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International performers showcase musical talent at GTMO

International artists showcase musical talent for troopers at GTMOEdit

Young voices, strumming acoustic guitars and the clapping of hands rang out alongside the Morale, Wellness & Recreation Library for Joint Task Force Guantanamo and U.S. Naval Station Troopers on July 22 and 23. The Castillo Kids, all teens, played everything from classic Mexican folk songs to country favorites and even Disney classics, appealing to a variety of musical preferences.

The Castillo Kids, a four person musical ensemble, play guitars, vihuela, violin and saxophone – with every song having a Mariachi or Mexican twist that is indicative of their style.

The Castillo Kids engage the crowd in ways that other musicians visiting Guantanamo Bay have not otherwise done.

“I led the Congo line, I’ve never done that before,” said Pfc. Jonathan Portillo. “That and doing a [grito] call, something you do at home during parties and gettogethers, that was great.”

The Castillo Kids’ voices and smiling demeanor cross cultural barriers. The audience of Filipino, Latino, White and Jamaican members, bob their heads and clap along to the melodies of the music. Many people brought their tablets and phones to record the show. A few younger members jumped up to participate and sing along to Disney’s “Frozen” song favorite “Let It Go.”

Joey Castillo, the band’s senior member, a 19-yearold, said playing for the Troopers was an incredible opportunity.

“It’s incredible to be out here in Guantanamo Bay playing for the service members,” said Joey Castillo. “It’s an honor to do something like this. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”

The four teens have already made a name for themselves, having performed on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live”, “George Lopez Show” and “Good Morning America.” One of their members, Jessica Castillo, performed in Japan. Their show at GTMO added another milestone in their young careers, officially making them all international artists.

Three of the teens are siblings and the fourth is a neighbor, Kirkland Jackson, whose talents the musical family soon adopted. He plays the vihuela and sings.

Jackson is thrilled to be performing here.

“Who gets to go to Guantanamo Bay and play for the [Troopers]?” said Jackson, an 18-year-old. “There’s no higher honor than being able to play for those defending our freedom. When I go back home, and all my friends talk about what they did during the summer, I can say I went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to play for the [Troopers].”

“A lot of people say that they’re lucky,” said Joe Castillo Sr., father of the Castillo Kids. “No one really understands the amount of work they put in everyday.

The Castillo Kids are fifth generation musicians on their father’s side said Pat Castillo, mother of the Castillo Kids. It’s amazing to see how far they’ve come compared to where they were nine years ago and seeing where they are today, she said.

Thanks to all their hard work,

For some JTF Troopers, the Castillo Kids’ visit was simply a reminder of a place back home.

Spc. Daniella Paz said it was a good break from the regular day-to-day activities at traditional GTMO venues. “They’re amazing,” said Paz “They’re bringing great vibes to the island. They’re so amazing. They’re alive and they’re dancing, they’re really talented. We need more stuff like this.”

After some time, audience members began to dance to the music.

“It’s great, I love it,” said Portillo. “It was fun. I think they’re phenomenal. I’m so glad they brought them here.”

Their visit was a simple break in normal operations for JTF and NAVSTA Troopers. It allowed for an appreciation of a different kind of music by some very young and aspiring talent.

Article and photos by Sergeant Christopher Garibay