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The music is dead ~ La musica esta muerta . . . maybe not!

The music is dead ~ La musica esta muerta . . . maybe not!


What was life like before DVD’s, cellular phones, personal computers, email,  credit cards and debit cards?

Day before yesterday, a young Mexican American mother with two toddlers in tow, flagged me down in the Lowe’s Garden Center.  She is a high school biology teacher, taking a break from teaching, while her husband is a Tejano civil engineer, who has to commute about 35 miles each morning to an office in the Atlanta burbs. His company is working on the reconstruction of Puerto Rico.  He was hired because of his Spanish family name, but the truth is that his family has been in East Texas for over 200 years.  She said that his sister is a blue-eyed blond and his “Mexican looks” come from an Alabama (Native American) grandmother. He is having to take Spanish lessons from a tutor each Saturday!  LOL

She first learned about the People of One Fire website, while searching for information of the Mexican city of Tepoztlán, Morelos.  Last year, we ran a series on the ancient ruins there.  Her grandparents grew up in villages near Tepoztlán.  They moved to Gainesville, GA to work in the poultry industry.  Her husband considers himself to be Native American, not Tejano, and so both excitedly subscribed to the website.  She begged me to publish more photos of “Old Mexico” like in the Teotihuacan video.  When a teenager, her family visited Mexico for a few days, but she does not remember much.

We first talked about my two weeks at Christmastime in Tepoztlán.  My former wife and I were guests in a hacienda on the edge of the city.  I still had vivid memories of the Bougainvillea and Noche Buena (poinsettia) trees in full bloom. Yes, the poinsettia is a tree, not a potted flower!  The high cliffs of the Sierra de Cobre (Copper Mountains) behind Tepoztlán constantly changing color during the day.  Then there was the pagan funeral, just beyond the walls of the hacienda.  The mourners placed little cakes, plus bottles of beer and Coca Cola on the grave, immediately after the body was buried without a casket.  Many of the Indios in and around Tepoztlán actually worship Los Viejos . . . the ancient gods that were there before the Aztec gods.  The city is filled with many colonial churches, which reflect the efforts of the Spanish to stamp out the old religion, but the followers of Los Viejos pretend to be participating in Roman Catholic services, but do subtle things to actually say that they are serving Los Viejos.

I asked Pilar, if her grandparents ever talked about Los Viejos.  She said that they mentioned them a few times, but would not provide any details.  They are now members of a Spanish-speaking evangelical church and don’t like to talk about their lives in Mexico.  I was curious if these ancient deities bore any resemblance to Northwestern European Bronze Age deities, since Mexican archaeologists have recently discovered European Bronze Age shrines up in the Sierra de Cobre.  She didn’t understand what I was talking about.  At that point, she received a phone call on her Smart Phone.

It was her sister.  They chatted in mixed Spanish and English until the two kids started whining.  She grimaced, “They don’t like their mother to speak Spanish, because they don’t understand it.”  She switched to all English.  She looked up, “My sister wants to know, if you have a girlfriend.  Our aunt just got a divorce.  She is very pretty and always wanted to be an architect.” 

I responded,”¡Eso es bueno! La mayoría de las gringas que he conocido en los últimos 16 años han sido brujas o locas.”  Pilar laughed so hard that she almost dropped her Smart Phone.

After hanging up, she asked a passing customer to take a photo of her, the two kids and I together on her Smart Phone.  She then said, “The part of your video about life in 1970 was very interesting.  How did you get anything accomplished without cellular phones or computers? How did you meet girls in college?  How did you study?  How did you do your architecture work?

It was obvious at his point that the main focus of Pilar’s curiosity was not Mexico, though, but life without personal electronics. I told her that we had books . . . in my case, very expensive books.  Teachers in both high school and college made extensive use of slide projectors, movies and public television programs.  That is why I took over 2500 color slides in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.  Then I told her a dirty little secret.  I don’t even have a cellular phone.  In early 2012, the elderly lady, who owned my apartment, stole my cellular phone, watch and bicycle. I never replaced them . . . didn’t have the money.

She looked astonished.  She blurted, “How do you live without a cell phone?”   I answered, “Well, for one thing, I don’t have constant interruptions, while I am trying to do something else.  Look around here.  Most of these shoppers are walking around with cell phones in their hands, like they are baby blankets.  They are slaves to their cell phones.”

Pilar glanced around, looked a little embarrassed and slipped her Smart Phone into her pocket book.  She said, “You’re right.  I didn’t need to talk to my sister right now.  She was just bored at work. She works for a lawyer and no one was in the office.”

Got to thinking though.  Our generation kind of had an equivalent to the cell phone.  It was music . . . mostly rock music.  I told her that we had battery operated transistor radios and diskette tape players that were not much bigger than cell phones.  A lot of people, especially young women her age, walked around with these mini-radios and tape players . . . connected to their brains with ear plugs. 

