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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

El Niño Perdido

Recently while spending time in Arizona, I had the opportunity to listen to a Mariachi band perform a number of classical tunes.

If you are unfamiliar with this genre of music, it dates back to the 18th century and has evolved over time from the countryside of various regions in western Mexico.

The typical mariachi group consists of as many as eight violins, two trumpets and at least one guitar, including a high-pitched vihuela and an acoustic bass guitar called a guitarron with all players taking turns singing lead and doing backup vocals.

Similar to American country music, many mariachi songs are about machismo, love, betrayal, death, politics, revolutionary heroes and country life.

One song in particular El Niño Perdido fascinated me. There are many legends about the origin of the song. One includes a shrine in LaCoste, TX dedicated to the memory of a sick and abused child who passed away at the age of one, who today is considered the patron saint of Mexican soldiers.

With a title meaning “The Lost Son”, this piece is performed with a soloist who begins off-stage and get closers and closer as the song progresses. As the song concludes, the soloist returns to the stage, performing with the entire mariachi group, symbolizing that the child has been found.

As I listened to the song and began to understand its meaning, it reminded me of the story in scripture known as The Prodigal Son. In that story, the son, who after demanding his inheritance from his father (and receiving it) squanders it. Years later he returns to his father and asks to be “reinstated” into the family as a servant. To the chagrin of his older brother who remained faithful to his father during his younger brother’s absence from home, his father returns his “lost son” to his rightful position in the family, as one of his heirs.

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