YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Music is something that can be found in every culture. There are different types, with different rhythms and dances.
Here in the Valley, one band has been using music to celebrate the Hispanic culture for decades.
“We try to do a little bit of everything. Although we’re Puerto Rican, we do a lot of Mexican. We also do songs from Central and South America, because really, there are no groups around here that do that,” Mary Gonzalez said.
Felipe and Mary Gonzalez have had their band Conjunto Riquena for 43 years. It started out as a family band and grew to much more.
“We started practicing with the kids, and we taught them the songs. I had to learn how to play the maraca and the guiro; I didn’t know how to do any of that,” Mary said.
Now, there are about seven members of the group, but at times, members play as a trio or quartet. Mary said over the years, there has been as many as 22 members at one time.
One of the gigs Conjunto Riquena does is the traditional parranda.
In a parranda, it is a tradition for a small group of musicians to go house to house. The homeowners invite them in, and they play music. Then, the homeowner feeds the group before the musicians head to the next house together.
“When we’re done at the first house, we invite the family to join us. By the time you go to the last house, you got a whole, I mean you got an army of vehicles following each other,” Felipe said.
Following tradition, the band also uses a Quatro, which is a traditional Hispanic instrument.
Singer Rosie Rodriguez has been in the group on and off for 40 years.
“It’s good to keep up the culture. People forget about what it was like back in the day, so with our music we bring it back, and the young people who didn’t grow up with that, really like that,” Mary said.
Mary and Felipe said they plan to continue the group for as many years as they can.