“I am both. I’m Mexican, and I’m American.” Gustavo Alcoser says Jarabe Mexicano’s pending release of an old Bob Marley protest song came together as the result of a number of factors. First inspiration, he says, was presidential talk of a new border wall. But the underlying impetus to record came from the kidnapping of some college students in Mexico. “We named our version of the song ‘Semillas’ after those students. Semillas means seeds.”
In 2014, 43 students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raul Isidro Burgos in Iguala, Mexico were rounded up by police and never seen again. “I saw a meme on social media once, about the mass murders. The caption was,” Alcoser says, “‘They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.’” The 33-year-old singer explains that Mario Equia (Jaribe Mexicano’s guitarist) “had said he thought we needed to consider getting more involved politically. And coincidentally, a producer named Mike Kociela called and asked us to record ‘Get Up Stand Up.’”
Alcoser is originally a native San Diegan. “I was born here. Then, when I was five, my mom and I and one of my sisters moved to Tijuana.” They settled into an apartment in Ciudad Jardin, about 10 minutes from the border. “We crossed every day. It was an interesting childhood,” he explains. “My school and my friends were here, but my home and my family were in Tijuana.” Alcoser, who is a graduate student at San Diego State University, says he and his mother now both live in San Diego. “But my extended family is still down there.”
Jarabe Mexicano, "Cumbia del Sol"
Jarabe Mexicano is a traditional Latin American five-piece inspired by Sonora and Mariachi music. They are based in San Diego. “We have ties on both sides of the border,” Alcoser says. “And our music reflects that. We’ll play rock-and-roll and cumbia.” He says the roots of that genre mix lie in his upbringing. “We listened to everything when I was a kid. My mom was a big John Wayne fan. Also the golden age of Mexican films. I grew up listening to both.”
Alcoser says Jarabe Mexicano recorded their Cumbia-influenced version of “Get Up Stand Up” in two days at the Cabana recording studio with Anthony Ridenhour as co-producer. He says that their version can be applied “to different scenarios. We made the meaning broad enough so that it wasn’t a specific ban,” he explains. “Our mission with the song is to promote the idea to get involved politically. That will be made evident by our video,” which he says is in production at the time of writing. Jarabe Mexicano plans to premiere “Get Up Stand Up” live at Taco Fest in May.