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For The 4th Of July, La Santa Cecilia Expands The Meaning Of Patriotism

There are a few lines from the oft-covered song "México Americano" that sum up the experience of millions of folks in the U.S. and have always seemed to me to be the ultimate expression of patriotism:

Por mi madre soy Mexicano. (From my mother I am Mexican.)

Por destino soy Americano. (By destiny I am American.)

Celebrating bi-cultural patriotism is La Santa Cecilia's stock in trade. From its cover of The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever," spotlighting workers who pick strawberries, to this raucous rockabilly-conjunto cover of "México Americano," the band's very essence reflects the sentiment of the song.

The roots of the song are in conjunto, the accordion-driven mashup of eastern European waltzes, polkas and Mexican storytelling that was born along the Texas-Mexico border. Music and life there, where culture ebbs and flows through cowboy boots and Spanglish, give meaning to the song's lyrics:

I have two languages, two countries

And two cultures.

I first heard "México Americano" performed by the south Texas band Los Pingüinos del Norte in a scene from Chulas Fronteras, a brilliantly heartfelt documentary about conjunto music and culture made by the late Les Blank. The song has been covered by such high-profile acts as Los Lobos and Alejandro Escovedo.

For its own take, La Santa Cecilia has joined forces with the Rebel Cats, a Mexican band devoted to American rockabilly music. They turn both the accordion and the hollow-body guitar up to 11 to infuse the song with the perfect mixture of styles and cultures. On this most hallowed of national holidays, it's an ideal celebration of the diversity of cultures that make up our country.

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