As the sun goes down on Thursday, Sept. 29, live music by Mexico City’s Benjamin Shwartz y Los Jreins will heat up the night at the second annual Stone Avenue Block Party, presented by the Jewish History Museum and the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson.
The party, which starts at 7 p.m., will also include local artists, food trucks and a beer garden. Stone Avenue will be closed to traffic between 16th and 17th Streets.
“For us at the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson, and for Consul Ricardo Pineda in particular, it is a great pleasure and an honor to be doing events together with the Jewish History Museum,” says Enrique A. Gómez Montiel, deputy consul for Mexico, who notes that one of the goals at last year’s block party was “to host an event attended by people of various different origins (Jewish, Anglo-Saxon, Hispanic, African American, Asian American) … and we succeeded.”
While the consulate has moved from is historic location on Stone Avenue, “we keep these strong ties and friendship with the Jewish community,” he says. “We are convinced that culture is a common language that allows us to share the best of our peoples.”
“The Stone Avenue Block Party is the culmination of years of work building relations between the Jewish and Mexican communities in Tucson. It is also a celebration of Jewish and Mexican cultures with an emphasis on the places where these two rich cultures overlap to create unique forms of expression,” says Bryan Davis, executive director of the Jewish History Museum.
Los Jreins is an example of those overlapping cultures. Started by Shwartz, “a Mexican musician who has led a band called Klezmerson for a few years,” Los Jreins is “a side project … that moves more in a klezmer jazz-rock direction, in a cheerful way,” says Gómez Monteil.
“Jrein” is Spanish for “horseradish” – and is the Sephardic root (no pun intended) for the Yiddish word, “chrain.”
“I thought it was a fun name for this band, basically it’s a strong taste and it reflects the character of the Jewish music blended with rock, jazz and a Mexican Latin taste,” says Shwartz, noting that he started the band in Mexico City, “a crazy crowded place, where Jewish culture is alive and very active.”
“When my grandparents arrived to Mexico (from Lithuania and Poland), they had to adapt to a new culture and had to learn a new language and new things,” Shwartz says. “So after two generations, our music reflects this encounter and many other transformations that came afterwards.
“My grandmother, on her part, blended the traditional Yiddish recipes with spicy local flavor (Veracruz-style gefilte fish, a classic). This multicultural blending is what inspired me to do the music in the first place.
“In Mexico they say that love comes through the stomach. I believe it also comes through the ears.”