By Erika Delgado – with the help of her parents, Maria Del Carmen and Salvador
I’m not religious. I define as agnostic, because I do not believe in ever telling someone what they have put their whole souls faith in is wrong. I was raised Catholic, still am very culturally Catholic.
I will wear my cruz above my heart,
I will wear a shirt with an over embellished image of La Virgin de Guadalupe,
I will pray when I am scared,
I will daze inside a church with 50k gold decorations and feel at peace,
But if I go to mass, I will feel like a fraud suffocating in what I was raised to believe was sin.
I am a sinner by nature, I exist only for myself when I am at my most selfish, but I wouldn’t be who I am today, without being raised catholic nor without my surrogate grandmother: La Virgin de Guadalupe.
When I am born, my father was late. My mom had to wait during her contractions for my father to get home, because my father was at a Guadalupanos meeting at church. He couldn’t call out, this was before the time of affordable cell phones, so my mom couldn’t irritate him to come take her. My birth was second thought to La Virgin. My whole life I have felt that I was competing against La Virgin for my father’s attention. It took me a while to accept her and how important she was to him. She wasn’t just the mother of Jesus, nor the virgin Mary that appeared to a poor nativo man in Mexico way too many years ago. La Virgin of Guadalupe was the nurturing mother my father always needed.
My father mostly lived with his biological grandma in Fresnio, Zacatecas during his youth. He says at first he lived with his 11 other siblings and his parents, but his mother was colder to him and once his grandmother got sick he slowly began to be there more often. To take care of her; he was ten. He took her to church, he worked all he could, he gave her his money, and once school got in the way of making more, he dropped out. He took care of her until he was 16, until she passed away. Then he moved to Mexico City.
He worked a handful of weird jobs, from helping construct elevators, to being a bookkeeper at a hospital. His many jobs were what kept his family having money in Fresnio, but it was not what kept my dad happy. One of the main reasons he moved to Mexico City, other than money, was because he would finally be near the mother he never really knew. The mother he prayed to when he was scared, lonely, desperate, and hopeless. Once in Mexico City, he visited el Basilica of Our Mother of Guadalupe bi-weekly. This was the only time he felt at peace, sitting there praying and watching all the different folk coming from all over the world just to see her and those that come on their knees in desperation, so they can get a second chance. This was my father’s second chance. Week by week he’d visit as much as he could, watch, and talk to her. La Virgin was my father’s only real friend, the only one who’d give up anything to take care of him, she was his surrogate mother when his biological one was nowhere to be seen.
To my father, La Virgin was the one who pushed him to be better and take more chances. He then traveled out to Mexicalli where he became a milkman. Waking up at 3am every morning so he could drop off the days milk to 100s of households. He worked all morning, slept all night. My dad’s whole life was built around two things: workmanship and La Virgin De Guadalupe. After a tour to Disneyland, something sparked in my dad.
The American Dream woke him up in Disneyland, and soon he was on his way to San Francisco. My mother was already there, she moved in 1968 after the Tlatelolco massacre, all her siblings were students. A few of my uncles had been protesting, so in fear they all moved from Tepatitlán de Morelos, Jalisco to the Mission District in San Francisco. My mother was only 14. For her this was the biggest culture shock of her life. She went from an over-religious small town where everyone knew her name to a city in it’s Free Love prime. Wherever she went she could smell the molta, wherever she went she prayed it would go away. My mother has always been very emotional, very much in touch with her feelings, and very much afraid of everything. She is still this way, with a kindness that overcrowds the negative criticism she was raised to believe. Both my parents will talk shit about my tattoos, both my parents love me with all their heart in their own ways. Even though soy una huevóna y tengo que ser mas mujer.
