Using Popular Education Techniques to Teach Son Jarocho

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Using Popular Education Techniques to Teach Son Jarocho

Some Ideas

Popular Education uses pictures and activities to encourage discussion and reflection on the issues affecting our lives. Popular education is based upon the principles that all people have knowledge, based on their experiences in life, and all people have dignity as human beings. Through reflection, participants bring their own knowledge to the educational process, becoming both students and teachers. Popular Education has as a distinctive element the political intention of building a knowledge that turns into collective action for liberation and social transformation.
Popular Education helps us identify, through democratic process based in reflection, the change we want and helps us animate our community to participate in that change. Colectivo Flatlander tells us: “If we eliminate the reflection part, we are reducing organizing to mobilizing, if we eliminate the action part, we are just intellectualizing the struggle.”
In the teaching of Son Jarocho, just like with any other teaching/learning environment, the mastery of skills is best accomplished when the student’s entire self is brought into the learning environment. The traditional learning environment, where one instructor imparts his or her knowledge on the students, can not only easily bore students, but also doesn’t recognize the fact that students learn better when they are involved in both the learning and instructing process. Likewise, the instructor must recognize that she or he is also a student. The instructor must first learn how to teach the students before being able to teach them. The instructor must learn what the students care about and want to learn, how they learn best, what they already know, and what they can teach. And because the movimiento jaranero is part of the wider struggle for social justice, human rights and autonomy, the instructor must learn what issues, challenges, and victories the students bring with them into the teaching circle in order to connect them with the wider movement.
For that reason, pop-ed should be an important part of any instruction of son jarocho. This guide is an aid for that process, based in the experiences—both successes and failures—of the author as well as ideas from different political movements. Colectivo Flatlander is a major contributor, as well as the New Organizing Institute. Other ideas are inspired by La Union del Pueblo Entero, the United Farm Workers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and Teatro Campesino.
Check out more on Popular Education on Colectivo Flatlander’s website:

I. Apertura – Opening the Space or Circle:

Opening the space is key in popular education. Just because people form a circle, doesn’t mean all feel included in that circle. Each group, whether newly formed or meeting regularly, requires continuous attention to maintain the cohesion and unity of the group. Apertura exercises bring new participants in and refocus the group to the learning space. They recognize that all participants are whole people and invite participants to bring some of their non-son jarocho related life into the circle.

Apertura exercises do not necessarily always come at the beginning of the workshop. Reserve weightier exercises for the middle of the workshop or for groups with more social cohesion.
Favorite Food Introductions


  • Ask participants to introduce themselves, but instead of saying their last name, say their favorite food. “Hi, my name is John-Michael Pizza.”

  • Explain to participants that the exercise is to remind us that in our circle, we bring our whole person and we need to draw on that whole person in our process of learning son. It is also a reminder to everyone that we are whole people and we should interact with each other like whole people, not just based on our interest in son jarocho.

  • This can also be done with the person’s favorite son to find out which sones the group should focus on learning.

Espiral / Spiral


  • Ask each participant to state their full name, where they’re from, and one word that describes what they bring in their hearts or minds to the workshop.

  • Write each word on a piece of butcher paper, starting in the center of the page and spiraling outward.

  • Once everyone presents themselves, review the words and explain that these words express what we want the space to represent.

  • Tips: explain that we don’t want speeches since the time is short and we want everyone to have a chance to contribute. Hurry along those who start talking a lot.


  • This spiral can be an abyss into which we fall or a well from which we gather life-giving water. This should inspire our drive to learn, practice, share and continue forward as a group.

  • If the words are all positive words, point out that this comes from a pueblo that has been attacked, battered, but we didn’t say “what I bring is vengeance, or hate.” This shows that we’re coming from a place of positivity.

  • Share Che Guevara quote: “At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love.”

  • Yes, we must be connected to feelings of enojo, which move us, but if we only feel enojo, that enojo will eat you up inside.

True / False


Write the words "agree," "disagree," "strongly agree" and "strongly disagree" on large pieces of paper. Place each poster in an obvious spot somewhere in the room, preferably on a wall. Then make a statement such as “we all like spinach” and have everybody move to the part of the room that matches their opinion. You can create “opinions” that relate to the theme of the meeting. For example, “I want to learn how to sing son jarocho.”

Tip: start with simple questions like “I love music,” and move toward more complex or thoughtful questions like, “Son Jarocho is a political movement.” End with a unifying question, where everyone will end up at “strongly agree,” like “I love son jarocho.”

