Fest celebrates son jarocho, the sound of Veracruz 1

Julia del Palacio, a key figure in New York’s Mexican music scene, will be among those performing at Flushing Town Hall in the 11th annual New York Son Jarocho Festival.

When it comes to Mexican music, it’s not all about mariachi.

Son jarocho, or Veracruz sound, is a style of folk music that originated in that Mexican city, fusing Spanish and African musical elements and evolving over a period of some 300 years.

It almost disappeared from the Mexican musical patrimony but has experienced a revival in recent years, with followers around the world.

An upcoming event in Queens, the 11th annual New York Son Jarocho Festival, is out to prove that this genre — deeply entwined with the environment and often featuring song lyrics about flora and fauna, the weather and earth cycles — is back in a big way.

Running at Flushing Town Hall for the first time and featuring many free offerings, the Nov. 17 to 20 event promotes the music, dance and culture of Veracruz, with talent largely culled from the East Coast of the United States taking center stage.

“It’s very exciting,” said Julia del Palacio, a performer who was among the first to present this style of music in New York 15 years ago. An arts administrator at Queens College, del Palacio said she became more involved with the festival three years ago.

“It started as a community event at small venues,” she said. Last year was supposed to see a major 10th anniversary celebration, but it was relegated to an online presentation because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, del Palacio will perform a percussive dance as part of her own project, Radio Jarocho.

The festival gets underway on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. with a book presentation by Rafael Figueroa, whose latest publication is “Son Jarocho Discography in the U.S.”

The book catalogs all the musical projects published in this country that focus on or include elements from the son jarocho tradition.

“I decided to publish it to strengthen the memory of a community that sees son jarocho as a way of identity, not necessarily connected with Mexico,” Figueroa wrote in an email to the Chronicle.

“Son jarocho is important because it is a part of our culture, with a history of centuries,” he added.

A bilingual (Spanish-English) panel discussion, entitled “Identity and Territory in the Isthmus of Veracruz,” will be held on Nov. 18 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

According to Flushing Town Hall’s website, “Urban projects and oil refineries, as well as forced displacement of people near the region, threaten to disrupt the traditional knowledge and natural environments that sustain son jarocho in the region.”

The discussion will focus on these challenges facing Veracruz.

Nov. 19 will bring a solo dance performance (7 to 8 p.m.) of “Acusticorporal” by Argelia Arreola, offering a reflection around the body as projector of anything it perceives and how it is affected by rhythm and words.

All three of the named events are free to the public. Online reservations are required.

Two of the festival’s highlights take place on its closing day, Nov. 20. From 1 to 4 p.m., multiple performances, including del Palacio’s, will take place in the hall’s theater. In-person tickets for this event are $15 ($12 for members). Virtual tickets are $7 ($5 for members). From 5 to 7 p.m. in the garden and gallery, “Culminating Fandango” will be offered. These are traditionally community celebrations in which people gather to play, sing and dance son jarocho. Tickets for this event are free with online reservations.

The festival is produced by the Son Jarocho MX Collective; events are presented in collaboration with Flushing Town Hall and the Kupferberg Center for the Arts.

Flushing Town Hall is located at 137-35 Northern Blvd. For more information and tickets, go online to flushingtownhall.org.

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