illustration of young girl facing laughter

Se te hizo chistoso cuando….

Una riza debe de consolar el alma de todo lo malo en la vida. En cambio, a veces sin reconocerlo, las personas tristemente usan sus rizas para burlar y aislar a los demás. 

Our laughs say so much. Rather than console people’s souls from all the negativity in their lives, sadly, people use their laughs to mock and isolate others. 

To this day, I ask myself why was it funny when you heard me ask a question in Spanish to our first-grade teacher? Were you amused by the way my bilingual tongue could roll its “r’s?” Did you think it was okay to laugh at those who were gifted with the ability to speak in anything but what was normal to you? When I was younger, your laughs would have broken the thin sheet of ice that covered the entirety of my heart, but today, I can simply tell you that each new comment brings a layer of protection from your witty laugh. My dual identities were not something meant to be turned on and off, like a light switch for your amusement each time I translated your dirty words. 

Was it funny that as an adult, you realized that you had no direct connection to the language of your ancestors? Meanwhile, having been raised speaking Spanish, developing into Spanglish, and tracing the sounds of Nahuatl from my parents’ lips, I understood the importance of sembrando las semillas nativas de mis raíces into the diverse communities I have proudly worked with.

I can assume by your jokes that it was funny when you saw the holes in our jeans patched up with extra fabric at our knees. Did you feel the need to mock us by showing off your brand new clothes every school year in comparison to our hand-me-downs? Maybe you were just jealous that we had more fun on the playground, causing the denim at our knees to wear out. Could it be that your mamá never taught you the value of a good pair of jeans, passed down from sibling to sibling with the help of a sewing needle? Or what about the looks our parents received upon appearing at parent-teacher conferences, award assemblies, or meetings after work, not being able to change out of their stained and dirt-filled clothing after a long day of agricultural work? 

Now tell me, why was it funny to poke at the scar on my right arm from a shot that identified I was born in Mexico? Was it really all that fun to poke at, like if it was a dimple from a smile, that drew people’s attention for a needed explanation? It isn’t funny when the same classmates you grew up teasing, are now fearing deportation or might have families facing the inhumane treatment of immigration detention centers. It isn’t funny to be fearfully awaiting any upcoming news on the status of DACA. Where are you now to support the “simple” fears that became real, all too fast, for the undocumented community? 

To retrace back on the years, my fragile corazón de pollo grew to combat all the emotions that came from your laughs. Your laughs never made me feel like being bilingual was ever shameful, for it only made the connection I have with my community much stronger. I may not have come from the wealthiest of families, but we are all equally worthy and deserving of creating our own success stories. I wish my childhood-self would have been strong enough to realize that our backgrounds are much more valuable than the constant laughs and mockery the country still directs towards us.

You see, children tend to laugh at a lot of things; but, to this day, why was it funny? 

Do you still think it’s funny when you realize that the innocent minds cultivated by ignorance grow up to be the peers, politicians, and public officials who use their laughs to mock and shame our community? Children grow up oblivious to how these forms of subtle mockeries shape the lack of acceptance for other cultures and nationalities. Growing up in similar communities tends to be helpful when navigating and developing your identity. However, stepping out of those communities can be tough when finding and claiming your space. Once you learn to disregard the critiques and mockery of society, you begin to realize that our communities are not looking for pity but simply a desire to be heard. 

In a world that challenges us with their laughs, there is no way out, other than to mature and defend ourselves at such an early age. For this reason, always remember that we create our identity. We defend our identity. We enable our identity. 

When we finally use these mockeries to reclaim our power to prove you wrong, don’t be surprised by our laughs, because little did you know, that we would be the future of this country.

Visual by: Haven Morales

Image of Manuel Calderon, Adria Del Valle, and Paulina Rezain

Getting to Know Estereomance

2019 brought great offerings to ex-Chamanas, Manuel Calderon and Paulina Rezain, who are joined by Adria Del Valle, in the formation of their new and rising band, Estereomance. The band took the pleasure of expressing their stories of activism, forming connections with their audience through familiar backgrounds, and representing their hometown, Juarez and El Paso, Texas, through their jazz and soul singles. 

Having toured Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California starting in September of last year, the band granted La Gente the opportunity in October of last year to sit down with them to discuss the trio’s inspiration behind their music and new singles, “Up” and “Crimson Queen,” leading into their EP which will be released later this year. Their songs pave the way for the rising of untold stories and awareness of tragedies and injustices that they aim to give voice to through their soul-pop. 

Find out more about Esteromance, as they provide a deeper insight into their formation and share about their upcoming projects in the new year.