My parents met in the Mission, at a youth group in St Anthony of Padua Parish on Cesar Chavez St, San Francisco. They were in love the moment they met, according to them, but they also were already in relationships when they first met. Soon they were best friends, and sooner than that they had both broken up with their previous partners. Five months after they met, they were engaged. Instead of asking my mother to be his novia, my father asked her to be his wife. My mother was 19, and my father was 23. In 1974, they were married, they lived in the Mission, taking turns working and going to school. They didn’t have their first child until 1980, a year before that they had moved into the urban suburbs of South San Francisco. My father’s citizenship was on hold until my second brother was born, in 1985. My father was having a hard time getting a job, and they lived in fear of him being deported, so then my mom (her father was a citizen) filed for citizenship in 1983. She had no problems, but because the government wasn’t completely sure that they were actually in love, after over 10 years of being married, 2 kids and praying loudly to La Virgin, my dad got his papers
In 1992, I was born. This is where everything makes most sense. This is where all the memories are not just told to me in a rambly “no era no era quando, no no quien?” This is when I at least begin to become part of the memories and have more of them that are certain. My dad worked everyday until I was 12. My dad dropped me off at school, and usually my mother would pick me up. This is when we still all went to church together, my mother, my brothers, and I all sat together, my father always sat alone in the front. I always felt he was embarrassed by us.
I went to Catechism every week. I met some of my closest friends, I took in the bible the same way I took in in any piece of literature: easily. To me they were much more like fiction than anything else. Stories perfectly put together after generations, to tell morals and stories that inflicted fear in most pre-teens. I woke up at 3 in the morning on la dia de La Virgin de Guadalupe to go to mass, always in a daze. I felt like I came into the family just as my dad began to lose connection with siblings and mother. His mother never liked my mother, she never knew any of my siblings names. One time, I saw her at a reunion, and she asked “Who do you belong to?” I knew she was old, but that hurt. It hurts for your own grandmother to not know who you are, or even care about your mother. My maternal grandmother, stayed at my house for most my life, she was the one that gave me the love a grandmother should. I always thought my father’s mother hated me. She hated my mother and she hated me. So once my family tried to keep clear of this hatred, was when my father got more involved with the church and specifically the group called “Los Guadalupanos.” It’s kind of a club specifically devoted to La Virgin De Guadalupe, and where my father still spends most his time.
After it was confirmed under the eyes of God that I ERIKA CRYSTAL DELGADO ACEVES was Catholic, I decided that I really was not. For me going to mass was more a punishment. I didn’t want to be reminded of my competitor for my father’s love. There’s already over 100 images of la Virgin adorning the walls and corners of my childhood home.
When I was 12, my father didn’t come back from work at the time he usually would. I made a bed of misplaced pillows on my parent’s bedroom floor, waiting for him to come home. Instead, we got a call.
He had been in an accident. At the time, he was working as a welder in boats. At the time, he tripped and broke his skull of steaming hot pipe. He survived, physically, but before this we were financially fine. My dad was doing what he loved and grew up thinking he had to: making money for his family. After this accident, all of this was taken from him. All he had left was his family and La Virgin De Guadalupe. We had to pay for all the medical expenses out of our pocket, my mom stopped buying anything for herself, and most of the money went to food, medical expenses, and me. My eldest brother already had a family of his own, my middle brother, went to the local community college and worked to pay his own bills.
My father went from never being home, to never leaving the couch. His collection of Virgins spiraled out of control. He devoted more time to la Virgin, and trying to bust out of this post traumatic depression. More so denying that he was depressed at all, calling his psychiatrist un “pinche gringo pendejo” instead of going to his appointments. I was an emo kid, with too many issues, but too afraid to say anything.
I fell into my own depression. I fell down my own selfish hole. I have only recently begun to truly dig out. To dig out and ask my parents about their past. Sometimes when you’re going through too much you forget that everyone is also going through something, but it didn’t really kick in for me, until not only both my grandmothers passed, but also a best friend. This was my own wake up call. This was when I started to ask more questions, because I didn’t know where I would be in a year or if my parents would still be with me. My parents are old and stubborn. My dad will sneak money underneath my mom’s nose so he can add more Virgin of Guadalupes to our collection. To add more protection to our household. My mom and I humor him, but also respect that to my father La Virgin de Guadalupe is much more than a collectible, she is his mother.
My parents raised me to treat others the way I want to be treated,
My parents raised me to never be anything I’m not,
My parents raised to never let anyone take advantage me,
My parents raised me to believe my dreams could be reality,
My parents raised me to be proud of my culture,
My parents raised me to love La Virgin of Guadalupe.
I used to mutter
Words of comfort.
Nightly and without a stutter
To keep at bay,
All my fright
The older I became
The less I would pray.
And just as abruptly as I began,
I stopped.I learned my lessons from the nuns.
