Ontario concert, rodeo celebrate culture, traditions

Banda El Recodo. (The Enterprise/Angelina Katsanis) See more photos on our instagram @malheurenterprise

ONTARIO – As a child, Eddy Ibarra of Nampa remembers waking up to Mexican banda music on Saturdays as his parents got ready to clean the house. His love of the genre, he said, dates to those memories with his family. 

“It’s our culture,” he said. “It’s who we are.” 

That’s why it was such a big milestone for Ibarra and his band, Clave 19, to be one of the openers for the “mother of all bands” – Banda El Recodo – on Sunday at the Malheur County Fairgrounds in Ontario. The other opener was La Única del Valle.

Throughout the event, the host and the band members continually underscored the importance of Mexican music and traditions – “the two things we can never let ourselves forget, that represent us in any part of the world.”

The event also included a jaripeo, or Mexican rodeo. The animals and cowboys traveled from Juliantla, Guerrero, in southwestern Mexico, to join Banda El Recodo on their tour. Jaripeo ranchero, the style of rodeo that the cowboys performed, requires a rider to sit atop a bucking bull until the bull either tires or the rider gets thrown off. 

“We want people to feel like they’re in Mexico, with a band playing Mexican songs and the adrenaline of seeing a rider that is holding on just by his feet,” said Luis Aguirre, the events promoter from Caldwell who organized the concert. “When people throw their hats or their beer, it’s to say…you gave us a good show.’”

Banda El Recodo was started more than 80 years ago by Cruz Lizárraga, a musician from the northwestern coastal state of Sinaloa. They have performed in every continent except Antarctica and won the most “Premios Lo Nuestro” prizes of any Mexican banda group. On Sunday, they took the stage with 16 members playing three trumpets, three trombones, one sousaphone, two tubas, two drummers, three clarinets, and two vocalists. 

The concert in Ontario was the first Mexican event of this scale to take place in the city of barely 11,000 people.  

But Geovanni Mondragón, one of the band’s two vocalists, said that after a year without performing, the band’s main feeling toward Ontario was gratefulness to be back on a friendly stage.

“All the places we’re invited are big cities for us,” he said. “We hope to be back within the year or very soon for a repeat performance.” 

“People (didn’t) even believe that they were going to come because in Ontario – I don’t want to sound bad, but nobody has done events here,” said Aguirre. “We (wanted) just 500 people. We (had) space for more, but we (demonstrated) to those 500 that come that we have a good show. And then next time, more will come.” 

The tour kicked off Saturday in Salt Lake City, and it was the band’s first time performing on stage since before the pandemic. 

Band leader Poncho Lizárraga, Cruz Lizárraga’s son and one of the clarinet players, said that the pandemic had largely spared the band, but that their 2020 was still “a fractured year.” 

“We are truly very fortunate,” he said. “And happy to begin to reactivate ourselves in our work.” 

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.


PHOTOS: Jaripeo and concert with Banda El Recodo at the Malheur County Fairgrounds


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