A Musical Journey of Mexican Composer Juventino Rosas

Juventino Rosas was one of the favorite musicians of Carmen Romero Rubio, wife of Porfirio Díaz, to whom the Mexican composer dedicated some of his works, and even Europeans fought over the authorship of his music.

A Musical Journey of Mexican Composer Juventino Rosas
Juventino Rosas, author of Sobre las olas, bequeathed more than 90 musical pieces. Image: Cultura

Mexico, throughout its history, has had an important musical production, which allows denoting the cultural characteristics of the population settled throughout the length and breadth of the country through time; Mexican music is recognized worldwide for the beauty of its construction in melody, harmony, and rhythm.

In the field of classical music, great composers have emerged in Mexico, who have left an important legacy in the realization of what is known as chamber music. One of the most beautiful works, internationally recognized, is the waltz entitled "Sobre las olas" (On the waves) by the Mexican composer and musician Juventino Rosas, a native of Guanajuato, born on January 25, 1868, in the bosom of a family with economic precariousness.

José Juventino Policarpo Rosas Cadenas was of Otomí origin; his fascination for music was fundamentally due to the instruction of his father José de Jesús Rosas, who was a military man who fought against the French army during the time of the Empire of Maximilian of Habsburg; from his father, he received his first instruction along with his brother Manuel and his sister Patrocinio. To help with the household economy, his father organized a musical trio with his two sons; Manuel and Juventino played the guitar and violin respectively, and he played the harp.

It is known by information from the Society of Authors and Composers of Mexico (SACM), that the family trio moved to Mexico City in 1875 to try their luck in the artistic milieu in which they sought to excel. However, after the death of his older brother in a fight, the group disintegrated and Juventino Rosas joined the orchestra of singer Ángela Peralta, with whom he toured the country. After the singer's death and the immediate disintegration of the orchestra, he returned to Mexico City to begin his formal musical studies.

In the year Juventino Rosas began his studies at the National Conservatory, his father and younger sister died, an event that forced him to abandon his studies. After a failed attempt to enlist in the army, the young composer had a great opportunity when he participated in a festival held at the National Theater, which commemorated the Battle of Puebla and was attended by President Porfirio Díaz; after his brilliant participation, he earned work opportunities with important benefactors.

In 1888 Juventino Rosas re-entered the National Conservatory but had to leave it soon after due to his economic precariousness. In 1891 he composed his masterpiece Sobre las Olas (On the Waves), however, this piece did not bring him the money and fame he deserved at the time, but he was later internationally recognized. Juventino Rosas is the author of a well-known waltz called "Carmen", in honor of the dictator's wife, who in gratitude gave him a grand piano as a gift.

Among his most famous works are "El sueño de las flores", "Julia", "Lazos de amor", "Salud y pesetas", among others. In 1894 Juventino Rosas embarked with a zarzuela company to the island of Cuba; his health was considerably undermined due to acute myelitis. Attended at the Casa de Salud Nuestra Señora del Rosario, he finally died on July 9, 1894, at the early age of 26.

Juventino Rosas was buried on the island of Cuba, but his body was repatriated in 1909 due to negotiations with the Mexican government. In 1939 his remains were exhumed and placed in the Memorial of Illustrious Persons.

Juventino Rosas - Sobre las Olas - On the Waves