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A culture of unity and individual strength are two beautiful effects of music and the arts. Each individual involved in creating music is integral to the art’s energy, that is then transmitted to anyone that engages with the piece. 

I consider it a gift to make music with others. For 14 years, I have been a student at Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy, where I have engaged with different forms of traditional folk art, from various regions of Mexico. As a shy seven-year-old, I started with my favorite instrument: my zapateado shoes — learning the rhythms of Son Jalisciense and Son Jarocho through dance.

Throughout the years, I transferred the rhythms to percussion and string instruments, and have explored many more styles of music, taking on challenges as I grew out of my shell.

As I continued to grow through music, I was able to connect with communities around the world and learn more about my own culture. In 2016, I had the opportunity to travel with the Los Cenzontles band to take part in the first Conexiones project: Los Cenzontles in Cuba. Two years later, I participated in a new Conexiones project, but this time in New Orleans. During these experiences, we collaborated with local artists to share each other's music and blend the styles and rhythms we each carried.

It was meaningful to me to observe, firsthand, the overlapping rhythms across our music. During our travels, I reflected on the history of migration and how music, arts, tradition and language have traveled and intersected throughout centuries. These conexiones helped me to understand the effects of migration and encouraged me to truly keep an open mind as I heard the stories of individuals and communities around me. I carry these stories and perspectives with me today.

The Repentistas (poets) in Cuba, made their creations similar to how they are done in my parents’ hometowns in Mexico. We played alongside several musicians throughout various cities in Cuba, combining instrumentation, vocals, and dance styles we each practiced. In Louisiana, our songs naturally blended with the jazz rhythms of the musicians at Preservation Hall. With the migration between New Orleans and port cities across the Gulf of Mexico, musical rhythms and instrumentations were exchanged and shared. These trips reminded me of the web of historical connections that exist around us. 

Music and culture have been two of the most powerful tools I have used to learn about myself, my community and the world. Through my travels, I have learned that music and the creation process have the power to connect communities and lead us to greater understanding of our historical intersections. 

The collective understanding that music can bring is especially important in a divisive social and political climate. Music challenges us to be more vulnerable. The spirit of music and culture can help us learn about each other and unite us as people. With an open mind and an empathetic heart, we can better understand each other. 

Just as each musician in an ensemble adds a piece of themselves to the music, every individual is fundamental to the world we create. 

My experiences with music have connected me with people from all over the world and from different cultural backgrounds. Their stories have shaped my present and future. I am hopeful that more and more people will find their way to connect, too.