: And so, for you, or for your family, the part that’s specifically Mixteca—it’s not that so much as the, well, the general nostalgia that it expresses, is that right?
ELG: --for the past, for what’s been lost, for the lands that have been left behind…
AS: Yes. In a certain sense, if one emigrates, one identifies with this kind of music.
ELG: Of course…it’s something that impressed me a lot as I came to know this song. So, supposedly Alavés wrote it during the Revolution, when he—who was from the Sierra Mixteca—he was in another part of Mexico, fighting with Pancho Villa I think. With his nostalgia for the “tierra del sol,” the “land of the sun.”
ELG: But in the century since the Revolution, the song has become more like a general hymn of nostalgia for the many people who’ve migrated from Mexico.
AS: Yeah, yeah.
ELG: And that nostalgia is pretty strong.
AS: It’s true…just that…the simple fact of the music, right? One can perceive how much…how much nostalgia, how much sadness that man put into it. And that’s what expresses so much nnostalgia, so much sadness.
ELG: Yeah. And so, when do you listen to it nowadays?
AS: When I was, when we talked about this, this idea of my choosing two songs, I said, Ooohh, that’s hard, really hard, because there are so many! I love music and there’s so much interesting music! In fact, everyone was saying to me, “Why didn’t you choose XYZ?” People, my sons, they said, “Why didn’t you choose that one?” the one we know as ‘El Butaquito,’” – what’s it called?—[pause while she tries to recall] – Ah! “Cielito Lindo.”
ELG: Yeah, of course.
AS: “Cielito Lindo,” yeah. It represents Mexico! And more than that, an interesting fact is that they say that that song’s composer was Quirino Mendoza, and Quirino Mendoza was a native of the town where I came to live when I was seven. But it isn’t exactly—I was researching it, and it isn’t exactly by him. I think he made a version of it in his own style, right?
ELG: Yeah, yeah, according to my understanding that’s right.
AS: Uh-huh. But it’s very…in school, they taught that Quirino Mendoza was the compooser of that song. Really interesting, really important, right? Like another hymn of Mexico.
INSERTions, having been composed in:
From the Sierra Morena
a pair of little black eyes,
a stolen glance
being among the oldest popular poetry in continuous circulation in the Spanish language, with sources from Peninsular Spain as far back as the fifteenth century.
AS: Uh-huh. But, well, I liked this other one…yeah, choosing was hard for me, right? Because I love music so much.
ELG: You know what, it’s hard for everyone I interview.
AS: Yeah. But especially in this case, because my grandmother, she and I got to be great friends. And with the…well, now I realize, you know? she was a very humble person. And she--
ELG What was her name?
AS: --she had a lot of memories. Her name was Celestina Honorato. Mm-hmm. So, she used to talk a lot with me, and a few of her memories—well, I mean, I feel kind of lucky, you know? Because sometimes in the family I’ll mention something and they’ll ask me, “How is it you know that?” Things not even her children know. Because she and I, we talked a lot, we talked a lot. One interesting thing: she, because of all the movement that there was [during the Revolution], right? She didn’t know when she was born, exactly what day she was born on. She didn’t know exactly where she was born. As far as she can remember, it was Veracruz, the mountains of Veracruz. But one of my brothers and I, we came to the conclusion that the mountains of Veracruz was where where they ended up hiding when they were fleeing the conflicts.
ELG: Oh wow, yeah, uh-huh.y, “I’m from…I’m from:
ELG: Well, I imagine it was like that for a lot of people from that generation, right? Like you say, there was a lot of movement…Mexico in that period was a chaos, a total chaos. And something I find striking is that a song a sweet as this one came out of that chaos. I think it has something…something to do with, well…the sweetness of the Mexican soul. I don’t know, but…but it’s sad too, right? Does it make you cry, this song, sometimes?
AS: Yeah, always! Every time I really listen to it, it moves feelings, memories. And like I said, just the simple sound of the music. Never mind the words, the music is something you can feel.
ELG. And so…speaking of different versions, well, the version we just listened to is…I like it a lot because the singing is beautiful, but not, not so, like, dramatic? It’s more like, I don’t know, with an open heart, it seems to me.
AS: Yeah, yeah, I chose it, because that’s what I’m telling you, it’s the closest [version] to what I remember from my grandparents, right? Just like I said, just them and a guitar. But there are a lot of versions…there’s one version with a soprano, I don’t remember who she is…also with many different artists, like… Miguel Aceves Mejía. And Pedro Vargas, that’s another nice version, too.
ELG: Mm-hmm. I found a version, and I wonder what you think of this version. It’s one by Lola Beltrán, do you know it?
ELG: It’s quite different. So, let’s listen to a minute of Lola Beltrán, because I’d like to know what you think of this way…it’s the same song, but really it isn’t! It’s not the same song at all.
