Like Your Blood In My Body: Pepe, Leonardo and Ángela Aguilar

Jaripeo sin Fronteras brings pieces of Mexico and new sounds that encompass the legacy and future of the Aguilar family
Photo Credit: Erick Nieto

Arturo Hilario
El Observador

On a recent weekday, just days away from a Friday night show at the Oakland Arena, Angela Aguilar sat across to me virtually while holding her dog, Gordo, and proclaiming that “Gordo is the king of the whole world!”

[To be honest, I wouldn’t mind a dog-king, as long as they have good policies and are as nice as Gordo seems to be]

When Pepe and then Leonardo stepped into the frame of Zoom’s video call, they definitely appeared to be in a hotel in San Francisco, the unmistakable city skyline visible outside the large window behind them.

They’re here for the fourth stop of their 16-show tour, “Pepe Aguilar presenta: Jaripeo sin Fronteras,” which began in Phoenix on September 4th.

This tour continues after a pandemic break bringing back the successful version of jaripeo that the Aguilar dynasty released on tours in 2018 and 2019. During the pandemic, the three of them had their “pandemic moments” like the rest of us, dealing with a change in our day-to-day lives. But for them, day-to-day life was constantly touring and performing for people from all over the world.

So Pepe, the main architect of the show, and his collaborators got the ball rolling to perfect the already successful show, adding and transforming certain elements and adding completely different ones.

But according to Pepe and his sons, the most important thing is still a celebration of Mexico: mariachi and banda, art and majestic animals, with added elements to fascinate all scopes of life.

So now they are back and ready to talk about their new show and the legacy that continues under the bright lights and on the dusty stage of Jaripeo. Gordo will not accept questions.

To start off, I wanted to ask what is it like to be back on this tour after the pandemic break and how does it feel to be back on stage?


Well, very happy, honestly, very fortunate. It was very difficult for everyone. For us it was also something that was complicated because our life has been to go on tour, always be on stage and then, well, to stop just like that. In all my life, this had never happened to me. Neither to my kids. So it has been very significant to come back successfully. The people and also the fans, of course, all lived their pandemic stories and they also wanted to return, like us to the stage, to see their artists. So we are very happy.


Yes it is, well for me, you know, I think for my dad it is even harder than for me, because my dad has been doing this for more time. But well, since I was born I have been joining  him on his tours, on his concerts, we have been backstage for around the last 9 years, we already began singing at my father’s shows, so yes, I think doing this every weekend for about 9 years, obviously, as they would say there in Mexico, it is going to ‘move the mat’ and the truth was, it was very difficult and I think more than anything, we learned to appreciate everything we were doing a little more and we really want to go back and see them again.


Well Arturo, it´s similar to my dad´s and my sister´s answer. For me, this was my life, I didn´t know anything else and it was very difficult to adapt to being in one place only and look for things in which I could grow. Later I found many [things] and it already was time to go back and I felt an appreciation for the life that we can live and for being able to get to know that many people and sing for them and entertain them, what I had never felt before, because I hadn´t realized what it was like not to have it. So being able to go back, I realized how lucky I was and how I’m not going to let those opportunities go.

Can you talk a little about what happens in one of your jaripeos and what the environment is like?


Of course. Well, it is an equestrian show. First of all it is more focused on that. The horses, the traditions of the fields taken to a show ground, see the spectacularity, let’s say, because we have lights and we bring the latest in technology and screens, special effects. And I repeat, all within a framework, of an equestrian show, a band music show, mariachi music. I bring my group too. So there are more than 35 musicians for three hours playing Mexican music and various numbers that happen within the show, among them Angela, Leonardo, my brother, Antonio Aguilar, son, and me in the musical.

But besides that there are many other things. It is a large production. We are more than 150 people and I repeat, it is three hours of great fun, of a lot of music, but we cannot call it a concert and we cannot call it a rodeo either. Nor calling it a jaripeo. It is more like an experience. It is an experience and it is something that I learned because I was born in a similar show, a show that my father and mother used to bring. My parents, who called it the National Mexican Festival and Rodeo Show.

And this was back in the 60s. I was born in the 68, it was my turn in the 70s to do this show with them, and then it was abandoned. There were others artists who did something similar on horseback, but until today this is the only show of its kind. There is no other, there is no other. So what are you going to offer people? Well, everything I just said. Besides that it is the only show of its kind.

Now, for the three of you, I want to know what it is like to be part of this family show and to work with family members and the team, which I think feel like family after so many years?


It is very nice to know that you are supported by your family and that you can share a bond, that there are many people who cant, who will not be able to live that. I realize that it is not normal for my father, Angela, my uncle and me to go out on stage. So it is very nice to be able to do that together and you can feel the energy behind what we are doing, because we are doing it with a lot of love, it is not for interest, it´s because honestly I feel, I´m not going to speak for my dad or my sister, but I feel that this show goes way beyond me, it goes way beyond Leonardo Aguilar. We´re representing Mexico and this is how I see my part of the show. So, to be able to be a part of, to be a part of a family, that is its mission, to represent Mexico and take it to the whole world, and that the people who can´t, who don´t know very well, go there and understand what it is about, what is the music, what is the culture, etc. I feel very proud to be able to be part of a family like that.


Well, I feel exactly the same as Leonardo. It is very difficult for everyone in the family to enjoy one thing that unites us as much as the music, as the show, how is it to bring this to people, right? Everyone in a family is taking care of certain things in the shows and that unite us a lot, we travel together and we are truly united. So doing a show with people you love it´s the best combination of doing what you like, with the people you like, with the people you love and well, it makes working not working, but rather an adventure that we do all together every minute.