II. Co-responsabilidad / Co-Responsibility
Co-responsibility exercises help build the understanding in participants that the work, lucha, struggle, movement is for everyone and the responsibility of everyone. Integrating them into the week to week work helps members indentify as leaders in a meaningful way. It also creates spaces for workshop leaders to listen to the issues, challenges, and quejas of participants and other leaders.
Acuerdos/Ground Rules
Acuerdos (ground rules) are a way to explain in a collaborative manner both the importance of mutual respect and that maintaining respect and dialogue is the responsibility of everyone. This can be used with workshop participants and updated periodically so that new participants can contribute.
Usando acuerdos es una manera de explicar en una manera colaborativa la importancia de respeto mutuo y que mantener el respeto y el diálogo es la responsabilidad de todas y todos. Esta dinámica se puede usar con los participantes del taller y volver a visitar para que nuevos participantes puedan contribuir.

  1. Explain that the space is a space for everyone and that to have a productive workshop, everyone’s views and ideas must be respected. Explicar que el espacio es de todas y todos y para tener un diálogo productivo, las ideas y puntos de vista de todas y todos tienen que ser respetados.

  2. Preguntar: “Qué se necesita para tener un diálogo?” Ask: What is necessary for there to be dialogue?

  3. Write responses on a piece of butcher paper big enough for everyone to read. Escribir las respuestas en un pedazo de papel (como butcher paper) en letras grandes para que todas y todos los puedan leer.

  4. Responses will vary depending on the group. Some suggestions that might not be brought up follow. Siempre hay variedad en las respuestas según el grupo. Sugerencias que quizá no surjan en el discurso:

    1. Put phones on silent. Poner los celulares en silencio.

    2. Be present both physically and mentally

    3. Accept where people are coming from in their ideas, beliefs, thoughts, etc.

  5. Review acuerdos with everyone, giving explanation where necessary. Leer los acuerdos para que todas y todos los escuchen, dando explicación cuando es necesario.

El Cartero llama…”


  • Poner las sillas en un círculo, con una silla menos que la cantidad de personas.

  • La persona que empieza en medio dice: “El cartero llama a él (o los) que traiga huaraches” o cualquier otra cosa.

  • Las personas con huaraches se levantan y corren para agarrar asiento en otro lado del círculo.

  • Después de unos turnos, cambia la frase a “El movimiento llama…” y explica que el movimiento llama a todos. Dar un ejemplo como, “El movimiento llama a los que tengan esperanza.”


Circle of Support
Tell participants that playing music is a way to bring out our frustrations and stress. That playing son is an act of unity and should be a circle of support for our individual struggles. Ask participants to say one thing they are worried about or concerned with. Tell them that in the circle we will let out all those frustrations and share each other's good vibes.
Balloon Activity / Dinámica de globo de helio

Mutual respect for our work – Respeto mútuo a nuestro trabajo
Set up/Preparación:

  • Sit the group in a circle of chairs. Identify a note taker. Tape a large piece of paper to the wall. Formar un círculo con sillas y sentarse. Escoger una persona para tomar notas. Poner un pedazo grande de papel en la pared.

  • Get one balloon filled with helium and tie a string or ribbon with a light weight to the balloon. Amarrar un listón o mecate con un peso a un globo de helio.


  • Instruct the group that you will throw up the balloon and call out the name of a person in the group.

  • When their name is called, the person will get out of their seat and try to catch the balloon before the weight touches the ground.

  • When they catch the balloon, they will say one thing they like about son jarocho and one challenge they have in learning son. The note taker will record the name of the person and their challenge.

  • After each person says their challenge, ask the group how the group can help them overcome their challenge. Discuss among the group if necessary. Note taker records the response to the challenge.

III. Musical Instruction
True / False

  • Write the words "true” and “false" on large pieces of paper. Place each poster in an obvious spot on opposite sides of the room, preferably on a wall. Play a son, and make a statement about that son, such as “this son is in minor” or “this son is contratiempo.” Instruct participants to decide whether the statement is true or false and go to the side of the room that corresponds with their decision.

  • When participants have moved to the side of the room, ask someone to defend their decision. After a couple people have chimed in, reveal the truth.

  • Tip: use the exercise to teach participants to listen to differences between minor/major, derecho/contratiempo, and similar sones.

Group Counting to 10

  • Stand in a circle. Tell participants that we will attempt to count from 1 to 10 as a group. Each participant can decide the number that they say, but each number can only be said once or else the group must start over. Numbers must be said in order from 1 to 10.

  • Idea: for larger groups, count up to the number of participants with each participant only saying one number. Or see how high the group can count, allowing participants to say numbers multiple times. Try with participants turned around and with eyes closed.


The exercise allows the group to become more attentive, to listen with their whole person, not just their ears. It allows the group to become more aware of fellow group members, to feel each other’s vibes and lock into the group’s rhythm. These are all necessary in the fandango.

Other Activities
Group stretching: Stretch together at the beginning of the workshop to get everyone moving together. Tell participants that good posture allows us to keep our good energy flowing and when we have our own energy flowing, we give our energy to others.

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