But you see in this hierarchy,
In this patriarchy
Priests are the only ones
Deemed worthy of the sun.I hate the misogyny
And the interpretations
Used to justify
Mother Mary had several kids.
But dogma severely forbids
These types of “accusations”
They say she died a virgin
And the only thing this makes certain
Is to further the dichotomy
That women can only be
And their attributes
I cannot neatly divide
What I am feeling inside
All I know for certain
Is I am Catholic
Until I cease.
Mother Mary full of grace
Or Mary Magdalene
Full of sin
And disgraceI go to church
To fill my needs
And in my search
I’ve found, my split personalityFor you see I cannot accurately describe
Exactly to what belief I subscribe
I no longer believe
In the holiness of the scripture
Making people gaze in wonder
As to why I don’t just leave
But you see I am the incarnation
Of my generations hesitation
On the one hand I have my mind
And on the other I have my roots
The blood of my people
Recuerdo en mi infancia
Corriendo por los pasillos
Cuando todo parecía
De lo más sencilloCuando me siento en mi banca
Siento que mi espíritu embarca
A otro mundo
Donde puedo pensar
O simplemente meditar
en lo más profundo
Una paz y confianza
Con la cual puedo analizar
Y salgo llena de esperanzaRecuerdo la Semana Santa
Las alfombras de arroz
Y sentirme muy cansada
En la caminada
Por un megáfono
Y por supuesto después
Se comerán unos tamalotes
Hipócrita me llamaran
Por no creer y andar
Haciendo todos los ritos
Pero soy Católica, y que
Y ahí me moriré
Escuchar una voz
Alabando y llorando
Porque Jesucristo fallecióPienso que algún día
Seguiremos la filosofía
“Amaras a tu prójimo
Como a ti mismo”
Habrá un activismo
Llevándonos al comunismo
Pero tal vez por este gritero
Nos mataran a RomeroPor la Iglesia Católica me casare
Y cuando tenga mis hijos
Tendrán rosarios y crucifijos
Atenderán al catecismo
Aprenderán de Dios mismo
Y cuando me muera
Después de la bullera
Habrá una liturgia
Dada por un sacerdote
When I hear the word spirituality I always feel a little anxious because this conversation can go one of two ways. In the first, there will be a mutual understanding, respect, both parties will agree to disagree and perhaps learn something in the process. Or the second being a mass of misunderstandings, anger and lectures where both parties will end up exhausted and resentful. Usually, the second is the most frequent. Firstly, my anxiety with this topic simply stems from a broad concept that can breed many misunderstandings. Secondly, going into conversations with our prejudices and ultimately forget that they are speaking to another human being and thirdly, the concerns with communicating in any conversation with a closed-mind.
Let’s start with the simple definition described by Merriam Webster, “Spirituality : the quality or state of being concerned with religion or religious matters : the quality or state of being spiritual.” That is a very broad definition but immediately relates spirituality with religion. For example, I asked a few of my colleagues, “When you hear the word ‘spirituality’ what comes to mind?” God. Church. Priest. They in turned wanted my answer, my answer was connectivity. I did not relate the same ideals to the word ‘spirituality’ and they wanted to know why and thus begin a series of misunderstandings, talking over each other and being lectured on why their beliefs or non-beliefs were stronger. It was not their position to try to convert me, I wanted to have a clearer understanding but that quickly diminished as I had to change the subject of this conversation rather quickly because it was escalating. I can’t speak for my colleagues but I felt as if I was being backed into and corner when in reality I just wanted to have more of an understanding of the people I interacted with daily. I did not learn what I wanted to but I did learn enough about their behavior and it makes me wonder do all people react this way?
By now you are probably wondering what caused such a misunderstanding. Well I wouldn’t say I am a non-believer however, most of my beliefs would broadly align with Animism. I believe everything has a kind of spiritual essence, that everyone is spiritually connected somehow to animals, nature and other human beings and our decisions; positive or negative, will have an impact on a grander scale. As unconventional as it is, during this discussion, as I felt like I was backed into a corner and I became more vicious with my words. Even though, I agreed on some level with what was said. I did start to disagree and became argumentative because at this point the lecture had gone on long enough that I just wanted it to stop. I continued to be talked over and ignored. All at once I stopped talking and did not further acknowledge this person. I do understand this was a harsh thing to do and at that moment of dismissal, I did not see him as a human being I saw this person as a radio I needed to be turn off. Getting swept up in this conversation with a closed-minded person we both seemed to have forgotten that we were both human beings able to think for ourselves and willing to communicate openly with more understanding. In hindsight, I am sure the intent of his intensity was to display the passion of his beliefs but dismissing differing beliefs was completely insulting not only to me but to everyone in the group.