AS: Uh-huh. It expresses a different feeling.
ELG: I think so. And I’d like to know your thoughts about this, so…Here goes.
[spoken] How far I am from my beautiful Mexico.
[singing] How far I am from the land where I was born!
Tremendous nostalgia invades my thoughts.
Seeing myself so alone, so sad, like a leaf in the wind,
I want to weep, I want to die of my feelings…
AS: That’s a really, really good version too.
ELG: It’s wonderful. But—well. Can you tell me something about the feelings this version brings up for you?
AS: Different from the other, like more…the first version is more personal to me, to my homeland, you know? the memory it brings…in this second version there’s like…more pain, I think.
ELG: Uh-huh, uh-huh. To me it seems like…Yeah. The pain is more obvious, right? But at the same time, it seems to me like it’s a little less—I don’t want to say, less sincere, but it’s that this is a really professional singer and there’s this element of dramatizing herself.
ELG: And it’s a bit, like, over the top.
AS: Yeah, yeah.
ELG: And so it makes me laugh. [laughs]
AS: It’s like a little more, what would it be…like, more acted, more…
AS: Or, less intense. Could be…
ELG: Yes, it’s like the pain that it causes is less personal, maybe?
AS: Mm-hmm, yeah…More synthetic.
ELG: That’s it! exactly, uh-huh. Yeah, like an artefact instead of a sung feeling.
AS: Exactly. Yes…How much difference there is, right? In little details. So much difference, you know?
ELG: Yeah, it makes all the difference, all the difference. Because a song is in its performance, it’s in…well, the song is in the singer. And there are a thousand ways to sing.
AS: Yeah…Yeah, I say to my sons sometimes, “The difference isn’t in what you say, it’s in how you say it.” You know?
ELG: Yup. You’re absolutely right. What a good lesson for your sons!
ELG: Ahh, what a beautiful memory you’ve shared with me here. I appreciate it a lot.
AS: Thanks, thanks.
ELG: Well okay, and now let’s go to your second song, if you don’t mind. Unless you have more to say…
AS: No, no, that’s fine.
ELG: So I noticed with this one, with your choice oof a song that represents your hopes—I noticed a thread that connects the two choices, that was, well: nstalgia. I think that both songs, although they’re quite different, both have this nostalgia, that is noticeable.
Okay, let’s listen to Mercedes, good old Mercedes, singing “Gracias a la vida.” And if you don’t mind, I’m going to play a concert version, because one can hear the audience and their enthusiasm, which is a really great part of it I think.
ELG: Okay. Here goes.
Thanks to life, that has given me so much,
It gave me two eyes, and when I open them
I can distinguish black from white perfectly,
And in the high heaven, its starry background,
and amongst the multitudes, the man I love…
AS: Ahhh…it’s intense too, isn’t it?
ELG: ¡Dios mío! Ohhh…speaking of tears…ouf! So…tell me a little about how this song came into your life.r it from…So, I was born in:
AS: And I listened to this song a lot, and I learned it by heart, I was good at learning that kind of thing…years later, I listened to it a lot, when I was pregnant with my third son. And so I was listening to it, I remember because my son’s father said to me, “Stop listening to that music!”
AS: I found it on a disc of trova music.
ELG: Ahh, okay, yeah.
AS: It had various singer-songwriters, and among them was this song, you know? Among all those other songs came this one. And it caught my attention because it reminded me of when I was little; I remembered it. Nothing to do with my being that age, right? I should have been listening to children’s music when I was seven years old! [laughs]. But, it brought me back to that time, and I asked myself, “How?” So…it tturns out that my older brother at that time—we remember it now—it’s that…they were, I don’t know…difficult times. When Tlatelolco happened in México City.
ELG: Exactly, of course.
AS: Uh-huh. And so—
ELG: And your older brother, how old would he have been at this time?
AS: Uhhh…he was in high school, finishing high school. He was in the preparatoria, I think. Yeah, in the preparatoria.
ELG: So I imagine he would have felt very upset.
AS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He was like 19, when all of that happened. And so, that’s how I remembered this song. At the time, I didn’t give it much importance, in fact. I listened to it, but then I didn’t listen to trova again for some time, because my husband said to me, “Stop listening to that music, that’s protest music!”
ELG: He didn’t like it?
AS: He didn’t like it, he didn’t like it. I said to him, “I won’t listen to it,” so as not to have problems, you know? But I had this memory…Later, after a while, I went back to listening to it, and I understood [the song] better. And now, well! I love this song because it represents so much for me. You know
ELG: Yeah, yeah, uh-huh. I think it’s one of the…I don’t know, one of the signs of maturity, right? It’s like, there comes this moment in which one realizes that, “Well, it’s time to give thanks because this is what we have, and nothing more.” [laughs]
AS: Yup, uh-huh. One gets to a certain level of consciousness in which…you give thanks for the tiniest details, you give thanks for hot weather or cold weather, everything. You begin giving thanks for everything, right?
