NYFS logo    tagline
 Pinto Guira making guiramaking a mandalaplaying mandolin

Voices Fall-Winter, 2000:
Click on the cover for the Table of Contents. Read an excerpt of “Mediating between Two Worlds: The Sonideros of Mexican Youth Dances,” by Cathy Ragland here.
JOIN the New York Folklore Society today to receive Voices.

Voices cover


Volume 26


The photo of sonidero
of Mexican Youth Dances


sonidero photo

Fausto Salazar, a.k.a. Potentia Latina, works with a crew of five
and owns an elaborate, fully digitized sound system
featuring 16 channels. Photo by Cathy Ragland.

The New York metropolitan area’s young Mexican immigrants are a community living in transition, continually shifting between their memory of Mexico and the reality of life here in the United States. Their weekend social events, called bailes, feature light shows, sound manipulations, and loud cumbia dance music played by deejays known as sonideros. The theme of being transported to another place runs through the evening, and in fact, in reading the poetic dedications and salutations composed by the young dancers, the sonidero takes them from Queens to Oaxaca, from Puebla to Paterson. Through the sonidero they maintain connections to Mexico and to relatives and friends in other parts of the United States. The sonidero is one of them, and with him as their mediator, they can revisit their place of origin and share the displacement and the ambiguity of the bicultural immigrant experience.

Sonidero business cards

The Mexican deejays, or sonideros, employ images of strength, power, and force in their business cards and cassette tape covers. They freely mix the Stars and Stripes with the yellow, green, white, and red of the Mexican national flag.

Puebla, New York
yo estoy con el mejor
el más chingon
chabelo toño sagrado
Fausto nacho polo

Puebla, Chalchiupan
Puebla de los ángeles

Crew members for Armando Cuautle, a.k.a. Fantasma
It is mostly young men who attend the dances. Between sets they crowd aorund the sonidero and wait for a chance to hand him their greetings to friends and relatives back home. Photo by Cathy Ragland
Puebla, New York
I am here with the best
the most badass
the guy with the sacred tone
Fausta nacho polo

Puebla, Chalchiupan
Town of the Angels

Cathy Ragland is an ethnomusicologist, folklorist, and writer whose articles and columns have appeared in publications such as the Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, Austin-American Statesman, and the San Antonio Express-News. She is a South Texas native who has worked extensively with Mexicano and Latino communities in the United States. At present, she is project coordinator at the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York.Cathy Ragland

The playbill for a show at the bingo hall in Paterson, New Jersey, headlines the featured sonideros and their taglines.


Binford, Leigh, and Edgar Lezama. 1999. Immigration: Poblanos in New York. La Vitrina Cultural Affairs. New York: Mexican Cultural Institute.

Central Intelligence Agency. 1999. World factbook. Washington, DC: CIA.

Kaplan, Caren. 1996. Questions of travel: Postmodern discourses of displacement. Raleigh-Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Maciel, David R., and Maria Herrera-Sobek. 1998. Introduction. In Culture across borders: Mexican immigration and popular culture. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 326.

Paredes, Américo. 1993. Folklore and culture on the Texas-Mexican border, edited by Richard Bauman. Austin: Center for Mexican American Studies, University of Texas.

Rouse, Roger. 1991. Mexican Migration and the Social Space of Postmodernism. Diaspora, Spring: 8-21.

Smith, Robert. 1999. Immigration: Dimensions of Mexican migration to New York. La Vitrina Cultural Affairs. New York: Mexican Cultural Institute.

Thornton, Sarah. 1996. Club cultures: Music, media and subcultural capital. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press.

The full article, that we have excerpted here, appeared in Voices Vol. 26, Fall-Winter, 2000. Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society. To become a subscriber, join the New York Folklore Society today.

TO PURCHASE A BACK ISSUE of Voices, visit our online book store.

TO PURCHASE A SINGLE ARTICLE from Voices, use the form below:

Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore

To order a single article, please enter volume number, issue (“fall-winter” or “spring-summer”), and title of the article you wish and click on an order button below to purchase through Paypal or with your credit card. We will send you a PDF of the article via e-mail upon receipt of your order.

ITEM #603
Single Article $3.00
Volume No. & Issue

Member Price  $2.00
Volume No. & Issue

NEW YORK FOLKLORE SOCIETY ♦ 129 Jay Street ♦ Schenectady, NY 12305 ♦ 518.346.7008 ♦ Fax 518.346.6617 ♦ nyfs@nyfolklore.org