Luther College Hosts Lecture on “Salsa Consciente” by Dr. Andrés Espinoza Agurto


Luther students and faculty attend the lecture by Assistant Professor of Music at Florida Atlantic University Andrés Espinoza Agurto, Tuesday, September 27. Photo courtesy of Bao Nguyen (‘26).

On Tuesday, September 27, Associate Professor of Music at Florida Atlantic University Andrés Espinoza Agurto gave a lecture based on one of his publications: “Salsa Consciente: Politics, Poetics, and Latinidad in the Meta-Barrio.” The lecture was held in Olin 102, where Agurto discussed the connection between Salsa music, Latino social consciousness and cultural identity. The event was sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement (CEPE) and was hosted by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Anita Carrasco.


Agurto first talked about the musical genre of Salsa in a general sense. Then he explained why it is related to the Salsa Consciente movement in the United States during the 1970’s. At the end of the lecture, Agurto played the song “Plástico” by Willie Colón & Ruben Blades, and translated the lyrics live to explain the song’s meaning. Throughout the entire presentation, Agurto emphasized to the audience in attendance that he never considers music and anthropology to be separate entities.


“To me, the people who make the music, the way they make music, and when they talk about music, it is all music,” Agurto said. “One thing is how it sounds, but also when you have people working in music, talking about music, it becomes part of the music.”


Agurto’s work focuses on the intersection of music and human activity, something that interested Carrasco, and inspired her to host this event. However, there was another connection between these two professors of anthropology, starting in Chile.


“We went to high school together in Chile,” Carrasco said. “We are friends on Facebook, and I noticed that he posted a book that he published. Then I just made the connection that we both ended up studying anthropology. So I just messaged him, ‘Hey, you published this book, it sounds very interesting, would you like to visit Luther?’”


As a part of Luther College’s Hispanic Heritage Month, this event underscored an importance in celebrating Latino culture and understanding the history of the Latino community. For Carrasco, she sees this is a great opportunity for the students and faculty to understand the interdisciplinary principle of learning. 


“My background is anthropology, so the ethnographic component is very interesting to me,” Carrasco said. “But I think that the topic he’s addressing in terms of identity politics and music as a form of assistance is of interest [to] a community that’s way beyond the anthropology program, so these are the kinds of lectures that truly reflect the spirit of interdisciplinary [learning] that we want to have.”


Agurto is very familiar with the academic community, having studied Afro-Cuban percussion at the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Cuba, and graduated summa cum laude from Berklee College of Music in Boston with a degree in jazz composition. He also holds an M.A. in music from the University of York in England and received his Ph.D. in musicology and ethnomusicology from Boston University. 


Now, Agurto is the composer, musical director, and percussionist of Ayé. For Agurto, this event was a chance for music learners to discover connections between  music and communities, especially in an academic setting. During the lecture, the attendees were educated about the connection between the Latino community and music. Agurto followed the method of celebration through education, and he hopes this lecture will contribute to a more diverse and respectful Luther community. 


“Particularly for the people who are doing anything related to music, we tend to consider these talks about music separate from the music itself,” Agurto said. “The more you think about it, you have to think about the people who live the music. People are not separate from music, and music doesn’t happen by itself. It’s something we also need to study.”


The next CEPE sponsored event will be held on October 11 and 12, when hip-hop artist and activist DJ Spooky visits Luther. The event is free and open to the public, and will be held at 7 p.m. in the main hall of the Center for Faith and Life (CFL) both nights.