ELG: Exactly, because—
AS: --and most important of all is life, right? everything is here. Because, if you’re not alive, there’s nothing. Or at least, nothing for you!
ELG: Nothing for you: exactly. Yup. I imagine that everything will go on existing without me. But if I weren’t here to enjoy or suffer from what there is—it’s like—[laughs]
AS: Like, it’s not here for me.
ELG: Exactly. No, that song is really profound, or really, the poetry. The poetry…it’s very interesting what you said—well, I mean what your ex-husband said—about…I mean, I understand the association with protest music. But I wouldn’t automatically think of this song as a protest. How does this song in particular fit into that category?
AS: No, for me, it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But Mercedes Sosa is known from her other themes, right? For other themes she sings about.
ELG: Ahh, yeah.
AS: Exactly…he was making that connection, I imagine. And well…mmm…he was a person who was a bit, like, a bit sexist [both laugh], a bit sexist. And so, there couldn’t be protest, you know?
ELG: Mmm-hmm…So, I’ve got the song lyrics in front of me on my screen. And near the end of the song, that very same moment where the audience in this recording comes in, like, shouting and clapping, all of that, is when she sings, "Y el canto de ustedes, que es mi mismo canto / y el canto de todos, que es mi propio canto." Which is to say, “And your song, which is my same song/ and the song of everyone/ which is my own song.” And in that moment you hear the audience, you know, getting excited, right?
ELG: Those lines do have something—not protest exactly, but, I don’t know, hmmm—like, like unity—
AS: --similarity, equality?
ELG: That’s it, yup. Uh-huh.
AS: Yeah, right?
ELG: yeah, and I can imagine Mercedes Sosa onstage at that moment, like, opening her arms up to the whole audience and—
ELG: --one of those gestures she used. So…what do you think of her voice? Because—well, this song also exists in various versions, but it’s true that Mercedes Sosa’s version is probably the most famous. And for me, just like for you, it’s our favorite version. And so, what is it…that voice is unique, right? What do you think? Can you tell me a little about how it affects you? Your thoughts about Mercedes’ voice.
AS: Mercedes’ voice, it makes me…the way I see it, you know what it makes me think? Her personage, being kind of revolutionary, and it’s like something, something…like we find in son: you can protest peacefully through music.
ELG: Mm, mm, mmhm.
AS: That’s what it seems like to me, the way she expresses, with the feeling of…expressing…gently, gently, just like the song say, right? Gently.
ELG: I hear something in that voice. It’s so difficult to describe, like, the quality of a voice. It’s something that’s impossible to describe, but, her voice has something—it’s like…I have this image before me, of a sword in its sheath, a sword in its sheath, like something made of steel. A strong thing that can cut. But mostly she doesn’t use it. It’s just there, in her voice, like this element of steel, something really hard, and really powerful, and one feels the presence of that power, you know?
ELG: -- and then she sings, she sings softly…but there’s like this hidden force. I don’t know…
AS: Yeah, yeah, I understand what you’re saying. Because, look—there are voices, for me, right? Voices that sing, but they don’t express this feeling. And this, like, expressing sweetness. But also with strength, that strength, and that wholeness.
ELG: No, it’s a unique voice. There’s no other like it.
ELG: Well…just one more commentary on my part, to wrap up our chat. It’s that…something that’s set me thinking a little with this song in particular is that—Okay, it’s a song of thanks. But it’s sad, it has a really obvious sadness, right? And those two feelings, thankfulness and sadness—what do they have to do with one another?
AS: That’s true…Giving thanks sadly isn’t a thing, right? [laughs] One is very happy giving thanks…I hadn’t thought about that. Mm-hm.
ELG: And it’s not like I have an answer to this question. It’s just a thing that this song has.
AS: Yeah. Like, a lot of nostalgia in the gratitude.
AS:[pause]…I hadn’t thought about it.
ELG: And so, Angélica, how does this feeling, this mixed feeling that’s so unique to this song, gratitude with sadness—what does it have to do with your hopes?
AS: My hopes?
ELG: Like, the musical image of your hopes. Because that’s why you chose this song, right?
AS: Mm-hm. Yeah, yeah…Okay, look. If as human beings, we were to find this [gratitude], we were to connect with ourselves, then we’d begin to realize, to give thanks that within everything—especially right now, right? With the situation we’re all living in worldwide. So many of us are complaining—but, but apart from that, if we were to begin to give thanks for the fact that we’re still here, that we’re…we’d begin to appreciate, to appreciate, to appreciate ourselves, to appreciate our families, to appreciate our children, out time. We live in civilization, right? Where everything is, everything is in motion, everything’s in a hurry, everything is…And while we’re in this system, we forget our real selves, the real essence of being human, and we begin to look for other things, more…how do I say it? More superficial things…
ELG: Uh-huh. Sometimes, false things.
