The melodic battle of the Armed Forces

MEXICO CITY ( For the 66 military musicians who graduated from the best music academies in Mexico, 40 men and 26 women, it is not about fighting the violence that proliferates in our country with weapons, but with their musical instruments.

We are talking about the Symphony Orchestra of the Secretariat of National Defense (OSSDN), founded in March 1993 by its then director, Raúl García Velázquez, an auxiliary musician lieutenant who started the musical group as a Camerata of the Mexican Army.

In 2005, the OSSDN changed its name to what we know it today, whose main baton is the first captain and musician Raúl Tito Peña Lira, who assures that the objective of the orchestra is to show “the other face” that the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena):

“Since one of the general missions of the army is to carry out civic actions and social works that tend to the progress of the country, that is where we also participate by performing concerts in close proximity to the people and bringing art and culture to the people of Mexico.

“Historically, the governments of the United Mexican States and their armies have been very supportive when disasters occur and we have to help the population. Although we are musicians by training, the Mexican Army permanently trains us in the handling of weapons, human rights, search for people, parachuting, training with dogs and self-defense, among others. We are always prepared in case it is necessary to support the DN-III Plan in the event of a disaster”.

Interviewed in the offices of the lavish military unit to the west of the Mexican capital, Peña Lira highlights:

La Sedena also has a mariachi, a Folkloric Ensemble, a Trio, 12 regional bands distributed by each military region of the country and even an important jazz ensemble. In such a way that the interest of our authorities has always been to promote culture, classical music and popular music, for the well-being of the elderly, adults, youth and children.”

In 2005, after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico in the United States, the Mexican Army moved soldiers and mobile kitchens to support those affected in Louisiana, a state with a proverbial musical tradition.

In gratitude, that country sent musicians from New Orleans to Mexican lands to offer a concert at the Military Medical School. It was then that interest arose in creating the jazz ensemble with six musicians, under the direction of Lieutenant Salvador Patiño Lara, a saxophonist.

“I had the honor of being the director of that ensemble from 2011 to 2015,” says Peña Lira, who considers the Palacio de Bellas Artes one of the favorite venues of the OSSDN where they commemorated the 107th anniversary of the Armed Forces (www.gob/ sedena).

It is remarkable to see how the orchestra under the command of the first musician captain presents public programs where “El Huapango de Moncayo” stands out; the “Danzón number 2”, by Arturo Márquez and songs from popular culture such as “Listón de tu Pelo”, by Los Ángeles Azules, or “La Dosis Perfecta” by Panteón Rococó.

He concludes by praising the Mariachi de la Sedena, directed by the eldest Pablo del Rosario Castro, because “he usually likes his versions of memorable typical songs such as ‘La Malagueña’, ‘Deja que Salga la Luna’, ‘Tu voz’ and ‘De qué way I forget you’.”

Thus, Raúl Tito Peña Lira prides himself on showing his love for the Mexican people “and not just defending citizens and providing them with security, but also giving our nation the best of our weapons: the love of music.”