Pueblos Mágicos

Orchestration: fl, cl, vln, vc, pno

Year composed: 2017

Duration: 10’

Commission: Patronato del Centro Cultural Roberto Cantoral A.C.

Premiere: October 21, 2017. Centro Cultural Roberto Cantoral; Mexico City, Mexico. Onix Ensamble.


Program Note

Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Villages) describes the daily life in a Mexican pueblo. Its 24-hour depiction, in three movements, is a metaphor for the circle of life, where all things live, die, and live again.

The smell of morning dew at the “Madrugada” (“First Light”) marks the beginning of a new day in a Mexican pueblo. Its hardworking people find their rhythm in their daily chores.

In the afternoon, a rustic violin awakes the pueblo from their traditional siesta, playing “Canciones Lejanas” (“Distant Songs”). Gradually, other musicians join in, singing Mexican boleros and rancheras about love and loss. They joyfully serenade the pueblo, while its people conclude their daily activities and gather around the plaza before “La Fiesta” (“The Party”) begins.

At nightfall, a trumpet fanfare announces the fireworks display that will start the celebration. After the show, the pueblo’s brass band plays its energizing tunes that create an infectious dance atmosphere. Couples dance, in a close embrace, and people sing along with the music, as night turns into day and the life cycle begins anew.

Pueblos Mágicos is dedicated to the memory of my close friend Ernesto López, whose untimely passing occurred as I was sketching the first ideas for this piece. Ernesto was a charming and loving man, who always wore a contagious smile, and cherished his friendships. This work honors his cheerful personality, his fondness for banda music, and his ability to turn any gathering into a memorable fiesta.

—Juan Pablo Contreras


September 15, 2018. Alfred Newman Recital Hall; Los Angeles, California, United States. Emma McCartney, flute; Yasmina Spiegelberg, clarinet; Maia Jasper-White, violin; Ben Lash, cello; Alin Melik-Adamyan, piano.

July 12 & 14, 2018. Concordia Lutheran Church; San Antonio, Texas, United States. Cactus Pear Music Festival.

January 16, 2018. Museo de Arte de Sinaloa; Sinaloa, Culiacán, Mexico. Sinaloa Symphony Orchestra Musicians.

January 7, 2018. Athenaeum Music and Arts Library; San Diego, California, United States. Noise Ensemble.

 October 21, 2017. Centro Cultural Roberto Cantoral; Mexico City, Mexico. Onix Ensamble.


“Pueblos Mágicos tells the story of one day in a Mexican town. Moods shift throughout the movements, from calm, atmospheric dawn, then a “rustic” violin awakening the hard-working townsfolk from their siestas, to a brassy fanfare announcing evening fireworks in the plaza.”
Nicholas Frank
The Rivard Report
“Pueblos Mágicos is a pleasing homage to the everyday rhythms and customs of a small rural village.”
Paul Muller
Sequenza 21
“Pueblos Mágicos is an impressionistic piece in three sections portraying a Mexican daybreak, a post-siesta afternoon and a nighttime fiesta. The dancers took the stage – two women and two men – pointing upward to admire imaginary fireworks as they performed. The musicians had fireworks of their own, as when San Antonio Symphony principal clarinet Ilya Shterenberg and flutist Stephanie Jutt combined to sound like trumpets. Pianist Scott Cuellar reached inside the Steinway’s open lid to strum the strings like a guitar. Contreras, the festival’s composer in residence, suggested in remarks that San Antonio perhaps had been a “pueblo mágico” three centuries ago.”
David Hendricks
The Hour