Connecting cultures

Amelia Peterson

Prompted by a roaring crowd calling for an encore in both English and Spanish, nine members of Mariachi Flor de Toloache walked back onstage to perform a final song for the night.

As the all-female mariachi band played “El Mariachi Loco,” the audience danced and cheered. Performer Sandra Soto Silva danced among the audience, moving up and down the auditorium stairs in a red and pink Folklorico dress.

This high-energy encore concluded the Global Crossroads Culture and Music Festival in New Harmony on Saturday. This year’s festival focused on Latin cultures, so the Latin Grammy-nominated band Mariachi Flor de Toloache’s performance highlighted the event.

The box office sold more than 200 tickets to the performance, Tina Schutte said, secretary and treasurer of Under the Beams, who ran the box office.

“We’re thrilled with the turnout. We had hoped to see a lot of people come for the performance, but this completely blew us away,” Schutte said.

Mariachi Flor de Toloache is not a typical mariachi band. Not only is the band New York City’s first and only established all-female mariachi band, but the members also bring musical influences from their diverse cultural backgrounds.

“It’s like we’re all mixing a big pot, bringing our own pepper and our own ingredients, and we try to make the whole thing work out,” said Solange Prat, vihuelist for Mariachi Flor de Toloache.

Prat said having members from various countries and backgrounds allows their band to fuse mariachi with styles as diverse as jazz, punk, hip-hop, R&B and Salsa.

“We try not to be purists about genres,” Prat said.

Marilyn Castillo, guitarist for Mariachi Flor de Toloache, said the band’s name stems from the desire to reach out to audiences with music.

“Toloache is a very beautiful flower that grows in Mexico,” Castillo said. “This flower only blooms at night, and women there use it to make men fall in love. We’re trying to use music and everything we have to make (the audience) fall in love, too.”

Mariachi Flor de Toloache played from 7-9 p.m. in Murphy Auditorium. Before the performance, event attendees could enjoy activities such as food booths serving traditional Latin meals and desserts, a Salsa and Tango workshop, live music onstage, art and mural painting, crafts for children and a Latino issues panel discussion.

Several people also set up booths dedicated to providing information about various Latino cultures.

Yolanda Delgado’s booth about Puerto Rico displayed traditional instruments made of gourds, maracas, dolls, art and native headwear.

“This collection is from family members who have passed away. Some items are 75 years old,” Delgado said. “It means a lot to me.”

Posters filled with maps and pictures of people and items from Puerto Rico provided additional information about the various cultures of the territory.

“Puerto Rico is a melting pot,” Delgado said. “There are Indians, Spaniards and Africans…In Puerto Rico you could see a black person with green eyes, or a white person with really curly hair. It’s a very diverse place, which I think is wonderful.”

Another table, set-up by Veronica Caballero-Reed, displayed information about Mexico. Posters depicted famous Mexicans and juxtaposed ancient buildings alongside modern cities in Mexico.

Lotería, a Mexican children’s game, sat on the table. In this game, every player has a chart with pictures of animals and items. When a picture is drawn from a deck of cards, any player who has that picture on his or her chart sets a game piece on it. Whoever fills a diagonal, horizontal or vertical row first wins candy.

“Some people call it Mexican bingo,” Caballero-Reed said.

The booth also included dark chocolate salsa that could be served over chicken with rice and decorated napkins used to keep tortillas warm on the dinner table, Caballero-Reed said.

“We’re trying to show everyone a little piece of Mexico,” Caballero-Reed said.

Puerto Rico and Mexico were only two of the many Latin countries celebrated through the Global Crossroads Culture and Music Festival. During the closing concert, Mariachi Flor de Toloache tried to bring people from all backgrounds together, Prat said.

“Music should embrace people and make them come together,” Prat said. “Wherever you come from, whatever language you speak, (bringing people together) is our goal, and this is the inspiration behind our music.”