Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Discoveries in Santa Fe: Flamenco

Am I a wanderer? No, I like to be at home. But is there a simultaneous sense of displacement and belonging? Yes, I think so. Born in California but translated to Arizona when I was almost eight, I feel at home here; I feel like I can find and form my identity here. Is it my land, though? I don't entirely know. My family's roots in California only go so deep--one quarter of the roots are more from the South and then the East depending on how far back you go. The rest goes back to Mexico, and Arizona was once Mexico. So even if the people I was specifically descended from did not live in this area, I find that there is a certain logic to my sense of comfort with the Southwest.

These types of considerations made their way through my mind as I watched the Flamenco group perform at El Farol in Santa Fe. The last time I was in Santa Fe, I saw Juan Siddi's group, but I found myself enjoying this one much more. Don't get me wrong, Juan Siddi is talented--but I connected with these people more, I think (the general consensus also seemed to be that they traded off more frequently, whereas Siddi took more of the stage). Maybe it was the singer; he reminded me of the Gipsy Kings.

When I was very young, my family lived in Alaska for a year. One of the stories from there goes this way. My parents were very excited to find a bunch of Gipsy Kings cassettes at a great discount in a music store there because, apparently, no one in Alaska was interested in something so exotic as gypsy music in Spanish. So the Gipsy Kings were one of the sounds I heard growing up. It's music in Spanish but nothing like what plays on the radio station: it's folk music. It's about guitars and groups and it has this theme of wandering and expressing that transcends the language (because, of course, I can only translate some of it).

So while I was sitting there in Santa Fe, watching the people in this group take turns dancing on the small stage while the singer went through various songs, I was partly transported back to my younger self listening to the Gipsy Kings. What I mean here is that I felt like I was transcending barriers and definitions. I felt like, if I'm supposed to invest more in things like "heritage" and "culture" that people talk about, this is where I want to search for it. I want to go back to the deeper roots, the ones that connect back with the land and with this sense of the organic.

I felt very cool about Santa Fe nightlife. I'd just enjoyed myself at the opera the night before. Now here I was, dinner at El Farol followed by their Flamenco show followed by a little time spent by the bar, where a band was performing. This was culture that I could take part in and feel invested in.

Gypsies are wanderers who carry their homes with them, in who they are. And as I sat listening to the music that night and watching the dancing, I felt the passion of their performance. I was reminded that I, too, can decide what my passion is and portray that. Because the United States is such a new country, we are all displaced here--but if we continue to make the right connections and to listen to the land in which we live and to take part in the culture that we see and feel, then we will realize that we are at home. The wanderers have made a circle and ended up exactly where they need to be.

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