Photo: Ronstadt Generations " America ,Our Home"
“America, Our Home,” is a new collection of American patriotic songs recorded in Mexican musical styles by the group Ronstadt Generations to express the ongoing pride of the Latino community in the United States.
“Latinos have been an important part of this country for generations, with a long history of patriotic service that extends to today, when many immigrants undertake military and other public service out of devotion to the United States,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF. Saenz notes that the release comes during a time when too many pundits and politicians seek to demonize Latinos despite their longstanding loyalty to this country. “This innovative collection musically demonstrates that Latinos are among those who regularly defend our nation from those who would undermine our Constitution and our nation,” said Saenz.
The songs on “America, Our Home,” all performed in English, include “America the Beautiful,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “This Land is Your Land.”
The original arrangements include musical styles such as bolero, cumbia and son jarocho, which use traditional Mexican instruments such as the 12-string bajo sexto guitar, the Mexican harp, the jarana guitar that resembles a ukelele, and the percussion instrument quijada de burro made from a donkey’s jaw. Those instruments were combined with cello, bass, acoustic guitar and saxophone to create a unique style and sound for the recordings.
To listen to excerpts from the EP, go to www.ronstadtgenerations.com/#!audio/cemg. The music will be available for digital download starting July 3 at www.cdbaby.com/Artist/RonstadtGenerations, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting MALDEF.
The song arrangements were developed under the musical leadership of Michael J. Ronstadt, the younger brother of famed recording artist Linda Ronstadt, whose “Canciones de mi Padre” collection of mariachi music became the biggest selling non-English album in recording history. He brought together a group of musicians to collaborate on the songs, which were arranged and recorded in just four days in Tucson, Arizona. Playing a key role in the arrangements was Francisco Gonzalez, a co-founder of the band Los Lobos, the former musical director of Teatro Campesino, and an internationally known string musician specializing in the Mexican harp.
“These are truly original interpretations of American patriotic music that reflect the multicultural roots of my family and of this country,” said Michael Ronstadt, who performs with his sons Michael G. and Petie as the Tucson-based folk group Ronstadt Generations. “We’re thrilled to partner with MALDEF on this unique project that expresses our pride in America as well as honors our Mexican ancestry.”
Figueroa was raised in in the agricultural city of Yuma, Arizona (where civil rights leader Cesar Chavez was born and died). He was part of a high school “show choir” called the Yuma High Choralairs, and traveled with the choir upon invitation for performance at the White House, at the Arizona State Capitol, and at music festivals to perform pop-style interpretations of American patriotic music. Figueroa’s high school singing partner was Mary Lou Fulton, who also joined in developing “America, Our Home.”
“My mom is a Mexican immigrant and is the most patriotic person I know. Her closet is filled with t-shirts, tote bags and other gear bearing the American flag. She didn’t speak a word of English when she immigrated. But she went on to become an American citizen, earn three college degrees, raise two kids, work as a school teacher for 30 years, and teach her students to have pride in our country,” stated Fulton.
Figueroa added, “I was a Mexican-American kid raised in a border town to believe that the American Dream was attainable for all who were willing to work hard for it. My dad served in the military. Three of my most valued possessions are his dog tags, his election official pin, and the American flag that draped his coffin.”