Del Cerro Vienen Bajando
Field recordings made between 2001 and 2003 by Alec Dempster in Santiago Tuxtla and San Andrés Tuxtla in the state of Veracruz, Mexico.
Each group has a unique style which is representative of the comunities they are from.
Son Del Vigía
When they recorded, this group consisting of family members lived about an hour walk up the mountain they named their group after. Now they live on the banks of the tepango river closer to town. They play homemade instruments constructed by Alejandro Domínguez, the leader of the group.
This father and son duo has been a familiar sight in the town of Santiago and the surrounding area for about ten years. However, Catalino and his son Eduardo live about twenty kilometres from town in a small community called Texcochapan de Arriba. Catalino turned to music after suffering an injury doing farm work and they are likely to be found playing in the ¨cantinas" around Santiago and San Andrés. The recording was done in the shade of a tree at the local soccer field.
Gabriel Hernandéz is now in his mid eighties and rounded up the two other musicians for this recording session. He is the only singer remaining in Comoapan, about 20 minutes from the town of San Andrés. He is also the only musician of his generation who plays the guiro. The verses he sings are not common. His elder brother was poet and Gabriel continues to sing his brother´s verses.
Dionisio Vichi, Salvador Tome and Ildefonso Medel
These veteran musicians had seldom played together and one afternoon they had a musical encounter at Salvador´s house. These recordings are a valuable example of how two singers would engage in poetic dialogue and rivalry. Each singer has his own repertoire and demonstartes the ability to respond to the verses of his rival. On this occasion Ildefonso, who is better known for playing the guitarr de son, played the jarana.
Here is part of a conversation. with one of the featured singers on this recording who recorded for the first time with two other legendary musicians from Santiago Tuxtla.
Salvador Tome (Santiago Tuxtla 1929)
I was born here, but then I was brought up in a little place they call Sesecapan, and from Sesecapan I came back over here, down from Tetat, about 8 kilometers. There we were. From there we went to Axochio. We moved out of there. We came to a place, near here, they call Mayapan. From Mayapan I went on my own to a little place they call Ayocintla, down from Popoptepec. I was there five years. I met my wife there and went to live in Popoptepec.
I was nine when I arrived here in Ayocintla, and I started working. My father, may his soul rest in peace, drank a lot. We grew up the best we could. That’s where I started working until I became independent. I was born in 1929. I lived in Popoptepec for 18 years, and from there I came here to Santiago, to struggle with life. I opened a little grocery store; liquor, beer and I did my best. I got tired of farming and began working like this. I only worked at it for eight years, well I realized that it was just as futile. We were born into poverty, and when that’s the case there is nothing you can do. And there I got into buying animals, reselling them, butchering. I have struggled in a thousand ways bro, but I haven’t found a way. Well, thank God I have never been short of tortillas.
We followed the steps of our parents. He was a farmer and drank a lot. His work was useless. My father was a very competent worker, may his soul rest in peace, but his vice took him from me. He was a drunkard because he would go on binges for as long as two or three months. That killed him. He played and made the instruments, and sang but he would never let me join him. Those old men were, I don’t know what, proud or (demanding/bad tempered/temperamental.) He would say –“ If you like the music you’ve got to learn, from someone else, not from me son.” And beat it because he would snap his finger! Beware if you don’t. They were, well I don’t know, strict. Anyway, when I saw it was impossible to get along, well, I’m gone. I left on my own. After, when I was more or less established,
I sent for my mother. My mother is still alive. She’s been bedridden for ten years. She’s there with my sisters. She’s a skeleton but there she is. She no longer speaks. All they give her is food with a straw. Well, a harsh life. She suffered a lot with us. She raised five kids and another three died on her but she raised us until she made me into a little man and my sisters, little women. My mother was fat, but that affected her blood sugar, and her mouth went crooked. She must be about 110 years old. She lived with my father a long time and then my father died, and she was left on her own with us. We were grown up when my father died. I was already married with my first child and I brought them over here because there was nothing where they were. I told her –“¿Mom, what are you doing here? I have corn for you to eat whenever you want.”
When I got here, God protected me. I planted 75 by 100 meters and harvested from 18 to 24 loads of corn. The corn harvest was abundant back then, and beans. In one hectare that I planted I harvested up to 25 sacks of beans, (limpiecito?). I had chickens and hens, as I have always liked to raise my own animals. –“Let’s go mom –“No, no. I’m not getting out of here until I die.” I kept on asking her. She was sick, swollen again. I begged them. She made up her mind and came with me. I had doctors attend to her. My mom recovered her beauty. At one point my mom had about 175 head of cattle. We started off with two calves. When I parted with them, I came here to Santiago, I left 45 animals, 5 horses and 2 little tin roofed houses. I split because I saw that we couldn’t get along, after having lent them a hand and taught them how to live life. When they were able – “Get lost because you’re in our way!” That’s how it was. And thank God I still have my mom, my sisters. Only one, of the five women, died. I plead with God that he give them life and health. That he not abandon them. Like Jesus of Nazareth said when they crucified him: They don’t know what they’re doing.
