|Refugio Ortiz at St. Anne's Church in Pharr|
At St. Anne's Church Annual Fall Jamaica in Pharr, on November 2, Refugio Ortiz walked up to the stage after performances from Ramiro Cavazos y Los Donneños and Roberto Pulido. He took to the microphone and told el público (the audience) that he was going to sing a piece of his titled "Cumbia Barack Obama" in a cappella.
"Voy a cantar con respeto, y con mucha admiración,
Al señor Barack Obama, yo le canto su canción,
De corazon yo le pido, que arregle ya la nación,
Que arregle ya la reforma, reforma de migración."
(Basic Literal Translation:
"I'm going to sing with respect, and a lot of admiration,
To Barack Obama, I'm going to sing him his song,
From my heart I ask him, to fix this nation,
To fix the reform, the immigration reform,")
Born in Tamaulipas in April 28, 1983, Ortiz lived in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon before making the Rio Grande Valley his home six years ago. He started singing at the age of 8, around his house, at school, and at local events. He points to Los Tigres del Norte as a major influence, both in singing style and in the themes they illustrate through their music.
"Yo tengo la misma ideas que ellos," ("I have the same ideas that they do,") Ortiz said. "Lo que miro es lo que me interesaba más. Tratando de expresar (eso) con las canciones." ("What I see [around my community] is what interests me the most. Then trying to express that with songs.")
Topics in his large repertoire of corrido and cumbia compositions include the struggles that undocumented immigrants face, the ongoing violence in Mexico, school shootings in the United States of America, a sad Christmas tune and even a tribute to Jenni Rivera, who died in 2012.
I asked him if he had any plans to compose a corrido on the missing Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College of Ayotzinapa students.
"No he tenido tiempo de hacerlo," ("I haven't had time to do it,") Ortiz said. "Pero mejor si lo hago." ("But maybe I will do it.")
While he's been busy working on his material for years, Ortiz is not currently in a band, and has not been able to commercially document his canciones in audio recordings or videos.
"Siempre a querido pero pos no puedo económicamente," ("I've always wanted to [record] but I can't financially,") Ortiz said. "No conozco mucha gente (aqui). Pero si se presenta la oportunidad, si lo quiero hacer." ("I don't know too many people here. But if the opportunity presents itself, yes I would like to do it.")
If anyone is interested in contacting Ortiz, he tells me that the best way to get a hold of him is to look him up on Facebook.
Ortiz credits Joe Melendez for inviting him to the Jamaica in 2013 and 2014. He notes that he wrote this cumbia because he knows it's something that millions of people are struggling with, and it's his special way of bringing awareness to this issue.
He concludes his cumbia.
"Son once millones ya, de gente indocumentada,
Que le rezan a su dios, para trabajar con ganas,
Ya no quieren esconderse, ellos de la migración,
Quieren que entre la reforma, reforma de migración,
Quieren que entre la reforma, reforma de migración."
("There are 11 million now, of undocumented people,
That pray to their god, to work wholeheartedly,
They don't want to hide, those that have migrated,
They want the reform to be introduced, immigration reform,
They want the reform to be introduced, immigration reform,")
The crowd gave Ortiz a great response after he completed his passionate solo performance. When he walked off stage, he was greeted by several observers, fellow musicians and fans. Ortiz concludes that it was a great night for him, and he assures me that he will continue to focus on topics that affect la gente (the people).