In 1926 Juan, Vidal and Pánfilo Barrientos Hernández arrived with their mother Alejandra Hernández from Aguascalientes, México. The brothers originated from Haciendo de Los Campos, Zacatecas, México. They were one of the first Mexican musical families to carry on a legacy of musicians for generations in South Omaha.
The Barrientos Brothers come from a long line of family musicians that date back to the late 1800s. In this photo are the uncles of Juan, Vidal and Pánifilo that were the brothers of their mother, Alejandra Hernández. The one on the left is playing the violin and the one on the right appears to be playing a bajo sexto. This photo was taken in México.
Juan Barrientos Hernández
South Omaha’s “Music Man” was born in Zacatecas, México, in 1902. Twenty years later, Juan was working in South Omaha meat packing houses, making musical instruments and playing traditional Mexican music at house parties and social establishments. With his brothers Vidal and Pánfilo, Juan founded a rich and lasting musical heritage. While his favorite instrument was the violin, Juan’s natural gift of music extended to others such as the accordion, harmonica and guitar. Although grounded in tedious and wrenching meat packing house work, Juan’s life was underscored through the freedom of musical expression. He was a true ‘maestro’.
Juan Barrientos Hernández married Theresa Medina in 1938. They had thirteen children: John Jr., Mary, Rita, Epifanio Jesus ‘Pipes’, Ignacio ‘Nacho’, Alejandro ‘Alex’, Margaret ‘Margie’, Richard ‘Ritchie’, Cecelia ‘Sheila’, Alfredo ‘Alfred’, Ronaldo ‘Ronnie’, Rebecca ‘Becky’, James ‘Jim’, also had three more children that were born in México: Trinidad ‘Trini’, Miguel and Esperanza. They spent most of their lives in South Omaha at 5019 S. 22nd. Street.
Today, Juan’s descendants continue the musical traditions he founded through community activities such as nonprofit organizations, entertainment and Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
Vidal Barrientos Hernández
Vidal, the middle Barrientos brother, was 19 years old when he crossed the U.S. border at Brownsville, Texas, with his younger brother Pánfilo in 1926. He was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, in 1907. In South Omaha, Vidal worked with his brothers in the meat packing houses. During the off-season, they traveled to Scottsbluff for the beet harvests. Vidal played the mandolin and maracas and also sang. He enjoyed entertaining at house parties and always welcomed members of the Mexican community for traditional hospitality and food in his home on South 23rd Street. Vidal was a warm soul called “Pete” and was known to make the famous cackle of Woody Wood Pecker.
Vidal Barrientos Hernández married Eduarda Rodríguez in Omaha, NE in 1937. They had six children: Dolores ‘Dee’, Mary Louise ‘Lou’, Rose ‘Rosie’ Alexandra, Lucy Elizabeth, Carlos and Lawrence. The family grew up at 5228 S. 23rd Street where they would have home gatherings and eventually have their grandchildren over every Sunday for home-cooked meals and bonding. Eduarda’s birth certificate says she was born on the Sante Fe tracks in Galesburg, IL on October 13, 1912.
Pánfilo Barrientos Hernández
Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, in 1912, Pánfilo came to America with his brother, Vidal, in 1926, then re-united with third brother, Juan, in South Omaha. The Rudolph Valentino look-alike was quiet, warm and more reserved than his brothers. Pánfilo played the tambourine, maracas and castanets—he also sang and danced. He performed at community celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day. Other performance venues included Joslyn Art Museum, the Polish Home (now El Museo Latino) and the German American Hall (now Sokol Auditorium). House parties were the most frequent and popular places where traditional music flowed from a variety of instruments, some hand-made. At these parties, Pánfilo displayed his love for culinary arts, cooking for those who gathered.
Pánfilo Barrientos Hernández married Felipa ‘Chonita’ Ramírez in Omaha, NE in 1938. They had seven children: Robert, Joe, Guadalupe, Carmen, Esperanza, Virginia and Eva.
Arturo Huerta, nicknamed ‘turtle’, was born in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1923. Arturo’s love of music can be described as a family inheritance. After a tour of duty with the Navy in Spokane, Washington, Arturo settled in South Omaha and married Trinidad ‘Trini’, Juan Barrientos’ daughter. He became the Choir Director for Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. At house parties, Livestock Exchange Building, Polish Home, German American Hall and other South Omaha establishments, Arturo played traditional Mexican music, as well as current American favorites. He joined emerging orchestras, playing the guitar and singing—he loved to dance. Arturo made the transition from traditional Mexican genres to pop and modern classics.
Arturo Huerta married Trinidad ‘Trini’ Barrientos in Omaha, NE in 1943. They had six children: Michael John, Adele, Linda Marie, Arthur, Juanita Jay and Robert.