These Mixteca Sisters Are Going Viral For Singing A Type Of Music Popular Among Braceros
Dueto Dos Rosas is a group of two indigenous sisters from Oaxaca, Mexico who have a platform of over 46 thousand followers on Instagram and over 1 million followers on Facebook. What makes them unique to their audience is that they sing música campirana.
“It all began with just singing a song together as a duet and uploading it on YouTube just for our family from our pueblo to see. But we kept getting requests.” said Emily Rosas.
Música campirana is a type of regional Mexican music where rancheras, romantic songs, and traditional Mexican songs/dances are played with stringed instruments such as one or two guitars and a requinto (a type of specialized guitar). The requinto was made popular by Los Panchos, a trio that performs the Latin genre “trio romántico.” Musica campirana is usually sung as duets with a two-part harmony; one melody higher and the other lower. Many artists also add the accordion.
This type of music is rooted in traditional folklore and Mexican history. Many groups would sing for enjoyment while working in the fields. Guitar duets (one with the guitar, and one with the requinto stringed instrument) would go to different town squares and serenade the public with folk songs or dances.
“This music started with the immigration of los braceros in the 50s and 60s who immigrated to work in the fields of California and Southern U.S. On their breaks, they took out their guitars and started singing stories about their lives,” said Emily Rosas.
This hits close to home for Emily and Sheila Rosas. “The lyrics are different from many other genres because they tell our stories,” says Sheila Rosas. Their parents were bracero farm workers who migrated from Mexico to Salinas, California to pick strawberries.
This style of music lives popularly to this day in the state of Guerrero, and Oaxaca where Sheila and Emily are from.
They two sisters always had a love for music and singing but never had any formal training. “I barely started playing the requinto three years ago,” says Sheila Rosas, 19 years old, “But I always loved to sing. I didn’t start taking it seriously until 11 or 12 when we started acompandonos.” Emily Rosas started playing around the same age as well.
The girls are taught by their father who taught himself how to play the guitar.
“We haven’t taken any classes. All we know is what our dad taught us and we practice a lot too,” said the Rosas sisters.
The Rosas sisters have a deep connection to música campirana for several reasons.
“From five to 16 years old, I loved singing. Whether it was Los Tigres del Norte or Lola Beltran. This was music I listened to with my parents. Then I went to my grandparents house and heard him playing Las Jilguerillas (one of the most famous música campirana duets) and I loved how the two female voices were harmonizing. We went back home and researched this music and discovered a whole world that we fell in love with this tradition.” said Emily.
The Rosas sisters are continuing that tradition.
“It’s not just that we love this music. We feel connected to it on so many levels. And unfortunately, it’s something becoming lost today. We don’t hear it on the mainstream radio. But when we sing and play it we feel connected to our roots, family, and ancestors. It’s like an identity to us,” said the Rosas sisters.
Even so, this genre of music is heavily male dominated. At only 19 years old, these sisters are trying to break glass ceilings.
“We heard of Las Hermanitas Nuñez and Dueto Monterrey and they inspired us because they were one of the first and only female música campirana duets,” say the Rosas sisters. “This genre of music is definitely more male-dominated — it’s way easier for men to become famous in this genre. So it is really important for us to get out there to inspire our sisters in Mexico and throughout Latin America. And we see more young women emerging and it’s so exciting,” continued Emily.
Despite their rising popularity and talent, they still face gender discrimination and machismo within their art form and Mexican culture.
“In concerts when we go to sing with other groups, it’s usually all male. Sometimes they don’t look like they like us and then sometimes we ask them if we can play in a different key and they don’t listen to us; like maybe they don’t take us seriously. One time we just went with it and didn’t say anything, but now moving forward, we’re going to speak up more and say ‘no this is the key we’d like to sing it in,'” says Emily.
Besides breaking the glass ceiling, these sisters are also passionate about diversifying the stereotypical looks in mainstream Spanish media and the ranchera music industry.
“When you see us, you see that we are brown and short, and you don’t really see famous people represented like that in the Spanish-speaking industry. So we want more diversity,” says Emily.
And as two indigenous mixteca girls, they’ve also faced indigenous discrimination even from their own Mexican followers.
“In comments and concerts whenever people meet us they make fun of us, like ‘oh I thought you’d be taller or lighter-skinned.’ In the comments sometimes they comment “Aye pinches indias,” and they try to hurt us. But we always say that we are proud to be indigenous and we’re not going to change or wish to be something else that we’re not.” says Emily.
Knowing how prominent machismo and anti-indigenous racism there can be in the Mexican community and other Latino communities, these sisters know that their platform is all the more important to change that.
“We want all indigenous sisters and Afro-indigenous women to feel proud of who they are. That your color and culture is beautiful. We want them and our fellow women of color to rise up and be proud of who we are and not wish to be anything different or let people bring us down,” the sisters say.
The Rosas sisters even alluded to future plans where they hope to create an album, grow their following, and sing música campirana in their own mixteca language.
COVID affected their music by canceling all their shows. However, in quarantine, they have been practicing more and continue innovating their music. They post a new video every week.
“We do this also to encourage the next generation to rise up and innovate this music, y que le agarren el gusto a esta música and start feeling identified with it like we do!” says Emily.
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