Marching to the same beat

She suits herself up, does the same for her drum, and then walks into line. Serious face, serious time. She can feel the scorching heat take over her body, without even a drink to keep hydrated.

For as long as she can remember, Ana Ortiz has been playing the drums in a Mexican Banda de Guerra (Military Band). Though it is something that requires discipline and may be difficult, especially in the heat, she does it in memory of her father who passed away last year.

“My purpose was to know where I came from, my roots, and (my dad) gave me that,” she said. Her father fought very hard to promote the Mexican culture in the U.S., and he felt that through these bands, he would be able to show people a small piece of Mexico.

In older times of war in Mexico, these Bandas de Guerra would march along with the soldiers, giving them commands. Now, they are kept more as a form of tradition.

“My mom always said he wasted so much money on it, but he wanted to do it,” she said. “He had so many dreams and this is the one that’s working.”

Her father invested all of his time and money into the bands. “All of his money went toward the 35 drums and 16 trumpets we have.” He had all of the drums and uniforms for the bands imported from Mexico.

Ortiz sees the importance of keeping the band alive, not only to keep her father’s legacy but also to keep the tradition. “When my dad passed away, it was just me teaching everyone how to play the drums,” she said.

She and her mother are the ones who organize everything for the parades. “We fundraise a lot (to get money for uniforms and traveling),” she said.

Though she is not sure where she wants to go to college, Ortiz knows she wants to keep playing. “I want to be a registered nurse in prison,” she said. Her dream school is La Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. One of the factors holding her back is that she doesn’t like how the band would be in Mexico. “Even though there’s bands there, it won’t be the same,” she said. “We fought so hard to get all the instruments and materials here and in Mexico it’s so easy. It’s hard here, but we make a point through it.”

If Ortiz does not go to the university in Mexico, she will attend Sac State. She doesn’t want to leave the band behind.

“I don’t want to stop the band, it was what me and my dad did,” she said. “When he passed away it became harder. I’d look to my left and my dad wouldn’t be there anymore.”