Sometimes I forget that I am more open to conversations that may seem improper in the eyes of propriety, than most. And if I do not understand the topic at hand, I ask questions which may be seen as defiant or as if I am questioning their ideals which may make some annoyed and possibly belligerent. In a greater sense, being closed-minded can be a detriment to our society. I don’t say this lightly, how different would life be if we all woke up one day and decided, “Hey, why did I react that way?,” “Could I have been more understanding even though I don’t agree?,” “Did I think at all?” This may all seem utopian. However, currently our society is dealing with so much hatred from rash decisions and even situations that could have been prevented with more understanding. It’s horrifying. We have one person right now who is advocating nonsensical political ideals and people who follow without question. Every time someone is the loudest I always wonder how wrong they could be, every time. Sadly, this could deter my curiosity on any topic and which I am sure discourages others from asking questions. Who wants to yelled at and be forced into compliance with what you disagree with? I sure don’t.
Nowadays, the lack of compassion, understanding and introspection is dumbfounding to me. I think we can agree that there are so many differing beliefs whether it’s spirituality, religiously or otherwise that can separate us. However, are we so blind to the fact that we are actually allowing ourselves to be separated? Misunderstandings will happen, prejudices can be changes with effort and to be stuck in the same mind frame you will only be hindering yourself. I am hoping that over time my anxiety will ease when it comes to subjects considered as inappropriate to discuss and in that process as human beings strive to gain empathy, sympathy and compassion for our fellow human beings, creatures on our planet and our planet no matter what we believe.
Shoulder-to-shoulder on a twin sized bed, and we are talking about God, and god, and goddesses, and Jesus, and the universe expanding out and in forever, over and over again. Can you believe there was nothing before there was everything? I say. I imagine talking about this with you over and over again, every time the universe gets created.
I imagine the universe the size of a kidney bean in my palm and the warmth of tiny supernovas on my fingertips, until the universe grows around me and fills the room, and burns me up, and I don’t even realize what I’m doing, or who I am, or what I am, and I’m just there watching and wasted and no longer.
We talk about faith, about praying, and fear, and the gods we don’t believe in.
I tell you I don’t remember when I stopped believing in God, so I go all the way back to the places He was and open the box of photos under my bed.
This is where a man poured water over my head when I was one, this is where I went to Sunday school, this is the puffy white dress I wore to open my mouth for a wafer and wine, this is when we stopped caring about church, this is when we started going again because Lulu died, this is the deacon’s wife who looked only at me when she said that our bodies are our temples during confirmation class, this is my confirmation name, this is the smelly oil the priest rubbed on my forehead, this is the copy of the catechism my aunts gave me, this is the rosary Mami gave me, this is my favorite church song, this is my least favorite church song, these are the boys I thought about kissing to stay awake in church, these are the clothes I wasn’t allowed to wear to church, these are the clothes I was allowed to wear, this is when I stopped waking up to go, this is when my parents stopped asking me, this is when I stopped praying every night, this is the rosary Mami brought back from Venezuela after her mom died, this is the twenty-page essay I wrote about Eve’s defiance, this is the poem I read about God in a class, this is the capital G I use to spell God, this is my mother’s disappointment when I tell her you don’t believe anymore, these are the prayers she says at night for me, this is the lost sheep, these are all the years I thought I would go to hell, these are all the years I loved girls too but didn’t want to say it, these are all the years I thought I would get pregnant like the Virgin Mary for being too good, these are all the years I stopped being good, that’s it. I put the box down, it feels too small, too heavy and compressed to explain what I feel.
I stare at the photos of my grandmothers that hang on the wall, at the poster my friend gave me on my 22nd birthday that says ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE TO MAKE LOVE GROW, at the beige paint my mother chose for the walls when she remodeled the house, at the diplomas I hung up to feel proud of myself when I was depressed, and I feel the warmth of your skin against mine, and I don’t think of jobs, or failure, or fame, or being big and important, or getting into heaven. I think of how lucky I am to be here witnessing the universe again, and can you believe there was nothing before there was everything?