Alvaro: So you had an experience with The Chamanas. How did that transition into Estereomance? 

Manuel: Estereomance is a new project. When this happened Adria was like, “Hey! I’m here. Let me know if I can help. I want to join.” We’re a hundred percent focused on Estereomance right now, and it’s our only baby right now. Estereomance is a more jazzy, a little more on the soul side. We enjoy a lot of Roy Ayers, like jazz fusion from the 70s, especially Madlib and all those hip-hop artists. The first song we did with Estereo, mance was “Riviera.” 

Alvaro: Are there any activists, aside from musical inspirations, that influence your creativity throughout the process?

Paulina: The inspiration is our hometown, Juarez and El Paso, Texas. There’s a lot of sad things happening right now. For example, women activist are fighting for los derechos de las mujeres que fueron asesinadas.  In Juarez, I feel like everyone is an activist and this is our —nuestra—arma, la music.  Nuestra música puede dar ese mensaje de “you got this.”  Puedes expresar y puedes ser activista. You have to choose a beautiful way. We choose art. 

Manuel: If you want to see a real activist, interview any of the mothers of the girls who have been murdered in Juarez. You don’t understand until it happens to you. It’s intense. Paulina had a classmate that was murdered a month ago; they pinned it as an accidental overdose.  Who overdoses on alcohol these days?  

Paulina: Mis compañeros, estamos alzando la voz. We are in this together.  Es triste pero nos ayuda tener inspiración y poderle dar voz a la gente que no puede hablar, que no puede expresarse.

Adria: The shooting happened recently, and we had a “wow” moment. It’s a reminder that we are lucky to be safe and to have the opportunity to be in both countries. 

Manuel: Never take any of this for granted. Our music is mainly about that.  Especially “Up,” our first single. It was a collaboration between the three of us. Cody, from The Holy Knives helped with some of the lyrics.  Instead of telling people how fucked up everything is, we want to emphasize that we have elements to become a good society. We want to be optimistic about humankind. 

Alvaro: That’s really inspiring. What are some tips that you would share with musicians nowadays? 

Adria: When I went through a really difficult part of my life, I would listen to a lot of Cultura Profetica. He talks about being yourself and doing what makes you happy. It has a great message. 

Manuel: In Juarez and El Paso, the music and art scene is not very big. People don’t take music seriously. I  lived in LA for three years ten years ago; this is where I was born as an engineer and producer. I worked at Westlake Studios, where Quincy Jones made a lot of his records. After I moved to El Paso and worked at Sonic Ranch for ten years. Animal Collective was there, Beach House, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Natalia Lafourcade, and Bon Iver were there this year. In Juarez there’s not much exposure to that. It’s hard; Paulina and Adria understood that. My parents don’t understand what I’m doing, but they’ve been supportive. Paulina’s parents support her. 

Paulina:  I feel grateful. I remember my beginnings and now I’m here. Quiero más y más pero por ahora estoy disfrutando–como dice Manuel, “to be here in el momento.” 

Alvaro: Now you guys have a record deal with Cosmica Artists. How is working with them? 

Adria: To me, it was huge. I played the violin since I was six years old and I never imagined I would be in a band with two amazing artists. We like this label, they represent Latin music. They have cool artists, like Carla Morrison, Gaby Moreno, The Marías, and David Garza. 

Alvaro: And now you’re up there with them!

Adria: Yeah! We’re grateful to be part of Cosmica.

Paulina: De hecho, ayer cenamos con ellos. Tocamos en un café muy bonito.  Se llamaba “Stories.” It was a really intimidating performance. We got dinner y estaba David Garza and Gil from Cosmica. 

Manuel:  I met David Garza at Sonic Ranch, and I worked with him on a lot of records.  When I was working with David, I was doing some demos with an artist back then. I showed them to David and he said, “Wow, brother! This is amazing! Let me show it to Gil.” That’s how The Chamanas was born back then. He’s [Gil] a great human to begin with, which is hard to find in this industry. When we finished our [Estereomance] demos, I sent them to Gil and ten minutes later he calls me, very excited–

Paulina: Estaba en el tráfico y dice -me quería esperar para escucharlo en un buen sonido pero, I can’t wait! Y lo escuché en el tráfico, y estoy muy emocionado.-

Manuel: Gil is one of a kind. We are very happy to have him as a friend and as a manager.  We are confident they’re going to do a great job with our music. 

Alvaro: Do you have any upcoming albums? Any new singles that you’ve been working on?

Adria: We’re releasing our second single in December. It’s called “Crimson Queen.” Nowadays we have Instagram and social media, and we see all these influencers have this “perfect” life.  We want to point out that it’s not a perfect life; everybody is human, everyone has problems. 

