This National Hispanic Heritage Month, Atwood Magazine has invited artists to participate in a series of short essays in observance and celebration of the month’s significance. Today’s submission comes from Riverside, California-based singer/songwriter Maria Sanchez, also known as Groovy MS!
“Ponte las Pilas”
an essay by Maria Sanchez
As an artist, I am always proud to represent my identity as a Chicana (Mexican American).
Without acknowledging that aspect of my identity I wouldn’t fully be able to share my reasonings or influences as to why I sing and the type of music I sing. Coming from parents who struggled to live and exist in a world that viewed them so negatively for immigrating to the U.S for new opportunities, has always been one of the biggest motivations to represent my culture in the music industry. One of my greatest musical influences was my own mother who sang Mariachi, a regional Mexican style of music that is rich in soulful vocals and instruments. She passed away when I was 8 years old and I always like to think that the reason I am able to sing is because of her- her love and passion for music lives through me.
In thinking about my experiences as a Chicana, especially during this particular month, I think about the little phrases that have passed on through our family generations. For instance, the commonly used phrase of “Ponte las pilas,” which is an expression of encouragement to continue pushing and striving towards something. For me, hearing this amongst my elders has always been a reminder that no one will get the work done, but you. It’s become a motto that I and many others within the community have used as a way to not only hold ourselves accountable, but encourage one another during challenging times. These “tough love” words of encouragement within my culture are something I hold dear to my heart because it reminds me of the consistent passion and drive that folks within my community have. We always try to find a way to make things work despite the challenges it brings or how difficult it feels.
Another aspect that I am reminded of during this particular month is the value of family within Mexican culture. We honor, value and love those that are present with us and those who have left us. Growing up, I always remembered my family making sure that we showed our deepest love and honorance of family members on special occasions, which is also heavily portrayed in our music, movies, and traditions. Even today as an adult, I find myself associating certain music or actions with these family traditions that I hope to continue into future generations. For instance, whether we are honoring a family or friend who has passed or are celebrating their life years after, I almost always hear the song “Amor Eterno” in the style of Rocío Dúrcal. I feel that in my culture, we’ve learned to express our emotions through music, whether it be rancheras, ballads or cumbias (just to name a few).
I always seem to find comfort in the little things connected to Mexican culture, particularly when I see others within my culture interact with one another.
I see myself in those conversations, ways of being, and interactions- whether it be between family members or complete strangers who just met at the bus stop or store. However, I find most comfort when I hear others speak Spanish with one another because it reminds me of the moments I’ve had with family that is no longer with us, like my grandparents. My culture always finds a way to humble me and remind me that I am never alone, but instead part of a larger community that takes pride in their work ethic, family, and traditions. With all these experiences and traditions in mind, I’ve come to appreciate certain moments like listening to “old school romanticas” in Spanish while cleaning- songs where our parents would stop and say “¿Qué sabes de esta música” (what do you know about this music?) while we sing along.
Estoy orgullosa de ser Chicana y hija de inmigrantes que se arriesgaron por oportunidades sin dejar de ser fieles a sus raíces – hoy y cada dia mas. Translation: I am proud to be a Chicana and daughter of immigrants who took the risk for opportunities, while still staying true to their roots – today and everyday more. – Maria Sanchez, Groovy MS
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Stream: “Give Me Your Lovin'” – Groovy MS
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