A couple weeks ago I met with Katie Garcia, my once-employer at Captured Tracks, an independent record label based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to talk about her experiences being a Latin woman in the music industry. Garcia used to be the manager at Captured Tracks, and now co-owns her own label Bayonet Records with her husband, Dustin Payseur of Beach Fossils. We met over coffee in Greenpoint. We talked about Miami, Cubans, Juan Wauters, and the dominance of males in the music industry while Mac Demarco coincidentally twinkled in the background of the cafe.
Me (Siena): So, my first question–how do you identify yourself; racially, ethnically, or both?
Katie: As a Cuban woman (laughs), I guess, yeah.
S: And did you grow up speaking another language?
K: Yeah. I grew up–I think I learned Spanish first, as a baby, and then as I got older, like once I started school basically, that’s when I started learning English, and then I pretty much only spoke English, and I still knew Spanish but my Spanish was like really broken, and then when I got to high school–or no, not even–when I got to middle school, I decided I wanted to take Spanish classes instead of French classes, because I wanted my Spanish to be on point. So yeah, I started taking Spanish classes to make sure that, you know, my grammar was totally correct–because up until that point no one had ever taught me as a kid how to write in Spanish, and how to use accents and conjugations–it’s kind of complicated, so I’m glad that I ended up taking classes.
S: So would you say that you’re still fluent
K: Oh yeah, yeah. I talk to my grandmother on the phone, and she doesn’t speak any English, even though she’s lived in the United States for like forty years (laughs)
S: Pretty much my grandma too. So how do you feel that being or becoming bilingual influenced your upbringing?
K: I guess it influenced my upbringing in that I felt like I had a strong cultural ties to my background, ‘cause language, more than a lot of other things, is such an obvious and crucial connection to culture, in general. So um…yeah, I dunno, I think that…it’s tricky, too, because growing up in Miami, I almost took it for granted, because everybody was bilingual. Everybody speaks English and Spanish, or Creole and English, or Creole, Spanish and English. It’s interesting though, because when I got to college in Boston, and I met my friends there, that was the first time I met–like I had all these friends, and I told them like, “you know you guys are my first American friends, like really truly American friends. All my friends from Miami are Cuban, or Haitian, or Colombian, or Venezuelan, or Dominican, whatever.” So, you know, growing up in Miami was definitely culturally influential on me, just in general.
S: Yeah, it’s also different from New York, in that it’s a little more…
K: It’s more concentrated.
K: Like, there are definitely a lot of Hispanics and Latin people who live in New York, but they’re more dispersed, whereas in Miami it’s like, everywhere.
S: Right. So do feel that speaking another language has put you at an advantage over those who don’t–in school, or work, or life, et cetera?
K: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s the easiest way to connect to another person, is speaking to them in their native language, like, if I take a cab and the cab driver, you know, if we strike up a conversation in Spanish, they’re always like, really nice, and they get excited, and it’s nice–like I said, language is one of those things that’s like an instant cultural signifier. So I always think that’s pretty cool, and I think that it’s definitely been an advantage, like if I ever wanted to sign a band from like, Spain or wherever, I could talk to them in Spanish, and they would be nice, and it would probably make them feel more comfortable not to have that language barrier, and to be able to speak in their native language.
S: Yeah, so that kind of goes on to my next question–do you feel that speaking Spanish has shaped your taste in music in any way while growing up? Who did you grow up listening to in Spanish, and do you still listen to music in Spanish or other languages?
K: Yes, I do listen to music in other languages, and as far as Spanish-speaking music that I listen to, Celia Cruz is kind of an obvious one (laughs), love Celia Cruz, recently my sister got me really into this Cuban singer La Lupe, she was kind of coming up around the same time as Celia Cruz, but her story was kind of sad…but anyway, she’s another Cuban singer, she was very passionate–she was a Santera, like, when she is performing it’s almost like she is possessed–it’s so powerful and amazing, and we watched this documentary about her that was really interesting. So I really like her…and then…I dunno, when I was younger I used to like Juanes, and like Shakira (laughs), like the stuff the that Shakira did in Spanish was actually really dope.
S: It is!
K: I used to listen to that with my friends in like, middle school, all the time. The cool like, rocker Colombian woman. Umm, who else…I feel like there are more people who I’m forgetting…Buena Vista Social Club…
S: That was pretty much my mom’s cleaning soundtrack.
