Viva Mi Tierra Caliente: The Music of Juan Reynoso

Directed by Bruce “Pacho” Lane
(56 minutes)

Juan Reynoso Portillo.
Nunca piensas que estas olvidada,
Siempre, siempre me acuerdo de ti;
Porque a tí te entregué toda mi alma,
Desde el día en que te conocí.

One of the least known but most extraordinary musical regions of Mexico is the Tierra Caliente – the hotlands – in Guerrero & Michoacan states. Juan Reynoso is the last – and perhaps the greatest – of a line of traditional “calentano” violin virtuosos. In the last few years, he and his extraordinary music have gained an enthusiastic following among American violinists.

One of them, Paul Anastasio, puts it this way: “It was as if all the musics I’d loved and studied – swing music, and gypsy music, and tango – Cuban this and African that – all of these styles kind of formed the outlines of a puzzle piece that was this music. What can I say? I’m in love!”.

In the charming main square of Cutzamala, Guerrero, Don Juan plays in the bandstand with his son Hugo and his grandson Hugo, Jr. while the life of a Mexican small town goes on around them. Afterwards, at lunch with his daughter Catalina, her son and his family, Don Juan counts up his children – twenty! – by various wives and lovers, but insists that music has always been his first love.

Back at home, Don Juan plays two of his songs with his eldest son, Neyo, and reminiscences about his childhood – how he began to play the violin at the age of 6, and how he was almost eaten by an alligator!

At a brunch in Don Juan’s honor, Lindajoy Fenley explains how she met him, and how their meeting grew into the Encuentro de Dos Tradiciones, an annual festival of traditional music from Mexico, the US, Canada, and elsewhere.

In the workshop of a master violin maker in Mexico City, Don Juan trades a drum for an old-style guitarra panzona (fat-bellied guitar) and is praised by a classical concert violinist.

At the National School of Music, Don Juan plays with Paul Anastasio and David Tobin, two American violinists who are studying with him. Don Juan teaches one of his tunes to the Mexican violin students, who are awed by his calentano style.

Returning to the Tierra Caliente, Paul and David practice with Don Juan before the final concert of the Dos Tradiciones festival in Ciudad Altamirano, in which Don Juan wows the audience and Paul and David each play one of Don Juan’s compositions.



Order the DVD

The “Viva Mi Tierra Caliente” DVD also includes “A Journey to the Butterflies”,
playable on Region 1 (US & Canada) & Multiregion DVD players.

Also available on Region 4 DVD in Spanish.

ISBN #: 1-891813-26-9
UPC: 736899855932

Film Review, Journal of Ethnomusicology