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From the LPG Blog: Best Book for Cinco de Mayo? Loteria Jarocha

(Note: This post is reprinted with permission by the Literary Press Group of Canada. It was originally published on Friday, May 3, 2013 on the LPG Staff’s Blog.)

by Taryn Boyd

Forget yard work. Here’s what we think you should do this Sunday to celebrate the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo*.

1. Download the latest album, “Nuevos Caminos a Santiago” (New Roads to Santiago), from Café Con Pan on iTunes.

2. Mix up a pitcher of Ginger Lime Margaritas (hint: this recipe is also suitable for other Sundays).

3. Settle into a favourite chair, take a sip of your drink, push play on your iPod, and flip through Lotería Jarocha by Alec Dempster.We have a very fun launch in store for Alec Dempster’s collection of linocuts.

Loteria Jarocha Cover

There’s a slight chance you don’t have Lotería Jarocha yet because the book was just released two weeks ago from independent Canadian Press, The Porcupine’s Quill. But you’re into any of the following—Mexican history, folk music, linoleum-block print, letterpress books, or just having fun—you’re going to want to grab it right away. And if you’re not into any of these things, you will be by the time you’re through this book.

Musician and visual artist Alec Dempster is one of those talented and interesting people you can’t help but envy. Born in Mexico City and raised in Canada, curiosity about his birth place brought him back to Mexico, to the Veracruz region.

He spent his days falling in love with another musician (now his wife and bandmate in Café Con Pan), and unearthing the cultural richness of a form of Veracruz folk music known as son jarocho—a collection of traditional sones passed down from generation to generation. (You know La Bamba? That’s a traditional jarocho sone.) Listen to a sample here while you read the rest of this post. (I’m listening to it while writing this post!)

But, wait—Dempster gets even more cool. A visual artist in his own right, he created a collection of 60 striking linocuts that symbolize and represent the story and spirit behind each of the different traditional sones. He made these into a little card game called El Fandanguito, which is a version of a kind of Mexican bingo (thus the title of the book, Lotería Jarocha, might translate roughly into “Veracuz traditional song bingo”).

Thankfully Dempster worked with one of Canada’s most reputable and artistically adept book publishers to put all his Lotería Jarocha prints into a gorgeous book with explanatory text to make the story behind each of the sones accessible to all. The result is a visual delight, rich with Mexican place and history. You’re gonna love it.

*What IS Cinco de Mayo, anyway?
We’ve all heard of Cinco de Mayo, but what is it, exactly? For our purposes, we’re just going to call it a holiday to celebrate Mexican heritage, which it is for the most part these days. But if you want to know the amazing true story behind the Fifth of May—about a small army of ill-equipped Mexican civilian-solidiers defeating a huge army of French soldiers—read this really interesting and informative article from the NY Times.

Taryn Boyd is the Education and Engagement Coordinator at the Literary Press Group of Canada.

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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.