It is very natural in my life, it has always been, it was always like that, always with the family, the work. With my parents, with my brothers at first, after a while, while my sons were very small, or hadn´t been born [yet] I was always alone. When they were little, I was alone. And after a farewell in 2006 that I organized for my father, they joined the show a little more seriously, so I started taking them with me to all the concerts.

And little by little they were integrated, so it is very natural for me to be with them on tour and to work, so natural in fact that I have to be reminding myself that at the end of the day it is a performance and that you have to take off your family hat and put on the other of the showman and the performer. So, it is natural that I could summarize everything that for me working with my family is natural. I don’t feel forced in any way, and I’m used to it. In fact, now working alone is kind of weird, after all the time we have been working together.

And I was curious if they had made any changes to the show, not just because of the pandemic, but if there were changes to the concepts and production elements.


Oh, yes indeed. We have many, many, many changes, changes of music, changes of horses, changes of the special numbers that go around jaripeo, change of lights. It is a new show design and a change in the content of what appears on the screens, what people see, how people share and how people interact is also different.

There are many things that keep them busy from the moment they enter the site, from the moment they enter the venue, it becomes like a world of jaripeo and “An Aguilar world”. Many things happen that we planned for nine months because we had time in the pandemic, because a new creative team was also incorporated that has worked with very important people, including Cirque du Soleil, they are Mexicans and created a whole new environment, a new environment for Jaripeo sin Frontera. We need to come back with something totally new and that’s what we did from the intro to the end. It is a show that maintains the same essence of the previous shows, with the family, Mexican music, horses, tradition, but now brings special effects, props and more visual content and new music. In other words, it is a 100 percent renewed Jaripeo sin Fronteras.

Pepe mentioned that “there is no other” show like this, so I wanted to know why it is important to each of you that this type of entertainment remains alive for the culture and for those who have not had the experience, or have not been to this kind of show.


Well, I think this is very important to me, because I feel that there are many people of the new generation who did not live certain things as they were popular in the Jaripeos, as my grandfather used to do them, and I believe that my father came up with this wonderful idea to bring a jaripeo which is something traditional, typical Mexican and make it new, modernize it, use the newest technology, the most listened music right now, which have been the most recent successes of my father, mine and those of Leonardo.

So this show has become a show for the whole family. It has entertainment for even a three-year-old who sees it and is going to understand it and is going to feel proud to be living what he is experiencing. Even a grandmother who remembers and has her memories of an old and ancient Jaripeo, and transports her to that experience, right? So we have everything. It is a super super complete show. And I think that for me what is super cool is that normally when you have been doing the shows for a long time and everything, then you already know the show and it is no longer so exciting. And I feel that in this jaripeo, the new one we have done four, but before we had done several concerts of jaripeo and I promise that every time you go it is a completely different experience. And that’s because everything is done really authentically and very real. So, this experience will be super cool and it shouldn´t be missed because we should all experience it.


I love doing this kind of show right now because we can. As I said before, representing Mexico in a way that is very worthy as it deserves, through music, horses, charro mounts and through the acts that Pepe Aguilar brings to Jaripeo sin Fronteras. It is a show that I’d be very proud if someone asked, “What is Mexico?” I could tell them that this is a little taste of the culture and I would be very proud of that. And it is very important for me to bring it to the United States and to take it to many cities in the United States.

That’s why Angela mentioned that not everyone could live it or have been able to or have the opportunity to return to Mexico. I see that a lot with the people who go, that it is a lot of emotion, like very nostalgic, I think. Remembering all of this that we bring to you, so I really like being able to be part of this jaripeo at this time in this country, because we can bring Mexico wherever we go.


But for me it is a show situation, just like ‘love is love’, ‘show is show’. I mean, it doesn’t matter what you bring. It comes a certain moment when one have to mode aside and put into perspective what is most important, within the show that we have, which is Mexico. In other words, no artist is more than the Mexican folklore, and the folklore of any country, including Mexico, does not expire.

It doesn’t expire and there are folklores vaster than others and the one we have in Mexico is super rich, very vast. Inside the food, the music, the colors and the variety.

So it is endless, we could feature from “Voladores de papantla” to monarch butterflies. From Aztec Gods to field tasks. Banda music to mariachi. So all of this is like an andless display. Meaning, it doesn’t have time or expire date.

What does it mean? Well it means the same as doing any other type of show, it’s a staging of a folkloric cultural concept, it’s a very modern staging of something very traditional. So, for me, as the creator of the concept and the one in charge of taking it everywhere, I do it with great pride to show new generations what they can be proud of. I mean, not showing them how big I am and how we sell tickets.

No, that is a consequence if you do things purely, if you do them innocently. In other words, that is, with innocence, with true conviction. Then. Mexico has a lot, a lot to show, so we bring a bit of that and we also put our way of seeing it, our way of loving it, our way of interpreting it. So, that’s why it’s worth bringing a show like this at this time that is breaking records within the category of music that we make – mariachi. Why is it breaking records? Because we are only presenting in arenas, and they are all filling up. So that means that it is more alive than ever, the pleasure is more alive than ever. One, the good show, two, the traditions of Mexico, three for its music and fourth all the way there, for the Aguilar family as well. But first of all, Mexico and the Latin American culture, because it is not just Mexico, but it is called Jaripeo sin Fronteras.

Well, a citizen of Mongolia is coming [too], I mean, he does an impressive act. It is a good mix, a good laboratory out there to show what we have in Jaripeo sin Fronteras.

The tour is coming back to the Bay Area on December the 5th at the SAP Center in San José.

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