Since the 60’s, Monterrey has listened and danced to cumbia, a style of music originally imported from Colombia. Although it once played through the sound systems of Mexico City, nowhere else was cumbia received with as much passion as in Monterrey. There are several theories about how this city in the north of Mexico, thousands of kilometers away form Valledupar, became a stronghold of Colombian cumbia. The most accepted is that local sound systems, known as sonideros, started bringing records from Mexico City and Houston for their parties, particularly in the working-class neighborhoods of Campana and Independencia.
After a couple decades, cumbia in Monterrey evolved and found its own identity. In addition to the sonideros, bands appeared, first playing covers of classic songs, and later songs of their own, with Celso Piña being the most representative figure of this movement. At the same time, Colombians from Monterrey who listened to this music started developing their own fashions, a very particular way of dressing, dancing, and wearing their hair in a style that is neither Colombian or northern Mexican.
In company of Satanás (Satan), a local promoter and concert photographer, we went dancing to the Fe Music Hall, where we saw the Cumbiamberos RS in a face-off with other local bands. We went to a neighborhood party in the Amilpa neighborhood, we visited Rafael Dueñes (one of the first sonideros from Monterrey, who by mistake invented slowed down cumbias) in Independencia, and we talked with Toy Selectah, who, after Control Machete, has innovated, mixed, remixed and reinvented cumbia. Just as Celso Piña says, “We brought cumbia from Colombia to Monterrey, and from Monterrey to the world”.
Cumbia has changed. The local scene has diminished in recent years because of the narco related violence that has hit the city, and the army and police cut the sideburns of many Colombians. Still, the party goes on, and these guys continue to dance and dance in circles to the rhythm of guaracha.