Azul Barrientos is a singer and musician who is keeping Mexican musical traditions alive. Born in Mexico City, she makes her home in San Antonio, where she is an artist in residence at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, a grassroots arts and cultural organization located on San Antonio’s predominantly Hispanic West Side.
Barrientos got an early start in music, studying piano at 3 years old. She was the youngest of seven, and her love of traditional music came despite the varied musical tastes of her siblings.
“My big sister introduced me to 70s disco,” Barrientos said. “My other sister introduced me to the 80s — Madonna and all that good stuff. My brothers introduced me to Pink Floyd, Metallica. My parents introduced me to the traditional.”
The road from Mexico City to San Antonio wasn’t a straight one. Barrientos first followed a boyfriend to Syracuse, New York.
“It was shockingly different,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t speak any English, so everything was like a new world for me.”
But it didn’t work out and she moved back to Mexico City before making her way to San Antonio.
“At some point, I met the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center,” she said “They invited me to a Peace Market performance. I started playing all these traditional songs.”
Barrientos was hesitant to play the music that resonated with her because she was used to people requesting songs they could dance to. But to her surprise, the music resonated with the Esperanza and they offered her the position of artist in residence.
Barrientos’ new album is “Nuestro Corazón.”