My journey of finding a way to express our shared interdependence, one song at a time.
Like so many others, my journey through weaving in 2021 has been a long and winding road chock full of false starts, lessons learned, with a fair deal of grief mixed in. At first, the grief was for the opportunities that vanished due to the pandemic and the friendships suddenly cordoned off by Zoom screens, then it turned into grief over a career field I had convinced myself was my dream. With so much uncertainty and a new reality staring me in the face, I turned to a familiar sanctuary from my early college days and picked up my classical guitar to begin learning songs that reminded me of growing up in southern New Mexico, starting with music from Vicente Fernández. Little did I know that by the end of the year Vicente's music would turn into a cultural lifeline to back home, and would be responsible for one of the most beautiful moments I got to experience with my family.
Last month my family was fortunate enough to gather in San Antonio, TX and honor my aunt, the second Tía we laid to rest in 2021. This was the first time I had seen most of my extended family in years and naturally, each of us was struggling to process what felt like an unexpected start to a new era of family gatherings, from going to family graduations and weddings not long ago to now planning funerals and eulogies. Following my aunt's services, the parish hall reached a modest hum as memories were shared, tears shed, our own mortality on full display.
Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw my older brother walk into the room with his vihuela. With a sly smile on his face, he walked to the front of the room and started to play El Rey. Without missing a beat everyone in the room joined in and suddenly, my family was singing together again for the first time in years. What was supposed to be only a couple of songs turned into a couple dozen, until it was time to clear the parish hall. That didn't stop us, though, afterward the entire family gathered at a nearby hotel bar where we sang for the rest of the night. Luckily a cousin was able to snap a photo when the singing had just started, and you can see in my eyes as well as those of my father, sister, and brother, that something special was happening.
In a moment where our grief was so profound, where my family was struggling to even begin processing our loss, Vicente gave us one of the greatest gifts. He gave my family a way to snap ourselves back to our roots and remind ourselves of our dedication to one another, regardless of geography or time lost. Our impromptu jam session in San Antonio dissolved any lingering hesitation I felt about reconnecting with members of my extended family, and I am so grateful that I have begun to reconnect with those both young and old.
Losing Vicente this weekend truly feels like I lost a companion. His music helped me navigate one of the most challenging periods in my life thus far, while keeping me deeply grounded to my family and the community I am blessed enough to call home. While his loss is a difficult one to process, I'd like to think that my story and connection to Vicente's music is shared across generations and is a testament to the restorative power that an artist can wield. I'm hopeful that in 2022, each of us and our communities can lean into the cultural gems that can remind us of our shared interdependence and the beauty that comes with it.
For the moment my family shared last month and so many others like it, mil gracias y descanse en paz, .