What role did/does music play in Latino culture in South Omaha?
Latino Music in South Omaha
This project is meant to shed some light on the development of Latino music in South Omaha. The photograph on the right is of a detail on a mural found inside the GuacaMaya restaurant in South Omaha, which is known for featuring various mariachi bands on a regular basis.
The story begins with the Barrientos Brothers, who settled in South Omaha during the 1920s. They played mariachi music at important family events and holiday celebrations in the growing Latino community. In the video found on this page, Dolores Hernandez, daughter of Vidal Barrientos, and her husband, Abelardo Hernandez relate some of these accounts. In the same video, Marcos Mora and Alma Gutierrez explain the recent developments and the present state of Latino music in Omaha.
The importance of Latino music, specifically mariachi music, as a way of bridging the generational gap and maintaining a critical component of the Mexican identity cannot be overstated.
2013 Video Interviews with Dolores Hernandez, daughter of Vidal Barrientos, and her husband, Abelardo Hernandez. Also interviews with Marcos Mora a local musician and music producer who has been important in maintaining traditional Latino music in South Omaha and Alma Gutierrez a mariachi performer who has her own band, Mariachi Las Cecilias, that combines old school mariachi with a modern twist.
Pictured here is the Las Estrellitas South Omaha mariachi band, and at the center of the photo is Anadelia Lamas. Bands such as Las Estrellitas are dedicated to passing down and preserving the traditions and customs of Mexican music for the greater Omaha community. These current bands continue to play mariachi music, which first came to Omaha in the early 20th century. Today, Latino culture continues to value mariachi music.
Howard’s first opened in the early 1950s and continues to play a large part in the Latino community by hosting live mariachi bands and serving Mexican food. In 2013, bands such as Las Cecilias and others play there every weekend.
By emphasizing its cultural heritage, Howard’s contributes to the Latino culture in South Omaha. It is located at 4443 S. 13th Street in Omaha, Nebraska, which is just south of the former site of Rosenblatt Stadium. When Howard’s first opened in the 1950s, it was located by many businesses in Omaha, and its location near the Omaha/Iowa bridge made it recognizable to visitors.
Marcos Mora’s guitar is pictured here. Mora is a local musician and music producer who has been important in maintaining traditional Latino music in South Omaha. One of several types of Latino music, mariachi became popular with the advent of radio. Stations increasingly played mariachi and over time people started requesting live performances. It was especially popular among the Mexican and Latino communities in South Omaha. Mariachi matters because it connects people to an important part of their culture. Guitars are special to mariachi because they are one of the main instruments in the music. The skill to play the instrument has been passed down from generation to generation. Some guitarists develop different styles of playing, while others discover new sounds. Over time, this led to a transformation of mariachi music.
The presence of Latino music in the United States has deep roots that go all the way back to the late 19th century. When immigrants from Mexico arrived to work on the railroads and in the stockyards of South Omaha, they brought their music with them. Perhaps the most popular style of music among these early arrivals was the Corrido. This particular genre tells stories common to many immigrants as they traveled from Mexico to faraway places such as the Midwest and South Omaha.
Los Tigres del Norte is a modern example of a traditional Mexican group, playing songs about immigrants who face challenges on their journey to America. Los Tigres del Norte, commonly known as simply Los Tigres, performs at concerts, dances and other festivals throughout the world. In the spring of 2013, these international superstars came to Omaha. Los Tigres’ periodic presence in Omaha demonstrates a cohesive, active and significant Latino presence in the city and the surrounding area.
The existence of immigrants in the established South Omaha community influenced local culture, but the English language influenced Latino music as well. Some Latinos sang American Rock and Roll songs in Spanish, while others kept traditional Spanish-language music alive. Musical traditions such as mariachi remain popular today, while other genres from elsewhere in Latin America continue to impact South Omaha.
Editor: Maria L. Perez-Garcia
2013 MIHV Project
"I really enjoyed this program because I love music and got to learn how Latino music started in South Omaha. I also found out how music has changed from the past to the present. This has opened my mind and showed me how much music keeps evolving."
- Andrea R.
"I realized the importance of the Latino culture and the role it plays in it. the genre of mariachi music is what we concentrated on."
- Wilibaldo G.
"I actually enjoyed being in M.I.H.V. Being here taught me many things about the South Omaha community. This was a great experience and I'm glad I got to learn more about the music."
- Allana P.
Research compiled by: Wilbaldo G., Allana P., Andrea R.