Cristina Cabrera is from Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz state in Mexico.
“I play the harp because, in my town, it is the most important instrument in Veracruz state,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera began studying the harp when she was 13. She started with traditional folk music from her country. She moved on to classical harp and then on to American and international music.
That’s what Petersburg will hear at her two concerts this weekend, a little of everything.
“This concert in Petersburg I play Mexican music, American music, and happy music,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera says learning the instrument was sometimes difficult but she enjoys it so much all the work has been worth it.
“I play with my heart. When you work or play with your heart. . .”
Cabrera struggles to find the right English word. “Heart? Heart. I’m sorry, heart. . . all is easy. (laughs).”
The guy laughing next to Cabrera is Bobby Dolan of Kupreanof. He’s the reason why Cabrera is here. Although Cabrera is well-traveled internationally she’s never been to Alaska. That is until she met Dolan.
“Man, that’s a long story,” Dolan said.
Here’s the gist. Cabrera is the niece of Dolan’s girlfriend. For the past 50 years, Dolan has been traveling to Mexico, enjoying the music there. One night in Xalapa he saw Cabrera play the harp at a recital. All the politicians were there including the Governor of Veracruz. Dolan bought her CD and brought it back to Alaska. That was 13 years ago.
“Then you fast forward 13 years to last year’s Little Norway Festival,” Dolan said, “and Evelyn was with me in my house. Evelyn is your partner? Yes, mi novia. And we’re just chatting about all the reasons why I like Xalapa.”
“And Evelyn looked at me like she’d just seen a ghost and said, ‘Cristina Cabrera is my niece,’ Dolan said. “And I said, “’Wow’, and I walked over to my humble little pile of CDs and I picked out Cristina’s and I put it on. And we sat there. Just stunned silence listening to it.”
Besides playing music several times throughout the weekend, Cabrera has other things she wants to try while she’s in town:
“And I want to fishing salmon, I want to eat salmon and I want to discover Alaska,” Cabrera said laughing.
Cristina Cabrera will be performing two concerts this weekend Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. at the Lutheran Church. It is free but they are asking for donations. Dolan says he will match the highest donation each night. Weather-permitting, Cabrera will also play at the beer garden on Saturday and on a flatbed truck in the parade.