Yo No Soy Guapo | Credit: Courtesy

In the streets of Mexico City — and now in Latino communities across Southern California — locals pack in alleyways and corners on weekends, huddled in a mess of sweaty bodies, strobe lights, and smoke machines, to dance to popular cumbia music blasted through giant sound systems known as sonideros. The parties are always the heartbeat of the neighborhood, where friends are made, relationships are sparked, and the DJ runs the show.

UC Santa Barbara will be hosting a two-day event celebrating these “sonidero” dance parties, with the Listen to Cumbia symposium hosted by the Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Music on April 11 and 12.

Credit: Courtesy

The symposium will be the first of its kind, incorporating roundtable discussions and panels on the art of cumbia with an onsite archival exhibition, a cumbia sonidero DJ performance, and the premieres of two documentaries exploring the history and current state of cumbia culture. 

On Tuesday April 11, the Carsey-Wolf Center will host a screening at 7 p.m. at the Pollock Theater, featuring the U.S. premiere of Joyce García’s Yo No Soy Guapo and the world premiere of Alvaro Parra’s Sonidero Metropolis

The documentaries explore the history of these cumbia dance parties, and the fight to keep the tradition alive in the face of a Mexican government which has prohibited the practice in recent years.

On April 12, UCSB Associate Professor David Novak will moderate a morning roundtable discussion with cumbia archivists and experts Jorge Balleza, Carlos Icaza, Gary Garay, and Alexandra Lippman. In the afternoon, Assistant Professor Raquel Pacheco will host another discussion with the directors of both films, designer Roberto Rodriguez, and photographer Mirjam Wirz, where the group will speak on documenting cumbia through film, photography, design, and book publishing.

Closing the event will be a “baile” from 8-10 p.m. at Storke Plaza with cumbia DJs Ganas, Space Primo, Sabotaje, Tropicaza, Xanāo, and Penny Lane. Full event info available here.


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