I’m happy. My wife died. I lived with another woman, and we couldn’t get along. I got together with this one and I remarried. She’s my lawful wife, by the law of God and civilian law. And her we are bro, we don’t have much but we are never short of tortillas. My mother didn’t like me singing because I drank. I drank a lot. I started over drinking when I was eighteen, no, let’s say I just drank on Saturday. Sometime in the afternoon I would go from Popoptepec to Santiago. Well, I had money. I’d put 1000 pesos in my pocket and off we go! Life was cheap back then and, brother, I would spend all Saturday night boozing. The cantinas would shut their doors and sometimes I would stock up with 8 liters of alcohol, because I wouldn’t drink beer or anything else. Just alcohol in toros or straight. I drank an enormous amount of alcohol, but then it started to debilitate me. I got in the habit of fighting, shouting and rolling about. I would say -Bloody hell! Somebody is going to cut off my arm or cut me with a machete. God forbid. Hell no. I think I’m going to quit this. And I liked women. My mother would say to me –“No son. There is a spell on you.” No! What spell? She dragged me from one brujo to another, near Calería, near San Andrés. They’d give me a purgative and after the purgative, I would drink down the purge with alcohol. But then I realized that it wasn’t right. No, it won’t be long before I kill someone or I get slashed with a machete. My arm is fine. No, no. I started putting my trust in God. Bro was I bad, rude. I would even curse God when I was drunk, and I started to distance myself from my friends. Brother, did I have friends! ¿But what friends? Just because I would get them drunk. And on Monday, whether I was drunk or not, with the team of oxen, hauling corn, or working the land. All 5 days of the week. Six days, and Saturday afternoon let’s go out drinking and with the women. Eventually I said no. The witch doctors didn’t do a thing. It wasn’t witchcraft at all. It was evil, the devil who was accompanying me. He was provoking me. When I started to cry out to God and ask him -“God I ask you to help me get rid of this vice. Forgive me for everything I have done to you.” And instead of heading over there I would come over here. If I didn’t feel like working I would sit in the shade and stay there until the sun went down, and I’d head back home. I wouldn’t go out and that’s how I stopped drinking brother. I’m not a saint. Every once in a while I have a few drinks and get drunk but then I stop drinking for 3 or 4 years. In the meantime sure, I’ll have a beer or I’ll make myself a toro. I’ll drink it and eat, and that’s the end of it.
It used to be dangerous and still is here, and in those places down the way, in and around Sehualaca. Dangerous! If they hear you singing well and somebody else can’t compete with you there are sure to be bullets, machete blows or a knifing. Brutality is still common around here. I had bullet problems in Ocelota. Yeah, but thank God I’m here. I was young. Hell, I loved getting into trouble. No bastard I laid my hands on would come back for more. I was about thirty when they were going to kill me because of bullets. I was invited to a wedding. Bro, a hell of a lot to eat and drink, but that was the problem. A cousin of mine lent me a jarana and –“ Now cousin. Come on dam it! I’m going to play my father in law’s violin.” Well, we went over, and he was also a half decent singer. And we got going but here comes a guy from dam Tescochapan. A Beltrán. Just a kid, and he started singing, and he started singing verses until he got tired. And I kept trying to avoid a fight. Mainly, well, because these guys are crazy. –“Don’t worry cousin I…” –“I’m also have one, the problem is how to get out of the jam.” I’m working well cousin. I’m really content working. I want to get somewhere.” And this guy has gotten tough. He cursed my mother and I kept trying to ignore him. Finally he got to me. –“Don’t be like that with me. Fine, sing, and amuse yourself. I also enjoy myself.” I would dance, sing and play. “Let’s not fight.” -“You’re scared.” he said. “The Tomes shouldn’t bother bragging that they’re so…” so and so. –“Man, suit yourself but don’t be a pain. Let’s not fight, if we are friends.” –“You think I’m your friend? Brother, I wouldn’t even think of being your friend.” -“Well, that’s alright, bloody hell hijo de tu chingada madre. But anyway, no me das de comer ni te doy. If you don’t fancy being my friend, fine, were not friends and final.” I resumed playing and he didn’t sing. Well, then a brother of his came. –“Stop harassing brother. Stop harassing the man. He’s going to give you a beating. These guys are bloody dangerous. He’s putting up with you but let’s see if he doesn’t kill you right now because he’s stopped playing.” And I felt bad. Bloody Hell! When I told him –“I think you’re a good for nothing” the other brother drew a gun and shot my hat off. I killed the two of them. I shot the two of them. I was in jail. I got 14 years for killing those two cuckolds. Yes, friend. I was about 18 years old. I was the father of two little kids but I found a good lawyer and paid some money. I had a 17-year sentence but I was only in jail for 5 years. The other guy started the hubbub but the one responsible was his brother. When I told him –“I think you’re a good…”- he almost shot me in the middle of the huapango. One cuckold fell on the tarima. The singer fell on the tarima. I can’t even remember which son I was playing. I shot the singer here and I shot the singer in the left eye. He didn’t even shout, and more were coming. –“Come on if you want.” And all of the family came out. I had more than fifty relatives. My family was from there. I don’t know son, an awful brawl. Some had rifles. There were a lot of guns back then. They dropped me off here in Popoptepec, but that’s were I was apprehended. I just about turned myself in. Back then I paid 14,000 and I went home. I get out but I still don’t go down there. There are relatives and I’m not scared but I’m old now. I used to spend all-night in the huapangos and the following night I would do the same because there used to be fun loving people who would dance two days straight at a wedding.