José Ortega, alias Morelos, from the Peñón de los Baños neighbourhood in Mexico City, started in the 1970s together with his brother to travel to Colombia in order to find cumbia records and bring them back to Mexico. Thanks to their passion for tropical music and the culture of small outdoor sound systems, and due – as well – to their adventurous spirit, they visited Colombia first, followed by other regions of Central and South America. There, they found records that would be useful to the owners of the sound systems – the sonideros – in Mexico City and the incipient scenes in other cities such as León, San Luis Potosí, Puebla and Monterrey.
Two years ago Morelos invited Mirjam Wirz and Carlos Icaza, a Mexican musician and investigator, to join him and document his travels. On three separate trips they followed his route, his recollections, and his personal connections. With Morelos, the hub and anchor of this story, they worked to discover the origins of cumbia and the sonidero movement throughout Mexico. The book is the result of these trips and a sample of relevant material: photographs, transcriptions of our talks with different key figures, and some documents from their private collections.