Melissa I. Avilez
Viento Callejero put an urban spin on cumbia.
For the past four years, El Reventonazo has joined social justice issues and the arts in a celebration of Latino culture. This year's event, which concludes with live music on the UW Memorial Union Terrace the evening of Sept. 13, may be more vital than ever as the nation discusses immigration and workers' rights.
The event is truly an international affair, with Viento Callejero, an urban cumbia act from L.A.; Juan Medrano "Cotito", a Peruvian musician who plays the cajón, a wooden percussion instrument; and Spanish-Bolivian MC Hector Guerra of the Pachamama Crew. Offstage is founder Jorge Rodriguez, who advises the local chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan, a student organization that promotes higher education and Latino culture.
Rodriguez, who's also a UW graduate student and a community organizer, says that music plays an important part in El Reventonazo, but the event is not just another concert. It's a call to action.
"We invite musicians who are socially committed to some form of community work in their originating city," he says.
The day of the show, musicians hold workshops at the MECha House, 206 Bernard Court. They also participate in a dialogue on self-determination, music and community involvement. The event culminates in a concert that evening.
Rodriguez says this finale solidifies the connections made during the day, and that conversations about music gain complexity when the event contains a community-organizing component. At a typical concert, audience members might praise the music or express excitement, but El Reventonazo promotes an atmosphere where performers are lauded "because they're amazing organizers, because they've been on the ground doing good work, and [because] they're amazing musicians."
El Reventonazo's performers work with poor communities of color that are trying to improve their educational, economic and political situations. The arts are integral to this work, helping to raise public awareness about the community's concerns while rallying people around a particular issue and spurring them to action.
Rodriguez says El Reventonazo is particularly focused on "issues such as immigration, such as a school-to-prison pipeline, such as deportation." He hopes it will lead to "really sitting down at the table and talking about how problematic these issues are."
Rodriguez says the discussion should extend to racism, gender issues and class issues. And the most important question involves action: "What are we doing to better the situation, and how are we using music...to better the situation?"
Rodriguez hopes attendees gain two things from El Reventonazo. The first is a good time. The second is space for a dialogue about what is going on in Latino communities.
"It's possible to have fun, to enjoy music, to have an amazing day at the Terrace and at the same time to engage in social justice work," he adds.