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Soundscapes

Música Latina

Sounds of Latino USA

Latin America, including Latino communities in the United States, is one of the most diverse, dynamic musical regions of the world, marked both by longstanding traditions and by unceasing creativity. Music is central to Latino cultural life, and the richness of Latinos' musical activity in North America reflects both their large population and their complex cultural makeup.

Over forty million people of Hispanic descent make the United States their home. One out of eight Americans uses labels like hispano, Latino, tejano, Chicano, mexicano, Nuyorican, Cuban, nuevomexicano, salvadoreño, or colombiano to point to his or her heritage. Front-page news proclaims Latinos the largest minority group and the fastest-growing segment of the population, having more than doubled since 1980 and accounted for half the total population growth since 2001. In the past decade, the highest rates of Latino growth have been not in California, Texas, New York, Miami, Chicago, and other long-time Latino strongholds, but in states such as Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Hand in hand with the burgeoning Latino population has come an equal infusion of Latino music, usually called música latina in the windows and bins of record stores.

Latino music speaks to the heart of personal and social identity, issues of survival for immigrant communities who are adjusting to alien social environments and building a new spirit of unity. Music embodies knowledge, meaning, and spirit, essential assets to envisioning and living a life in which Latinos can feel genuinely themselves. Musicians and communities continually construct new meanings for their music, which serves both social and aesthetic needs.

From lively mariachi to poetic jíbaro music to the rhythmic bomba and plena, the music here represents both local longstanding Latin American traditions and modern twists on them by immigrant communities in the United States. The music is a way in to understanding the diversity, heritage, and hopes of Latinos in the United States and abroad.

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