Sergio Alberto Ortega Álvarez is a 33-year-old musician and stringed instrument maker, who is located in the small community of Ajusco, in the far south of the Federal District of Mexico City. Although born and raised here, Sergio’s specialty is the traditional music of the state of Veracruz and the Huasteca region, which extends from the north of this state.
Sergio began playing music when he was a child, and quickly developed a preference for traditional music. He has family roots both in the Hidalgo state portion of the Huasteca on his father’s side and a connection with southern Veracruz through his mother’s father, home of Son Jarocho. He belongs to a Huasteca musical group which plays mostly in Mexico City, with invitations to other parts of Mexico, mostly to Huasteca festivals in the region.
To state that he is a blind musician who plays both the Huasteca and Veracruz jaranas, guitar and requinto (a small guitar) may not be impressive, as there are a number of famous blind musicians. However, it is another thing to state that he also makes and repairs these and other stringed instruments…
Sergio was born blind with music coming into his life early. He became a proficient musician but wanted to learn how the instruments he plays were made. He stated that people thought that it was not possible for a him to learn to make instruments because of the need for precise measurements. However, about eight years ago he found one of several instrument makers who were willing to teach him apprentice-style, adapting crafting methods to being touch-centered, rather than sight-centered. He has since continued to develop his craft, from buying specialized tools such as a tape measure that speaks the measurements to continuing to find new ways to make his works.
Sergio specializes in the same instruments that he plays, jaranas, requintos and guitars, selling most of his work through attendance at traditional music festivals in Mexico. He also uses these festivals to network with others interested in preserving and promoting traditional Mexican folk music to find long-term clients.
The craftsman’s work has been featured in the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada, and on the National Polytechnic Institute’s channel Canal 11.
He can be contacted on Facebook at Super Jaranas Ortega and reached by cell at +52 (55) 10 11 20 19
Photographs courtesy of Sergio Ortega