About the Author: Silvio Gonzalez serves as Public Affairs Officer at U.S. Consulate Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.
For five consecutive days, June 25-29, the sounds of contemporary American composers captivated and entertained Chihuahua’s youth through the sounds of Sonitus, an El Paso (Texas) based string quartet. Quartet members, all of whom come from Texas, and in some cases trace their heritage back to Chihuahua, performed in Nueva Casas Grandes, site of Paquime – an ancient town with connections to the Hopi Nation of the American southwest; Cuauhtemoc, the state’s third largest city and proud of its three cultures; Creel – the gateway into Chihuahua’s highlands (sierra) and the Raramuri people; and finally, the state capital of Chihuahua City, celebrating the 300th anniversary of its establishment.
The U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez organized the recitals and master classes as part of its on-going outreach activities to underscore the history that connects the United States and Mexico and, in this area, the ancient routes that linked Mexico’s northwest with the American southwest – through Mimbres and Santa Fe Trail and the old Camino Real.
Paquime, a city built by the ancestors of Native American Hopi in the middle of the desert, marked the first stop. At the Museum of Northern Cultures, archeologists (some of whom are American scholars who have been digging in the area for more than twenty years), local community leaders and youth listened to the rhythms and enjoyed the first performance of an American string quartet in the region. During the master classes, students and parents moved along to the sounds of Sonitus, as they explored and learned all about the fundamentals of music: time, beat and harmony.
The following day, Sonitus performed at the Mennonite Community Center to a group proud of its peaceful coexistence. The string quartet joined forces with a local youth cameratta and a choral group, embodying the essence of the region. Sonitus’ musical director and Juarez native Osvaldo Mendoza, who is currently a Masters’ degree candidate at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory and graduate of University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), encouraged the young participants to follow and expand their dreams – to dream big! There's no greater image than seeing a fledgling violinist share a moment with, being inspired by, one of the string quartet’s members.
On the third day, we traveled to the heart of the Tarahumara Mountains, where the native Raramuris invited Sonitus to perform inside the centuries old Mission of San Ignacio Arareko. The beautiful chapel, its interior illuminated by sunrays and candles, sits in the middle of an extraordinarily green valley – coming from Juarez, one cannot believe it exists in Chihuahua. Although we could not communicate with most of the attendees, music gave us a chance to exchange ideas, enjoy each other’s company and even observe a community meeting.
Chihuahua City was the final stop. We started at the city’s main library with a master class for children, who attended with their parents. A final recital took place at the Chihuahua Chamber of Commerce. Chamber members and the public enjoyed the performance. This cultural event underscored the importance of public-private partnership to support the arts and education.
Students and opinion makers who are fans of the consulate's new Facebook page followed Sonitus during the group's tour. You may also take a look at the page to watch video and learn more about the string quartet's visit to Chihuahua.