Chicas Rockeras Sur Este: Taco Core + Mujer Empowerment

This past week was the first Chicas Rockeras Sur Este Los Angeles camp for girls ages 8-17, which took place at Ollin Prep academy, a school in Huntington Park.South East LA is an area between East LA and South Central, but it is an area of its own and definitely needs to be put on the map. I was a band manager and had been anticipating camp all year.

As soon as camp started, I knew this space was special because I was surrounded by women and young girls and spaces like that are rare. The papel picado had “SELA” on it, there was band posters with womxn leads all over the wall, and a little stage in the middle of the MPR. There was a mini assembly before class started (which included workshops, instrument practice, and band practice.) and we all sang along to the camp song: “Quien eres? Quien quieres ser? Ahora es la hora de poder! si se puede! (si se puede!) con chicas a tu lado, finalmento tu momento a llegado!” On the first day every participant in camp looked shy, but in contrast to the last time we sang the theme song on Saturday everyone was singing and dancing along, and even formed a pit.

The age groups were separated into two: 7-12 and 13-17. The younger groups were the “bidibidis” and the older group were the “bomboms.” After assembly, the bidi bidis and the bom boms were separated for the workshops and instrument practice.

Workshops were centered around topics such as: know your hustle, environmental justice, body positivity, oppression 101, screen printing, and women in music.

It was powerful to sit in on some of them and even help lead one, and see the girls ask questions and participate. Some people did not understand all these concepts until they get to college and here in my community young girls were able to participate in these conversations.

The instruments we had at camp were keyboards, bass, guitars, drums and vocals. Some of the band coaches were also instrument instructors and taught the girls the instruments.

Alice Bag was one of the vocal instructors and I was able to sit in and watch the class sing to Angel Baby or the way they sang it: Taco Baby.

During lunch, there was always performances and the girls were exposed to a lot of music with women leading. Afterwards the girls formed bands and we had band practice where the girls wrote their own songs and worked together to prepare for a showcase hosted on that Saturday.

Even on the last ending assembly, we sang the camp theme song and the girls were super into the second time and every time after that. I have never felt so comfortable to get in the pit and dance and shout as much as I did with Chicas Rockeras.

Saturdays showcase was much more than I expected. The venue filled up with family and friends anticipating the moment of seeing the growth of the Chicas. It was beautiful to see everyone high fiving and dancing to each bands songs, with lyrics that included: “Pick up your trash! pick up your trash!”, “We wont take it anymore, we have bodies we adore!” to “Trust dreams, trust your heart, trust your story!”

Marin and Mayra, comadres and two of the organizers of the camp, MCed the event.  At the end, we all sang the camp theme song one last time. “Who are you? Who do you wanna be? Today is your day listen and see. Yes we can! (yes we can!), with chicas on your side, your moment has finally arrived!”

The whole week was very TacoxCore and I definitely feel Chicas withdrawals. And I miss the high fives we all gave each other. SouthEast LA really needed this camp. Our communities don’t have access to a lot of programs for youth. This camp has definitely been the most healing space I have ever been a part of, especially because girls really felt empowered through the end of it, and many tears were shed all week. I can’t wait for camp next year and continue the growth and empowerment of girls.

Chicano Batman at Santa Monica Pier

Every year, the Santa Monica Pier hosts their Twilight Concert series showcasing an array of musical artists from all types of genres. For this 31st year anniversary, the Twilight Concerts’ lineup includes musical artists such as Real Estate, Sister Nancy, and Ariel Pink. Chicano Batman performed and opened the stage on July 23rd with their retro ruffled suits and psychedelic funk before the headliners, Cubanismo.

The quartet, featuring Carlos Arevalo (guitar), Bardo Martinez (lead vocals, keyboard, guitar), Eduardo Arenas (bass, vocals), and Gabriel Villa (drums, percussion), put on an amazing show encompassing a broad collection of Latin sounds from past generations rejuvenated to fit the present. With their surf-rock Cumbia, romantica-style melodies, and Colombian rhythms, Chicano Batman pays homage to influential legendary Latin groups such as Los Lobos, Los Mirlos, and Los Angeles Negros. Their bilingual transitions during sets speak to the legacy of the Spanish language musical heritage of the United States which continues to diversify the dance floor and concert spaces with a bit of multiculturalism. Bossa Nova is also a major musical influence on the band’s fusion of Portuguese, samba, and jazz. But more than a tribute band, Chicano Batman is on “a mission to bring the overlooked to the forefront” as they state on their website.

In fact, Chicano Batman’s logo pieces together the United Farm Workers’ eagle designed by Caesar Chavez in the 1960s and the batman symbol. Together these symbols represent the band’s allegiance to the Latin community both through pop-culture and political cultural identity. Through their lyricism and rhythm, Chicano Batman expresses the daily experiences of modern day Latin Americans, presenting themselves as an example. Their music stems from their own living experiences and memories within the Los Angeles community. Thus, each track generates a sense of nostalgia, which is a common response to most postmodern art forms. Not only do they borrow from past traditions in both their music and style, but they seek to immortalize the experience of growing up to the sounds of their parents’ music. It is for this reason the band combines these styles for their live audience throughout local Los Angeles. A passerby might say they sound different and for others, psychedelic Chicano rock. Whichever genre they fit, Chicano Batman will not be mitigated to menial parts of the record store. They are a group of passionate Latinos from East Los Angeles who appreciate and validate a multicultural community through language and art.

Chicano Batman’s latest album is titled Cycles of Existential Rhyme and you can catch them at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on August 28th.