Paulina: Nuestra canción se trata de eso. Uno de los lyrics dice, “Why can’t I be like her, why can’t I be a queen? I want to be like her.” Y eso la está haciendo sentirse mal. Porque nos estamos comparando. 

Adria: You can see it in many different ways. We want everybody to feel connected to it. Everyone has different stories.  

Manuel: We want people to interpret our songs and lyrics. It’s a song that’s encouraging people to be who they want to be. It’s interesting to see how people pick up on the message. 

Adria: Next year we release our album.

Manuel: It’s a seven-song album. We’re not set on a date. This tour we’re doing right now is actually a DIY tour; we planned it before we even had a name. 

Alvaro: How did the band name come about?

Manuel: It’s just a made up word, like a stereo or boombox.  Stereo can also mean two-sided. Like El Paso and Juarez. The border. Romance, because we like romantic music. 

Adria: We made like 30 names.

Manuel: David [Garza] asked me if I had a name for the band. I told him “Stereomance,” but Paulina wasn’t sold on it yet, and we didn’t want to do a name if Paulina wasn’t convinced. David is always drawing and writing lyrics. He just added an E to Stereomance. He said, “Hey brother, what about Estereomance?” I ran it through Paulina, and–

Paulina: I was like, how can a letter make such a difference!? 

Manuel: Visually, it’s nice because it starts with an E, ends with an E, and there are 5 E’s! One of my biggest influences is Soda Stereo, so it’s nice to have Stereo there. We ended up convincing Paulina. 

Paulina: Me tuvieron que pagar! 

Manuel: It was driving us crazy, but I said, “Whatever name we come up with is going to end up becoming special with time.” It represents the nerdiness of the project, which is me, and the romantics, which is them. It’s a little bit of both worlds.

Visual by: Jessica Martinez

graphic depicting two hand exchanging the Bolivian flag for money

La Violenta Salida de Evo

Las guerras de independencia concluyeron hace más de 200 años. La meta? Que los sujetos colonizados se liberaran del Imperio español y su legado de colonialismo que dependía de divisiones por clase y color de piel.

Ahora, dos siglos después, es claro que la meta no fue lograda.

El golpe de estado en Bolivia es un testamento a la historia latinoamericana tras un legado de colonialismo que aún persiste y que se exacerba bastante con la llegada del imperialismo norteamericano a mediados del siglo XIX. 

Evo Morales, el presidente y mandatario de Bolivia desde 2006, fue la víctima más reciente por un golpe de estado solamente cuatro años tras el golpe en Brasil que resultó en la condenación de Dilma Rousseff. 

Uno sólo tiene que darse cuenta de las palabras infamantes y racistas de la presidenta autoproclamada Jeanine Áñez que detallan y subrayan una fidelidad al patrimonio de la Iglesia católica: “Dios ha permitido que la Biblia vuelva a entrar al Palacio. Que él nos bendiga.” ¡Qué locura, usar la religión como propaganda para destituir a un presidente que no sea cristiano! Pero hay algo muy importante que recordar: los 400 años de colonialismo bajo España, además de casi 100 años bajo imperialismo y vigilancia estadounidense, han creado un fuerte ambiente de ideologías imperialistas, como el fascismo y el racismo, que se legitiman con el catolicismo europeo. Toma por ejemplo este artículo sobre la casa “lujosa” de Evo Morales en Bolivia. Una cama, un armario, un sofá, y cortinas para las ventanas. La retórica racista de la derecha sobre las pertenencias materiales de Evo es evidencia que para ellos, los indígenas tienen que vivir como vivieron hace cinco siglos: sin casa, sin ropa, sin fuego, sin luz, y sin tecnología—nada de “lujo.”

¿Pero por qué durante la presidencia de Evo Morales no se eliminó esta retórica racista, ni se sanaron heridas causadas por el colonialismo? En vez de culpar a Evo por esto, es mejor preguntar más a fondo por qué no se realizaron estas metas. Hay que comparar el tiempo de Evo como presidente de Bolivia y el tiempo en lo cual Bolivia vivió bajo colonización e imperialismo. ¡Catorce años no pueden ni empezar a erradicar mentalidades coloniales ni el legado del imperialismo norteamericano! En el caso de Cuba, por ejemplo, prejuicios coloniales aún existen 60 años después de la revolución a causa de casi 500 años bajo el mando de España y los Estados Unidos, o por otros motivos, como la disolución de la Unión Soviética en 1992. 

