One of the best ones I’ve come across in the past year is the story of Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center. Instructors there teach young people — chiefly in the Richmond/San Pablo area east of San Francisco — to connect with their heritage through music, dance, arts and crafts and more.
This six-minute testimonial I put together includes a clip of Los Lobos performing a benefit concert at the center and my interview with Los Lobos lead singer David Hidalgo, who talks passionately about how the center “saves lives” by giving kids an alternative to drugs and violence.
The people connected with the center — founder/executive director Eugene Rodriguez, Claire Bellecci, dance and music instructor Lucina Rodriguez — are an amazing group: dedicated, passionate and fun to hang with. (By the way, it took me a few weeks to learn how to pronounce Los Cenzontles! it’s from the Aztec for the mockingbirds.)
But what’s especially striking is their musicality. Los Cenzontles is not just a 501(c)(3) nonprofit but a kick-ass band that has toured with Los Lobos: Lucina is lead singer and Eugene plays bass guitar. The group’s Songs of Wood and Steel is a masterwork — I’ve worn it out in my car CD player. Love the fact that you can support the group buy buying one of its CDs, DVDs or T-shits at its online store.