Members of the band El Pariseo know merengue and salsa music provides a joyous sound and want to take that sound and allow people to relax and feel happy while listening to them perform.
That’s why they call themselves El Pariseo, Spanish for “party band,” says member Ernesto Borrero. The music, he said, “has a particular rhythm. It makes people dance. It’s unexplainable, overwhelming, joyous.”
Borrero, a Newton County Sheriff Deputy, is a singer and percussionist, playing maracas, güira, congas and timbales. Musicians Rafael Gracia and Jocquay Branklyn round out the group, which will make its local debut on Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Listening Room above the Irish Bred Pub on the Historic Downtown Covington Square.
The show, “Merengue and Mojitas,” runs from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $15 for reserved seating. They can be purchased online at https://www.freshtix.com/events/el-pariseo or at the door.
Forming the group
Borrero, who has played in different groups throughout the metro Atlanta area, met Branklyn while the two performed in the same band.
“We’ve been friends ever since,” Borrero said. “I called him and said, ‘I’m going to start a band,’ and he was all for it.”
Gracia was playing guitar and singing ballads at a restaurant in Cobb County when Borrero met him. When asked if he wanted to join a salsa band, Borrero said, Gracia “was excited about it.”
The gig at Irish Bred Pub will be the first public appearance of El Pariseo, though the group has posted videos on YouTube. Borrero will sing mostly in Spanish, but will perform some English songs that have been converted into salsa, like “Lady,” and “You’re My Everything.”
They are also hoping to record and film the performance at The Listening Room. The group also plays at weddings, parties and other events.
Honoring Latino heritage
“Merengue and Mojitos” comes near the end of celebrations of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, which Borrero appreciates.
Borrero is proud of his Puerto Rican heritage. Born and raised in New York City, he spent 10 years working in different fields, including security and hospitality in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s where he met his wife, Amy, whose family moved to Covington from Missouri.
“When I left New York to go to Puerto Rico, my Spanish was poor,” Borrero said. “My first language was English. Everything changed when I went to Puerto Rico. I was embarrassed to speak — but you have to learn to speak the language.”
Being in a position where he knew how it felt to be forced to learn a language he barely understood has made him sensitive to the Spanish-speaking people he meets through his work with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office. Borrero often serves as a translator when needed in the courtroom or in the driver’s services office.
He’s called in to help translate information to a defendant during court cases, he said, explaining charges, the amount of the fines or an eviction notice.
“At times, it’s hard and you have to tell [someone] in Spanish they’re going to be evicted,” he said. As a law enforcement agent, he does not take sides. “You represent the law.”
Helping people out
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy the work. “I do a lot of public relations with people,” he said. “I’ve given advice to juveniles and have had them come back and see me, telling me they straightened out because of the advice I gave.
“I just like helping people out,” he said.
He said people often make the assumption that because someone speaks Spanish, they’re Mexican. “People don’t know the different – Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Guatemalans, Dominicans, Columbians, Mexicans – they are [from] different cultures.
“Just try to relate to people; let them understand — not because they’re in America, but because they need help,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they’re scared, too.
“Latin [people] are very hard workers,” he said. “They come here to work and there is a lot of discrimination. They just want what everyone else wants — a nice life, a good job.”
Borrero has been with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office since 2008. Before that, he was a detention deputy and later, in 1999 and 2000, a jailer in Newton County. Four years later, he went to training and went into law enforcement, serving in Putnam, Morgan, Green, Barrow and Clayton counties and in Social Circle.