Rock music was everywhere, from the moment you awoke to the moment you fell asleep.  We played rock music in a big tape player during meals at the fraternity house.  We played rock music incessantly, while drawing projects in the architectural design lab.  You had your car radio on constantly when you drove.   We played music while we studied and while we made out.  Rock station DJ’s were major celebrities . . . considered far more prestigious than the talking heads on local TV newscasts.   Music played constantly in retail stores, shopping malls and supermarkets.

Now the music is dead.  People don’t want music to interfere with their cell phone calls and text messaging.

Pilar asked me what Mexican rock music sounded like back then.   I told her that the rock radio stations mainly played music from the United States and England.  Mexican rock groups were beginning to form and create their own sound.  Colonia Nueva Santa Maria,  where I lived when not out in the campos (boonies), was considered the main center of Mexico’s emerging pop music industry.   On Saturday afternoons, Alicia and I would walk around the neighborhood to listen to the bands playing in carports and garages.  Especially good bands would attract dancers.  Alicia and I would dance with them on the sidewalks.

A long forgotten Mexican record

I told her that probably the best band in the neighborhood was “Los Angeles Negros” (The Black Angels).  They had a hit record . . . at least by Mexican standards.  On the Saturday night in January 1971, before I was to depart for Atlanta and never see Alicia again,  we went out dancing at the Club Cristobal Colon in the Zona Rosa, where Los Angeles Negros was playing.  Secretly, I arranged for the band to dedicate their hit song, “Y Volvere,” to Alicia.  Y Volvere means “And I will return.”    I bought a 45 rpm single from them as a memory of that beautiful evening.   

Pilar said, “I would love for my kids to hear that song so they would learn more about the Mexico of their grandparents.”  I told her that I wasn’t sure which box the record was in and I had no way to either play or record a 45 rpm record.  Such things are dinosaurs from my youth.  

Last night I rummaged around my boxes and by golly, I still had that 48 year old record.  The cover was in amazingly good condition, but I still had no way to play the record. 

The Music still lives . . . on Youtube

Out of curiousity, I googled “Y Volvere – Los Angeles Negros.”  Geez . . . yes, the world has changed greatly because of the internet.  There are over 50 Los Angeles Negros videos on YouTube.  Y Volvere ultimately became a hit song throughout the Americas and in Europe. They went on to become stars of Mexico and Latin America.  In 2015, the group reformed to perform with an orchestra, before a packed, enchanted audience . . . simultaneously being broadcast by a Mexican television network.  The recording of that show is the highest quality video, so that is what I am showing you. 

I realize that some gringos might not be interested in such stuff, but apparently, POOF now has a large number of Latin American subscribers and grannies! . . . the ancestors of the Creeks and Seminoles came from Mexico.   So . . . I now dedicate this song to Britney and Ricky, the beloved children of David and Pilar . . . Y una vez mas . . . a Alicia,  wherever she is.

Y Volvere – Lyrics in English

Goodbye my love. We soon cannot be together. The magic will soon be over.  Now I have to leave. It will be better to forget our loneliness.  If today the sky is cloudy, maybe the sun shines tomorrow. Do not suffer more, maybe tomorrow our tears will be behind.  And if you tell me that your love awaits me. I will have the light that my path will illuminate.  And I’ll come back like a bird, returning to his nest. You will see that bird will return and I will stay. For that peace that you always always give me That you give me. Do not suffer more, maybe tomorrow, our tears will be behind  And if you tell me that your love awaits me. I will have the light that my path will illuminate Do not suffer more, maybe tomorrow. Our tears will be is behind. And if you tell me that your love awaits me. I will have the light that my path will illuminate. And I will return, to your arms I will fall.  The stars will shine. Our love will be reborn.

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

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We are now celebrating the 11th year of the People of One Fire. In that time, we have seen a radical change in the way people receive information. The magazine industry has almost died. Printed newspapers are on life support. Ezines, such as POOF, replaced printed books as the primary means to present new knowledge. Now the media is shifting to videos, animated films of ancient towns, Youtube and three dimensional holograph images.

During the past six years, a privately owned business has generously subsidized my research as I virtually traveled along the coast lines and rivers of the Southeast. That will end in December 2017. I desperately need to find a means to keep our research self-supporting with advertising from a broader range of viewers. Creation of animated architectural history films for POOF and a People of One Fire Youtube Channel appears to be the way. To do this I will need to acquire state-of-art software and video hardware, which I can not afford with my very limited income. Several of you know personally that I live a very modest lifestyle. If you can help with this endeavor, it will be greatly appreciated.

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