AS: False things, exactly. And we’re in a period, right? when, well, [we can] live a lie, in being, in having. You know what I mean? So, we’re forgetting our own selves…[From] what we really are as human beings, we begin to classify ourselves, and that’s where racism comes from, that’s where a whole lot of social problems come from too. But if you connect to yourself, right? If you find yourself, you can find peace, and begin to appreciate things. That’s how you begin to appreciate. You know? And give thanks, because – I’m telling you, just like in the song, right? “me dio dos luceros,” life gave me two eyes. It talks about many things that we often don’t realize. We forget.
ELG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. [Both laugh] Between you and that song, I’m practically speechless.
AS: It’s interesting…for me, it’s one way. I identify with this way, you know?
ELG: Mm-hm, mm-hm...No, it makes a lot of good sense, there’s a lot of eloquence in what you’re saying…Well. Thank you!
AS: Gracias a la Vida!
ELG: Thanks to life, thanks to you…really. I’m so grateful for this interview. I love the way you think and talk about music. It’s really clear that you think a lot before you speak, and that’s just so rare in life, most of us just talk, blah blah blah, without really hooking up our brains, you know? [laughs]
AS: You think that? oh dear.
ELG: Well, you’ve put me into a really thoughtful place. I appreciate it a lot.
AS: Thanks, Elisabeth. I do too. It’s so great that there’s a space to express this, because…you know, I was thinking. Here in my community, right? People always tell me, “Ahh, you get a lot of exercise. Ahh, we always see you so active, and you go to your music classes, and—” well, not right now, we’re suffering without son – but, but they do say to me, “Hey, why don’t you invite us to do exercises with you, or share cooking recipes?” I mean, sometimes there’s just so much to share, you have—or rather, not me, right? But everyone. I know one thing. Someone else knows another thing, but we can share them. But with each person in their space, hanging on to what they know without sharing it, we end up suffocating, you know?
ELG: Yeah, yeah. That’s maybe the most difficult thing about this period of pandemic, right? It’s like, well, a platform like this, like Zoom, it works OK. But it’s not the same, not at all. And in the case of a group music, like son? Well, it’s become impossible…
AS: Ah, we have to take out what we’re keeping inside, because it’s like, if you hang on, hang on, hang on to things – Let’s take an example, OK? You keep a bunch of things in a box, a whole, big, big, big, big bunch of things. There’s going to come a moment where that box doesn’t close. That’s for sure, because of everything you have in there. But, if you take it out and you share it, there’s space for more! For knowledge, right? What you have inside…because, you have a lot of knowledge about what music is academically, right? I think…
ELG: Well, for what it’s worth, yes…[laughs]
AS: yeah…so then, it’s a good thing, because, I feel that in our system, the only sharing, the only thing that makes us share is selling, buying, selling, buying. Like that. And that’s what has disconnected us. because we have things that can’t be bought and sold, right? That we can share among ourselves. And that’s our knowledge.
ELG: That’s true. Well, yes. But the greatest knowledge, I tell you, is knowing how to listen, and how to have dialogues with people. It’s like, if I were to get all academic, all professorly in these conversations, and began to give a lesson about the history of these songs, well, no one would be interested!
AS: And about the theory, right?
ELG: Nahh, not at all. The art is, being able to converse, being able to dialogue with people about what music is. That’s what I think.
AS: Yes, that’s true.
ELG: Well, what a lovely conversation! It was you who did the work of choosing the songs, and of thinking so beautifully about them…Have a lovely afternoon with your sons…and we’ll be in contact.
AS: Of course. Take good care, be well, and have a nice afternoon.
ELG: Yes, you too. ‘Bye!
ELG: Angélica chose well-known songs, and caused me to realize that I did not know them as well as I thought.
There is a notable current of nostalgia that flows through her musical choices. Angélica does not present as a melancholy person, and I doubt she’d describe herself as one. But her songs brought forward a melancholy strain that is typical of some Mexican music, and I think it is useful to take this seriously, instead of discounting it as mere sentimentalism. Angélica’s reflections on the songs she chose make it very clear that the sentiments evoked by them are serious ones, in no way simple.
The Mexican anthropologist and sociologist Roger Bartra has theorized this national melancholy as a peculiar and positive strength, suggesting that it is a “magnificent instrument for reflection,” because of how melancholy combines reason and emotions. (There is in this regard an important distinction between melancholy, and depression). I would perhaps add to his insight, that Mexican music explores and sounds the emotional side of this magnificent instrument.