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Photo by Pablo Aguilar, courtesy of Quetzal
Photo by Pablo Aguilar, courtesy of Quetzal

Founded by Quetzal Flores in the early 1990s, the Los Angeles-based ensemble Quetzal draws from a large web of musical, cultural, and political influences and commitments. Songwriter and lead singer Martha González calls Quetzal an “East LA Chican@ rock group,” summing up its roots in the complex cultural currents of barrio life, its social activism, its strong feminist perspective, and its rock ’n’ roll beginnings.

Martha González, Tylana Enomoto, and Alberto López, of Quetzal rehearse in González's living room in Los Angeles, 2015.
Martha González, Tylana Enomoto, and Alberto López, of Quetzal rehearse in González’s living room in Los Angeles, 2015.
Photo by Karen Walker Chamberlin, courtesy of Quetzal

Over the last two decades, the group has released six albums and worked with a diverse range of creative collaborators—both artists and community collectives—including Fandango Sin Fronteras, Great Leap, Mujeres de Maiz, and Los Lobos, among others.

On the GRAMMY-winning album Imaginaries, Quetzal creatively combines the varied strains of East L.A.’s soundscape—traditional son jarocho of Veracruz, cumbia, rock, R&B, and more—with international musics to express the political and social struggle for self-determination and self-representation. Their next album on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is due out later in 2016.


  • Quetzal Flores, jarana, requinto, guitar player
  • Martha González, singer, percussionist
  • Tylana Enomoto, violinist
  • Evan Greer, percussionist
  • Alberto López, percussion
  • Juan Pérez, bassist

Occupying a significant swath of the western edge of the United States, facing the Pacific, and emerging from a historically significant exchange with Latin America, California is a crossroads. It continues to be shaped by the conflict, creativity, and energy of people creating a home in a region whose cultural and social ground is as ever shifting as its geology.

Among the fifty states, California is the most populous and one of the most diverse, comprised of people who have emigrated from all parts of the globe. It is home to the largest Native American population, one of the largest populations of people who identify as mixed race, as well as people whose families migrated to the state generations ago. Today, at a time when public discussion around immigration is clamorous, one in four immigrants in the U.S. lives in California. No single racial or ethnic group forms a majority in the state, and foreign-born residents represent more than a quarter of California's total population.

At the 2016 Folklife Festival, Sounds of California presented a series of evening concerts as well as daytime performances and activities, offering a glimpse into how musical culture mirrors the movements reshaping the state and the nation today. We featured artists who contribute to the soundscapes of California, who demonstrate the social power of music and cultural heritage.

While rooted in the terrain of their communities, these artists work across borders - in many senses. They sustain traditions to bridge distant homelands to their present homes. They remix traditions to forge new variations and collaborations. They deploy traditions to engage and invite others to action. These resilient artists cultivate community by both tending to and extending beyond what is near and familiar, honor tradition while looking forward, and contribute to creating a diverse, resonant landscape.

The program's Curatorial Team included: Olivia Cadaval, James Deutsch, Quetzal Flores, Lily Kharrazi, Sojin Kim, Amy Kitchener, Adriel Luis, Samuel Orozco, Russell Rodríguez, and Ranald Woodaman.

The program was co-produced with the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, Radio Bilingüe, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, and the Smithsonian Latino Center. Presenting partners included the Aga Khan Music Initiative, Tumo Center for Creative Technologies, and My Armenia, a collaborative project between the people of Armenia, USAID, and the Smithsonian Institution. The program received Federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center, and the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Other supporters included the Sakana Foundation and Smithsonian Grand Challenges Consortia for the Humanities.

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