Entertainment

Pepe Aguilar is putting Mexican culture at the front and center with 'Jaripeo: Hasta Los Huesos'

ANAHEIM, Calif. — (AP) — Pepe Aguilar feels like a superhero when he puts on his charro suit. But unlike Superman, Aguilar's power isn't supernatural or otherworldly; it's his love for his culture and his determination to celebrate Mexico through his art.

The Grammy-award winning artist says he's proud of his heritage and wants others to "feel proud of something so great." His latest tour is a testament to this, celebrating his family and the fans who watched him grow into a household legend across the Mexican diaspora.

Last Friday night, the Texas-born, Mexico-raised 55-year-old swooped into the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on top of a majestic white horse. Fans across generations waved Mexican flags, threw up their cowboy hats and let out thunderous applause as Aguilar rode throughout the concert arena and began to sing “100% Mexicano,” his first performance on the “Jaripeo: Hasta Los Huesos” tour.

The tour is a blend of both Mexican rodeo and concert performances from Aguilar's family. Fans can enjoy set lists from two of Aguilar's children, Leonardo Aguilar and Latin Grammy nominee Ángela Aguilar, along with Antonio Aguilar Jr., Aguilar's older brother.

In between each performance, audience members cheered at bull riding competitions, circus acts, folklórico dancers, and lasso throwers.

"Jaripeo: Hasta Los Huesos" continues Aguilar's previous tour, "Jaripeo Sin Fronteras, but takes on a new twist focusing on the Day of the Dead.

“I’m very proud of everything Mexico. The food, the colors, the traditions, the culture, the family, charrería, mariachi, tequila, don't get me started," Aguilar told The Associated Press, laughing, before the show. “And one of the most admirable traditions for me is the Day of the Dead.”

But don't you dare compare it to Disney's "Coco."

“‘Coco’ would be a little afraid of this Day of the Dead,” he says.

Aguilar's Day of the Dead celebration included an altar, marigolds, plenty of skulls, papel picado, and even a few heartfelt moments remembering his late parents, legendary musicians and actors Antonio Aguilar and Flor Silvestre. Aguilar and his brother grew up performing alongside their parents.

“What my father and mother started, back in the '60s, even before I was born, inspired what I’m doing here, but it's still very different,” he says.

Ángela Aguilar amped up the crowd right before her father's performance, riding in at full speed on top of a black horse, wearing a long black gown covered in marigolds and performing some fan-favorite hits including her cover of “La Llorona.”

“It’s pretty cool to work with your family, whether it’s an older generation or a younger one,” Aguilar says. “For me, it’s a privilege to be close to the people you love the most.”

For Aguilar, his work always goes back to culture and family. It’s not about him. It’s about amplifying the sounds that define his community.

“I mean, how can I ever compare my stupid, little irrelevant life to a bigger than anything culture and tradition as Mexican music?” he asks.

Fans of what's commonly referred to as the Aguilar Dynasty have loved Pepe since before he was born, proving it time and time again with sold-out shows and album sales. Aguilar says that looking into the audience — feeling their energy and watching people sing his lyrics — never gets old.

“Sometimes I got to think about something else in order not to cry,” he says. “I have to concentrate many, many, many times. I have to just go and focus on what I’m doing, otherwise the feelings kick in, and I wouldn’t be able to sing.”

On opening night, Aguilar repeatedly thanked the crowd and even took the time to announce that, with the next day's performance, he would become the artist who has played the most shows at the Honda Center.

“It fills me with a lot of pride that Mexican music is the genre that has presented itself the most at the Honda Center,” he said in Spanish as fans erupted in a loud cheer.

“It is for real that I’m proud. It’s for real that I know what I’m talking about,” Aguilar told the AP. “I’m a national charro champion, for Christ’s sake. I was born on a tour out of Antonio Aguilar and Flor Silvestre. So, yeah, I guess I am really Mexican. I’m very proud of what I show, and I want to show it more and more and more and more and more so people understand why I’m so proud.”

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