P.O. Box 3913 • Urbandale, IA • 50323 explore@cultureall.org 515-273-8569

Musical Tour of Mexico

Curious as to what a CULTUREALL workshop is really like? Marty Racheter, of Write with Racheter, Professional Writing and Editing narrated a Cultural Ambassador, RJ Hernandez’s workshop, “Musical Tour of Mexico.”

The third graders at Altoona Kid’s Klub were drawn into the workshop as RJ Hernandez plucked the colorful strings of his guitarron. Hernandez grew up in East Des Moines, but his parents were originally from Mexico. He is a member of the Des Moines quartet, Las Guitarras de Mexico, and has been playing music since he was seven years old.

The inviting sounds coming from the guitarron were different than the sounds of the more familiar guitar because it is not shaped the same. A guitarron is an acoustic guitar similar to a large bass guitar, but it has a much shorter neck and a rounded belly in the back. It is used in mariachi and other forms of Latin folk music.

Hernandez began this musical workshop by teaching the students about the various musicals instruments he had brought, and introducing different Spanish words. Hernandez invited several students at a time to join him in playing his guitarron, maracas, guiro, and claves.  The students were eager to participate, and everyone, including the teachers, had a turn.

“We’re in Mexico now,” he would say, describing the weather and scenery, while the audience counted down in Spanish as each group played different popular Mexican rhythms. He told stories of his travels in Mexico to play music and to purchase instruments, describing the beauty as well as the poverty of that country. He told the students that his quartet travels all over the country “to show people of the Midwest that Iowa has more culture than it thinks it has.”

Music is important in every society, and is an inviting way to both teach and learn about other cultures. The purpose of these workshops, funded by CULTUREALL (formerly known as World of Difference), was to teach students through interactive demonstrations about different cultures present in Iowa and throughout the world.

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