I will not make the argument that Columbus's arrival in the New World was insignificant merely because he was an absolutely awful person or because he didn't actually discover anything (which he himself maintained, claiming until his death that he'd merely found a different route to Asia). But think about this before you dismiss -- before Columbus, avocado, bell peppers, blueberries, cashews, cassava root, chili peppers, chocolate, cocaine, gourds, maize, peanuts, pecans pineapples, pumpkins, squash, tobacco, tomatoes, and vanilla were all unknown in the Old World and alcohol, apples, bananas, barley, cheese, coffee, mango, onions, rice, tea, and turnips, and wheat were unknown in the Americas. Imagine an existence without any of those and you can hopefully begin to get a taste of the importance of the Columbian Exchange. Imagine Italian cuisine without tomato sauce or gnocchi and you can't help but wonder if this is why Columbus is so dear to many Italians. Imagine, on the other hand, genocide, slavery, and old world diseases and you'll understand why he's even more hated by many others.
Every year I look forward to building my altar for Dia De Los Muertos. It’s become more important to me than Christmas or New Year's, and most certainly more than Thanksgiving. It's time for me to take time out and think of those who have left this world and look forward to their spiritual return via memories, stories and offerings. Besides images of family and friends that have passed on, I like to include musicians and artists who have inspired me in some way. This year, many great musicians from Latin America and Spain have passed. So this is my ofrenda to them. Pan De Muerto, Chocolate and Tequila for all spirits who visit. I hope you can include the souls listed below in your altar or in your thoughts today.
Mercedes Sosa (Argentina)
Argentine folk sing and outspoken activist. Along with Silvio Rodriguez, Victor Jara, Violeta Parra and many others, was part of the Nueva Canción movement. Nueva Cancion was the mixture of Latin American folk music and rock with progressive and politicized lyrics. Mercedes Sosa is not only respected in her native country, but around the world. Her most recent album, Cantora, contains collaborations with the likes of Shakira, Caetano Veloso and Luis Alberto Spinetta.
Jorge Reyes (Mexico)
Jorge Reyes started one of Mexico’s first progressive rock bands, Choc Mool, in the late 70’s/early 80’s. He played both guitar and flute while incorporating many indigenous instruments of Mexico. In 1985, Jorge went solo and released a series of new age albums based upon indigenous Mexican culture. He performed legendary concerts at famous Mexican archeological sites such Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza and his music was used for movies and television shows around the world. Coincidentally, he had an annual Dia De Los Muertos show at The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City that was widely popular.
Puerto Rican Queens, New York born and Bay Area raised emcee Rico Pabon loves hip-hop and lives hip-hop. He has for years. In fact, I first interviewed him way back in the day-- in 1991, right after he arrived on the Bay Area hip-hop scene with his group the Prophets of Rage. Sixteen years later, the conscious hip-hopper is still diligently putting it down in the Bay -- mainly in the East Bay. When not in Richmond recording or spending time with his family, Rico can be found at his other spot over in the Fruitvale district of Oakland -- Sofrito Authentic Puerto Rican Cuisine at 3451 International Blvd (E 14th St), which he owns and cooks for. As you know, there's no money to be made in conscious hip-hop these days. Besides, Rico treats the restaurant, like his hip-hop, with love. And he loves keeping his Puerto Rican heritage alive through its culinary creations and the concept that food can help create community and foster culture. The restaurant has become a needed gathering space for the East Bay's Boricua community. (14,000 Puerto Ricans in Alameda county alone!)
In the early days when Rico started, the Prophets of Rage consisted of himself, his good friend, known then as "Crazy" and his older brother DJ Park, who used to make most of the beats. By the time Prophets of Rage released the album My Power, the group was just Pabon and had been since then until recently, when he started using his own name on projects such as his recently released Louder than Fiction on Hard Knock Records. Note: Prophets of Rage also appeared on Independent Sounds: Amoeba Music Compilation Vol. III with the track "Make The Most."
AMOEBLOG: What is the exact meaning behind the new album title?