K: Yeah, it’s so good, it’s really good. Recently–I have a funny story about Buena Vista Social Club–recently we were in Spain visiting some family that we have there, and we were in Santiago which is where they have that famous cathedral, it’s Santiago de Compostela, and it’s where people make a pilgrimage to this church, and we were on the streets and we hear these people–this woman and this guy–and they’re playing ‘El Cuarto de Tula’ and me and my mom are like, ‘oh my God, what the fuck!’ and we started talking to them and they were like ‘yeah, we’re from Havana,’ and my mom was like ‘aye!’ and it turns out the woman was like from around the corner from where she grew up and all this stuff, it was really hilarious. And it definitely…that’s not the first time it’s happened, one time we were in Munich, and we were walking down the street and we heard salsa music, and at the end we went up to the people and we were like, ‘oh that was great’–in Spanish, and then my mom ends up talking to the guy and like, sure enough, he grew up–that guy actually was right by where she grew up, like a block away, which was super weird, and that was in Munich! So there are just Cubans everywhere.
S: (laughs) Small world for the Cubans!
K: Yeah, the island was too small for all of them, so like everybody just had to leave.
S: So, as a woman in the music industry, do you ever feel like a minority.
K: Yes. Big time. I do. But I also see how it’s changing, like I’ve noticed that there are more women, especially in the independent music industry, that are bing hired and promoted to positions of, prestige, I guess, but uh…yeah, especially when I think about being a label owner, there aren’t that many female label owners. There may be label managers that are women, but there aren’t that many that outright own record labels. I know that there’s a woman that owns Neon Gold, and, I think maybe Harvest Records is owned by one–I’m not sure, but there aren’t that many. Umm…yeah…Veronica Vasicka owns Minimal Wave, you know, so I definitely feel like a minority. So hopefully we’ll see more people who will be inspired to start labels of their own.
S: Definitely. So not only as a woman, but as a woman of Latin descent, do you feel like even more of a minority?
K: Umm, I feel like because–honestly, yes and no–I feel like more so being a woman than a Latin woman, partially because just based on appearance alone, I just look so white, that nobody ever like–that aspect of being recognized or discriminated against for being a Latin woman–I don’t think that’s happened to me as much as it has to other people just purely because aesthetically I don’t look–I don’t have like, the typical Latin features, so I would say more so for being a woman. Like there have been a few instances that are kind of shitty, or like I don’t know, just weird things that happen. It always happens at shows, the worst thing that happened to me recently was I was talking to this guy about how, you know, I run the record label, and Dustin goes on tour a lot, but he’ll go on tour for two weeks at a time so that he can come home and we can see each other. And this guy asks me, he’s like, ‘oh cool, does he schedule when he comes home around your period? Because, you know, it would really suck if he came home and you were in a bad mood.’ And I was like–I laughed in his face, said no, and walked away. I was blind with rage. I actually, I didn’t even know what to–it was infuriating. And shit like that happens all the time. It happens all the time, and it’s–yeah. It sucks.
S: It’s so real.
K: It’s very real. And this just happened to me like two weeks ago.
S: You almost like forget that people still think this way. That’s horrible.
K: Yeah. That was a pretty glaring example. But yeah, anyway.
S: Anyway, so do you think that being a woman or being a Latin woman has given you an advantage over the typical kind of male or white male in the music industry–has it kind of made you feel like a unique person in a way, or has it not really made a difference?
K: Umm, it definitely makes me a unique person. As far as it giving me an advantage…I mean, I don’t think it really does, but, you know, if anything, I would just like to be–I don’t even want it–I want it to be like an even playing field, which obviously it’s not, but like I said, I feel like things are definitely changing for the better.
S: So, as a label owner, do you ever consider signing artists that write in other languages or is that a limited market in New York or the United States–I know you kind of mentioned that before, but…
K: Yeah, I mean, umm, I’ve definitely considered it, it’s always harder, like especially if you’re trying to sell a record in the US, it’s always harder when a band like sings in another language, but it is doable, you know. But it’s…it’s tricky. I haven’t yet signed a band–I know Captured signed Mourn, but that was after I left–but they sing in English. Like, they’re from Spain but they sing in English.