Además, Evo no es más que una persona; tal vez su partido tuvo la mayoría parlamentaria en el Congreso boliviano, pero para prosperar mientras los Estados Unidos y sus lacayos lo mantuvieron bajo vigilancia, Evo tomó bastante precauciones en sus acciones como líder del país. 

Pero hay algo más que me alarma, y también debe de alarmar al público. La llegada de la tecnología y redes sociales han intensificado la lucha imperialista realizada por los Estados Unidos. Un análisis extensivo sobre las cuentas creadas en Twitter que apoyan el golpe de estado encontró que aproximadamente 68 mil de cuentas eran falsas. ¿Qué significa esto? Que los poderes detrás del golpe están dispuestos a esconder que la situación en Bolivia es un violento golpe de estado, y esta meta se realiza a través de cuentas falsas que escriben—en muy buen inglés que casi se parece fabricado—que Evo no se fue a causa de un golpe de estado, sino que fue depuesto por un movimiento democrático. 

Lo más importante es que en Latinoamérica, el legado del colonialismo, tal como el imperialismo, aún persiste. Pero esta lucha se ubica en nuevas fronteras, y el advento de las redes sociales sólo desarrollará más esta lucha cibernética donde cualquier narrativa—falsa o verdadera—puede ser circulada entre millones de personas. El contragolpe también debe de ser realizado por estas mismas fronteras si el imperialismo será confrontado por el pueblo boliviano.


English Translation:

The Wars for Independence in Latin America were more than 200 years ago. The goal? For the colonized subjects to win their liberation from the Spanish Empire and its legacy of colonialism, that consisted of a social divide of both race and class.

Now, two centuries later, it’s obvious that goal was never achieved.

The coup in Bolivia is a testament to Latin American history, one beyond a legacy of colonialism that still has not been eradicated in society, and only exacerbates with the arrival of US imperialism to the region of Latin America in the 19th century. 

Evo Morales, the president and leader of Bolivia since 2006 is the most recent victim of a coup, only 4 years after the coup in Brazil, which saw Dilma Rousseff condemned. 

One only needs to learn about the inflammatory and racist words of the self-proclaimed president Jeanine Áñez, which both detail and underline a sentiment very loyal in nature to the patrimony of the Catholic Church: “God has allowed for the Bible to come back to [the] Palace. May He bless us.” What madness, to use religion as propaganda to remove a president who isn’t Christian! But one must remember something very important: the 400 years of colonialism by Spain, mixed in with the almost 100 years of U.S imperialism and vigilance, has created a strong and powerful environment of imperialist ideologies, such as fascism and racism, that mixes well with European Catholicism. Take, for example, this article about the supposed “luxurious” house of Evo Morales in Bolivia. A bed, a wardrobe, a sofa, and curtains for the windows. The racist rhetoric that comes from the right about any material good when it belongs to someone like Evo is evidence that, for them, indigenous peoples must live how they lived five centuries ago: without a home, without clothes, without a fire, without light and electricity, without technology, nothing “luxurious” like those things. 

But why wasn’t this rhetoric nor the damages and trauma caused by colonialism eliminated during the years of Evo Morales? The 14 years of his leadership did not change much in terms of social classes. But instead of blaming him for this, it’s better to ask: why? One should compare the time that Evo spent as president of Bolivia to the years that Bolivia was under colonialism and imperialism. Fourteen years cannot even begin to eradicate the colonized mindsets nor the decay caused by U.S imperialism! Look at Cuba: 60 years after the Revolution and there still exist colonial-era prejudices in society, whether it be for the nearly 500 years under the control of both Spain and the United States, or for another motive, such as the fall of the USSR in the 1990s. 

Besides, Evo is only one person; maybe he has the majority of his party in congress, but to survive under the constant surveillance of both the United States and its lackeys, one must be very cautious of the actions they take as leader of some country. 

But there is also something else that frightens me, and should also frighten various people. The advent of both technology and social media has intensified the imperialist fight done by the United States. A profound analysis on recently made Twitter accounts that support the coup reveal that the accounts are fake, approximately 68 thousand of them. What does this mean? It means that the powers that lead this coup are prepared to erase the narrative that whatever happens in Bolivia is not classified as a coup, and they execute this through the fake accounts that write– in such a perfect form of English that it sounds nearly manufactured– that Evo was not removed because of a coup.

The most important thing is that in Latin America, the legacy of colonialism, much like its bedfellow, imperialism, persists. But this new fight is located in new fronts, and the phenomenon of social media will only develop this cybernetic fight even more, where any narrative– whether false or true– can be circulated between millions of people. The counterattack should also be done through these same fronts and methods if this imperialism will be confronted by the people of Bolivia.