'Las Cafeteras': Beats That Bring Down Walls


With the escalation of electoral politics, racial tension and the debate over immigration reform amongst presidential candidates, Las Cafeteras unapologetically bring a bold sound to provoke thought and encourage debates on and off the dance floor. With a message of love and unity, countering hateful rhetoric from political characters like Donald Trump, they're taking their music straight to the heart of America spreading a message of unity, solidarity and celebration. “Donald Trump says he wants to build a wall, Las Cafeteras want to build bridges,” says Denise Carlos, on their press release.

In speaking with AlterNet, lead singer Leah Gallegos explains why they went with the name of Las Cafeteras: "People referred to us as Los Cafeteros, we decided to use that name to represent us, but because there were men and women in the group, we decided to use the "@" symbol. We went through a transition to try to represent us; both the masculine and feminine. Then there was a point we decided to just use the feminine to represent us. It was encouraged by us wanting to honor the feminine and challenge the typical gender norm or masculine norm of language."

While some media colleagues have chosen to cover Trump ad nauseam, others condemn the incessant coverage as counterproductive. With this in mind Gallegos clarifies: "More than anything we're trying to awareness of consciousness, and we're trying to empower people to think about what kind of world, what kind of community they want to live in. So, we're not trying to shine a light on Trump, but on autonomy and self-determination."

"Mr. Presidente, don't even play, you gotta reform immigration today, so that hard working people can stay."

With songs like "La Bamba Rebelde" and "Señor Presidente” they constantly remind communities they don't believe in fronteras (borders). Gallegos explains in their experience "borders don't benefit the people, they create boundaries and foster division. We feel we need to be united as people in order to strive and create a healthy existence, not only for us, but for the planet. We scream 'yo no creo en fronteras' and while on it, build bridges."

"It's Movement Time" takes lyrical content into a historical context. The narrator reminds us, "history books got it all wrong, so I wrote it in a song," referring to the colonial mentality permeated by indoctrination masked as education. Using this song as reference, Gallegos explains that "having Trump as a leader is a very scary thing," falling short of endorsing a candidate. "We want people to really think and decide for themselves what's best in their own unique situation. I will say I want to see a world that's peaceful and accepting of all communities, all languages and all colors." 

When asked if history may repeat itself under President Trump, Leah Gallegos shared an endearing joke the band had in their bus tour: "Trump's kind of like hemorrhoids. You don't want it, and if you get it, it's gonna be really hard to feel better."

"This Land," performed by Las Cafeteras in collaboration with The California Endowment: This video embodies our hopes for a brighter future, one which includes #HealthAndJustice4All.

In their album "It's Time" they feature a tribute to the United Farm Workers titled "Trabajador/ Trabajadora." Gallegos explains, "We grew up looking up to people like César Chávez and Dolores Huerta. In creating the song we were having a conversation about our parents and ancestors. We were really thinking about the hard work that they've done in creating selfless work. Think about were fruit comes from; who picks it and who plants it. Think about who takes care of our babies."

They remix traditional music and instruments, reflecting not only the changing face of America and its musical landscape. They add Afro-Caribbean marimbol and cajón, poetry in English and Spanglish, and instruments like jarana, requinto, a donkey jawbone and a wooden platform called the Tarima. As modern-day storytellers, Las Cafeteras are changing the way Mexican, and American music is heard, played and experienced.

Listen to their album here:

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