A week or so before the Sueños Music Festival, many took to social media to sell their tickets expressing their concerns over a single stage. Even as many tried to sell their tickets, the two-day festival saw over 45,000 attendees. As we reflect on the first Latinx urban music festival hosted in Grant Park over Memorial Day weekend, the overwhelming sentiment is that Latinos know how to throw a party.
The festival grounds surrounding the single-stage set-up featured local Chicago vendors like Ponce, Pinches Miches and others. From the creators of Baja Beach Festival, Sueños proved to be a dedication to Latinx Chicagoans. Occasionally mariachi performances by the all-girl ansamble, Mariachi Sirenas, kept the entertainment alive outside the stage.
“I think it definitely has a very vibrant feel but it’s also very modern—they paid a lot of attention to detail,” said Jon Lopez, Little Village resident and festival attendee.
Lopez, who came with his girlfriend, Lucia Sanchez, said he would have loved to see more screens in a fashion similar to Baja Beach Fest. What did make it from Baja to the Chi was Dj Fredy Fresco. “Dj Fredy Fresco, he just kept the party going all day, all night,” said Lopez.
Fresco, who is from Rosarito, Mexico, is the official Dj and host for Baja Fest and now Sueños.
“It’s a lot of preparation, of knowing what not to play, what you can play, what will work, what keeps people engaged,” said Fresco in between sets describing his preparation for Sueños.
The energy and enthusiasm from the crowd was alive and well through the entirety of the festival. Mayor Lori Lighfoot addressed the crowd on the first day, giving a special shout out to the only Chicago talent in the lineup, Dj Miriam.
“It’s insane. It’s insane. It’s so surreal. Seeing people out there as well ready to come and see me…They have signs for me, it’s just so incredible, I’m so grateful for it. It’s so fulfilling. It just reassures me that what I’m doing, it’s all worth my while,” said Miriam.
Miriam dj’s at local venues and will be part of Chicago’s Mas Flow Reggaeton Fest lineup later this summer. She’ll also be going on tour across the country with entertainment company, V5 Group, for their all-girl reggaeton pop-up series, Sorry Papi.
“I’m overwhelmed to have so much love and support, and I can’t thank people enough for support.”
Overall, attendees felt a sense of community and belonging with an artist lineup that included not only urban artists, but also artists representing the Mexican Regional music genre like Fuerza Regida and Natanael Cano.
“Regional music kind of just created itself during the pandemic,” said Fresco. “A lot of grupos started coming out like Grupo Firme blew up, Fuerza Regida blew up, Natanael Cano, he really blew up.”
Sueños bought out Chicago’s Latinx community, the second-largest racial group in the city with around 75% being of Mexican descent. Despite the overwhelming makeup being Mexican, other Latin American nationalities, like Puerto Ricans and Colombians, still showed out emphasizing the transnationality of the two genres that shared the Sueños stage.
“You have Cubans and Puerto Ricans and all kinds of people out there singing that shit,” said Fresco referencing Mexican Regional music.
Mexican Regional music has exploded in recent years with the help of subgenres like corridos tumbados. Corridos tumbados or corridos verdes employ the traditional sounds of corridos partnered with lyrics about cannabis. This new take on corridos has seen growing numbers in streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. Playlists on Spotify like “Corridos Perrones” have garnered over 1.4 million followers around the globe.
Both Mexican Regional and reggaeton have taken over international stages often influencing each other. Natanael Cano infamously collaborated with reggaeton superstar Bad Bunny releasing ‘Yo Soy El Diablo’ remix in 2019. And while reggaeton has become globally recognized with the rise of Bad Bunny, it’s undeniable that its afro-roots and Black heritage are notable for the genre’s success.
The festival featured Sech, El Alfa, Ozuna and Tokisha, Afro-Latinx reggaeton artists, who are among the few breaking barriers in the white-Latinx dominated genre.
Puerto Rican artists like Wisin & Yandel also graced the stage, old school reggaeton artists that set the foundation for the genre today. An indisputable fan favorite, however, was Ozuna that closed out day one with fireworks decorating the city skyline.
“Fue un concierto completo prácticamente lo que lanzó el, fue el único que hizo eso,” said festival goer, Klaein Bert about Ozuna who he thinks basically put on a whole concert.
Bert, who is originally from Venezuela, came to Sueños with his cousin Jesus Gil. Gil was particularly looking forward to Myke Towers.
“It’s a different vibe, you already know, Latinos [are a] different vibe from anything you’re used to,” said Gil.
Many like Gil are anticipating round two.
“It has to be a yearly thing, no matter what.”
Jocelyn Martinez-Rosales is a Chicago freelance multimedia journalist who covers POC communities in the city through a social justice lens.