The L.A. band bringing gender justice to the dance floor
Photo by Piero F. Giunti. Courtesy of Las Cafeteras.
Los Angeles-based musicmakers, Las Cafeteras, are a community-focused band with a global perspective. They sing in in the traditions of San Jarocho, a style of music indigenous to the region of Veracruz in Mexico. As the children of immigrant parents in the United States, however, this Chican@ band’s lyrical themes and narratives resonate across transnational borders, championing the struggles of marginalized peoples all over the world and advocating for racial, gender and queer justice for all communities.
For International Women’s Day, the band is releasing a remixed version of their feminist anthem, “Mujer Soy,” from their first studio recorded album, It’s Time, and premiering it right here on GOOD today. Over a plate of vegetarian tacos at East Los Angeles’s Homegirl Cafe, two of the group’s seven members, Denise Carlos, who wrote the song, and Hector Flores, spoke about why they decided to turn their modern folk album into a dance club soundtrack.
“For us, remixing the ‘Mujer Soy’ track, we’re reclaiming the dance floor, we’re reclaiming social spaces that have been traditionally misogynistic, that degraded women,” says Flores. The new track is remixed by Yukicito, a member of a local DJ collective called La Junta. They wanted to take Las Cafeteras’ community-minded messages into L.A.’s dance party scene. The newly remixed “Mujer Soy,” an emanicipatory tune that celebrates working class women and their struggles, materializes as a feminist dance track. In the club, where women are frequently subject to misogynistic lyrics as well as sexual transgressions from fellow dancers, these kinds of themes are not as familiar.
“People will listen to music. People will not always listen to politicians. [People] will not always listen to anything that’s heavy, because it’s inconvenient and because it’s hard,” says Carlos. “But once you put some of these messages and words to music, even the body softens.”
Carlos’ feminism is expressed through the filter of a first-generation American experience. Born and raised in Southeast L.A., the pink-haired songwriter speaks of a feminism she didn’t learn in a gender studies class but from the trials of her mother.
“When I was learning about feminism, I was really angry with my mom from cleaning up the house,” says Carlos. “I would go to her and say, ‘Don’t you see? You’re oppressed!’ And I was really angry at my dad. But it didn’t really allow me to honor their own struggles, being here as immigrants, and how they were functioning and building a healthy family in the way that they knew how.”
Although they use traditional instruments and folk musical stylings, Las Cafeteras’ lyrics narrativize a very specific immigrant experience that is highly conscious of social and economic injustices in the U.S. Their debut album was rich with these first-person perspectives and stories. “For a lot of us, it took a while us to even understand how powerful our own stories were,” says Carlos.
Listen to and download La Junta’s Mujer Soy remix below.