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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Cuban duo hits La Cocina

    Duo Libre. Yalsel Mendoza Patterson (left) and Alejandro Ochoa de Miguel.
    Duo Libre. Yalsel Mendoza Patterson (left) and Alejandro Ochoa de Miguel.

    You don’t walk into La Cocina the way you’d walk into a regular restaurant. You’re more likely to happen upon it — a secret garden nestled in the mess of one-way streets that is downtown Tucson. It feels familiar, you realize, making your way across the expansive, Christmas-light-spangled patio toward the door to the brick-floored cantina. It’s a greenhouse, maybe, or a shed. Label-less bottles dot the windowsills, and all of the furniture is made for outdoors. Still, the ambiance hits you like a sudden-onset vacation. And then you realize why.

    Yasel Mendoza-Patterson is singing, and Alejandro Ochoa de Miguel is playing guitar. Each Saturday, Duo Libre’s music washes over the tea-light-studded tables of La Cocina, flavoring the air with a few hours’ worth of Latin love songs. And though the two hail from Cuba, they couldn’t look more at home; you can tell they’ve been doing this for a while.

    “”We met each other more than 12 years ago,”” Mendoza-Patterson said.

    “”And played together for more than six years,”” Ochoa de Miguel finished.

    As part of a famous quartet in Cuba, the two left home for Mexico in hopes of eventually making their music heard in the United States.

    “”We had our own dreams, our own personal dreams, our own musical, professional dreams, and we still believe that the States is one of the best places to achieve them,”” Mendoza Patterson said.  

    After seven months in Mexico and now nearly three years in the United States, the two have established themselves in Arizona.

    “”You can see a lot of foreign people; you can speak Spanish. The Americans are used to hanging out with this kind of people … it’s good for us,”” Mendoza-Patterson said. “”Cuba is totally different. You can be very famous in your country or you can be famous abroad, but it’s hard to leave, you know. It’s hard to have a good life.””

    Though they love what they do, the duo’s path has not been simple.

    “”The art … the music is a very hard way. It’s a road,”” Mendoza-Patterson said. “”We just try to put our music into people’s hearts.””

    But with their regular engagement at La Cocina and another each Thursday in Tubac, Duo Libre is gaining attention. Weekly, they play music for spellbound restaurant-goers who, according to the La Cocina staff, make videos on their cell phones and seek to buy the duo drinks. Mendoza-Patterson and Ochoa de Miguel hope that this is a sign they’ll be able to make their biggest dreams a reality sometime soon.

    “”We would love to make an album with our own songs and travel around the world,”” Mendoza-Patterson said.

    For now, though, they’re glad to be doing regularly what they do best.

    “”It’s beautiful. When we play outside, many people come to hear us,”” Ochoa de Miguel said. “”They usually don’t understand our lyrics, but they feel our music. It’s something interesting for us and for them, too.””

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