S: Yeah, also, isn’t Juan Wauters–wait, he’s American right?
K: No no no, he’s from Uruguay.
S: Oh he is, okay, yeah.
K: He’s from Uruguay, yeah.
S: Yeah cause he kind of sings with an accent.
K: Yeah, he’s from Uruguay. Umm…oh my God, his parents are so cute. I met his parents…oh my God. They’re so cute. Umm, yeah, he’s from Uruguay, but moved here when he was like a teenager. So he’s been here for a while but definitely has really strong roots to Uruguay and like, is a big like, yerba mate person, and his mom–I think she even makes her own mate, or something like that.
S: Awesome. So–kind of my final question–what is your number one piece of advice for a woman trying to make it in the music industry, or any other kind of male-dominated industry, or anything.
K: I would say…just like…be confident. Learn as much as you can, like, if you–I feel like interning–I know interning kind of sucks, but at the same time, that’s how I learned the ins and outs of how to run a label, and, you know, I found it to be pretty valuable. Actually, I think above all those things, whatever it is that you’re pursuing, just make sure that it’s something you’re extremely passionate about, because ultimately, you’re not gonna be happy if you’re not pursuing something you’re passionate about. If you’re pursuing it because you think it’ll make a lot of money, then like, that’s not necessarily a worthwhile pursuit, you know. If you want to work in a field where you–you know, if you like people, then work in a field that involves people. If you like music, then work in a field that involves music. But yeah, I feel like passion is the most important thing, as long as you have that passion I feel like everything else will kind of fall into place and you can figure out the logistics of everything as you’re going, you know, following up to whatever it is you wanna do. So yeah, for music specifically I would say to intern. You know, as I said, it’s like–it depends, some internships at some companies are great, and some are not so great, it just depends.
S: Yeah, I mean I’ve definitely had some great experiences and some not so great experiences with that, so I feel that. But do you think it took you a long time to find your passion in wanting to pursue music?
K: Yeah, it did, it did. I mean, I went to school for film, and I thought I wanted to do film, and then I started working for a set designer in Red Hook, and it was really fun, like we did a bunch of stuff for MTV and I got to go to the MTV studio, which was cool, like I got to paint the set and do some carpentry…but…and that’s another thing I would recommend, is like trial and error, like don’t ever be discouraged if you think you want to do something and then you try it and you don’t like it, like that’s fine, I mean that’s exactly what happened to me. And then I basically like, I didn’t have a job cause I stopped doing that cause I was unhappy, and then I was like–I had a plan, I was like, I’m just gonna get a part-time job, and on my days off I’m gonna intern somewhere that I’m passionate about–like at a label or something that I’m passionate about, because I really love music. One thing I realized, I kind of had to reflect, like what is it that I’m really passionate about? Music. I go to shows all the time, you know, I really would love to work in music. And then yeah, so I just emailed a bunch of labels, and I actually called Matador on the phone, I was just like ‘do you guys need interns?’ and they were like ‘no,’ so I was like okay (laughs). And then I heard back from Captured, and they were based down the street from where I was living at the time, so it was so easy for me to go in and help out on my days off. And yeah, that was that, and I just learned as much as I could, so that’s pretty much what happened.
S: Word. So that’s pretty much it. Thank you very much for participating in this!
He doesn’t know me, but he asks if I need a ride home. This happens all the time on the West side. We help each other out over here. I’m not scared of him or what he could do. I know to trust my gut. I know this because I listen to la luna.
From the headphones hanging out of his collar, I guess he doesn’t listen to el radio. I tell him to turn then the knob to 103.9 and cantar conmigo. He raises his eyes and asks me where I live. I ask where have you been and to sing.
No, I don’t know the words, he says. I don’t know how to say them.
He’s not looking at the road, but the car can drive itself. He wants to look at my purple eyes.
Ay, mijo, don’t be afraid of the first language you can’t remember, not even the words for love or hate, I reply and let him see the moons of my eyes.
I saw him en la vela. I saw the freckles in his brown eyes spark in my flames. I saw him sneak out of his bedroom at night and walk to a duck pond. He laid on his back and watched the stars walk across the sky. He knows they’re not moving, but he likes to think they could. The stars take a long time to transmit messages. They’ve been trying. We both knew we were going to meet someday.
