A new Latin Renaissance – Past – Present – Future

Inspired by the diversity of Latin music from across the Americas and Spain, we produced (Minnesota Orchestra Volunteer Association and Casa de Esperanza) a concert “Latin Renaissance” at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis several years ago. The show featured the music of Latino composers from the late 1800’s to the present, and it featured Mexican waltzes, Argentinian tangos, Brazilian sambas and bossa novas, Cuban danzas and boleros, as well as an amazing cast of performers.  This year, we are seeing a new kind of Latin Renaissance in the Twin Cities steeped in music, art, film, dance, and literature thanks to the efforts of leaders of the Arts community, the Mexican Consulate, and the public at large.

As the Twin Cities gets a glimpse at the first ever Latin Film Festival this fall, a series of Latin performers graced the concert hall of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota. Last Tuesday, Latino-infused, Chicago-based company Luna Negra Dance Theater founded by Cuban-born choreographer Eduardo Vilaro, whose dance performances have been described as “haunting, haunted, and hypnotic” (Chicago-Sun Times) presented a number of dance sketches with a “theatrical bent but as with the other works on the program what stood out was the dancing itself — strong, nuanced, well-integrated into the performers’ bodies.” (Star Tribune)


The tribute to Frida Kahlo titled “Paloma Querida” (“Beloved Dove”) caught my attention as four dancers dressed in distinctive costume portrayed the various faces of the legendary Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954), as the Chicago-Sun Times notes:

“The youthful, passionate incarnation in a red velvet robe; the “indigenous” Frida in a folkloric costume; the gender crossing Frida, dressed in a man’s suit; and, the yearning and damaged Frida in a  corset like costume.”

I chose four of Kahlo’s paintings to illustrate these images and her amazing talent.  Kahlo who has also given inspiration to my music (“Frida”) for her passion and thirst for life despite tremendous health challenges, as well as her incomparable ability to possess strong, artistic, yet vulnerable human qualities has made her an inspirational figure throughout the world.

Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress: http://www.fridakahlofans.com/c0020.html

Self Portrait – Mexican folk style of painting: http://www.fridakahlofans.com/c0040.html

Self Portrait with Cropped Hair Frida: http://www.fridakahlofans.com/c0330.html

The Broken Column: http://www.fridakahlofans.com/c0480.html

On October 28, Mexican born and Grammy-nominated Latin jazz singer Magos Herrera appeared on stage to promote her new album “México Azul,” which gives tribute to legendary Mexican songwriters and the classic cultural films of the 1940’s to the 1960’s.  During her performance at the Ordway, Magos mesmerizing interpretation of Alvaro Carrillo’s (1921-1969) acclaimed song “Luz de Luna,” originally written as a folk-ranchera style piece is sang with a fresh contemporary perspective. Now, under Herrera’s smooth vocals, the piece took on a jazz sound. The new arrangement performed by an ensemble of international musicians is reminiscent of the music of Brazilian songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim (1927 –1994).

The lyrics by Carillo:  “Yo quiero luz de luna para mi noche triste para cantar divina la ilusion que me trajiste … (I want the moonlight for my melancholy night to sing the divine illusion you brought me..for since you left me I have not had the light of the moon…)


From Nov. 3-13, 2011, the Film Society of Minneapolis and St. Paul will showcase more than 30 Latin films from Mexico, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Peru and other countries, including a documentary by director Gabriel Figueroa Flores (Mexico), who is also a photographer.  His film A Portrait of Diego: The Revolutionary Gaze (Un retrato de Diego: La revolución de la mirada) is the story of one of the greatest Mexican painters of the 20th century. Known for his enormous frescoes depicting Mexico’s cultural and political history, Diego Rivera (1886-1957) who married Frida Kahlo in 1929,  is also credited with giving birth to the Mexican Renaissance.


Along with José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rivera initiated a mural movement that spread across Mexico and into the United States from the 1920’s to the 1930’s; yet his work is today as popular as it was during his lifetime.  This documentary film of Diego Rivera was released in 2007 to commemorate his death in 1957. This November, it will showcase at Minneapolis’s St. Anthony Main Theater.


And if you want to see Figueroa Flores’s  photography collection a “unique collection of palladium-platinum prints” (Photography at the Center),  you will have that opportunity on Friday, Nov. 4.


And finally, in two days, it will be Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) a festival rooted in Aztec traditions. On this day family and friends gather to honor those who have left this world, and many celebrants create ofrendas (offerings) for the deceased that contain their pictures, flowers, and other significant mementos of their lives. To see the young people’s ofrenda’s, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts has an exhibition of works created by high school students from El Colegio to commemorate this ancient celebration.


Through music, art, dance, film, and literature, a new Latin Renaissance seems to be taking place across Minneapolis/St. Paul and the  United States, as contemporary young and established Latin artists bring to the present the historical works and legacies of dozens of artists from the past, while projecting an artistic future with a new sense of creative expression, interpretation, and inspiration embedded by the rich cultural traditions of all of the Latin cultures.