The funny thing about losing yourself in this gringolandia is you never can, I said. You are expected to act Mexican, though you know you’re Chicano. You are expected to be a high school drop out, though you’ll be the valedictorian before I’m through with you. Come, tell me your name.
The boy wants to move away from me, but he can’t. My ability to see is frightening, yo sé, and deja vú knocks you off your feet. He remembers this moment. The message his dreams gave to him. He is still afraid, of course. But I am la mañana, there is only hope in my bones.
My name is Cane, he says reeling from fate.
No, don’t tell me your nombre with that adopted nickname and accent you say to make things easier for them. Even as Cane, you’re still a wetback to ones born here. I’ve felt every insult they’ve thrown at you, mijo. I’ve taken every punch and kick to your body onto mine. Not anymore. Como te llamas? Tell me with all the force of your erased ancestors, say your name Candelario.
How did you know my real name? he asks.
Because there are some names that aren’t meant to be shortened. Letting them call us “something else” is allowing them to beat us into the ground. No. We are la tierra. We were born here millennia’s ago. We never migrated, nosotros regresamos.
I appear when I am needed. I don’t have to cast spells. I listen to la luna and she dictates the plan. She told him where to go as well, and now we stop acting.
De donde eres? He asks me with a stream of tears running down his cheeks.
De la mañana. Turn the knob to 103.9 Cumbias Preciosas Por Siempre and bailar, por favor. Sing and dance and stumble in your language. This is the only strength we have when our names are gone. Soy la bruja.
He speeds off into the night. I consult my altar. Me and my house rise up from the ground. The roots of the universe dangle like earrings on the stars. Un día I will see him again and many more like him. We are all bound in a similar frontera. De Latinoamérica y allá. De Aztlán y aqui. Somos la tierra. We wait.
According to my mother there was a time in my life that I didn’t speak Spanish like a gringa mensa, when I was 5. Apparently back then I was really cute, never said no, and could speak Spanish so fluently that my whole family in Mexico was startled by my existence. I don’t remember this ever being a reality. I remember always loving novellas, Spanish pop, Sábado Gigante, and constantly being afraid of speaking in Spanish. I knew that the moment I opened my mouth everyone would look at me with a judgmental stare, and either let me be or correct me. Then they would go off being chismosos and telling everyone in town how la hija of Maria Del Carmen was growing up to be a spoiled American. Maybe this was just an early sign of my social anxiety I only became aware of at 18, or maybe this was reality.
This all got to me bad at 9, that whole summer in Mexico was spent being made fun of by my male cousins. I was worried to speak. I was worried I was going to say the wrong thing again. I tried to just speak English, but this just brought out the “You’re in Mexico, speak Spanish.” So then I decided to not speak at all.
My mother became my voice box, I was whispered all the things I wanted and needed to say to her in English, so she could speak them back out in Spanish. It was not as efficient as I thought it would be, but it kept my family farther away from me and kept my feelings unharmed. At least that’s what I hoped it would do. See I have always had a problem involving me anxiously grabbing energy and letting all the words that popped in my head bounce out of my mouth. I couldn’t stay silent for too long, because it has never been my nature. I speak what I want to speak and then frantically run back into my mind.
A lot of the time, I just didn’t want to be alone. I was sick of feeling this obviously redundant separation in language. I just wanted to talk about Pokemon and Digimon. I wanted to learn more about my family. I wanted to enjoy my time. So I went to the local comic book store, next to a church that holds a wooden carving of Jesus that was found as a miracle in the woods (that no longer exist). I went to that local comic book store, next to that historical church, and I bought all the Archie comics in stock. I took those comics with me everywhere. I sat there with my head trapped in Archie’s life, as everyone in my family screamed about money and God. That was my productive way to strengthen my Spanish skills and not talk to anyone. It worked. There were moments, that these comics strengthened my almost non-existent relationship with my cousins. They actually wanted to read along with me.
The ridicule didn’t end that easily. It ended after one of my uncles saw my cousins making fun of how I spoke. He saw this and said “Next time you go to the United States, you can’t speak Spanish, you can only speak English.” This is what shut them up forever. It was funny to me though, my whole life I had been ridiculed for how I spoke. In English, not only did I have a lisp, but at times Spanish pronunciation popped out my mouth. I knew more languages that half people in my classes and my cousins, and yet I was the one they called dumb.