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El Sonido del Arcoiris

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by Yesenia Burgara 

Mariachi Arcoiris

“It is a really powerful way to get that message across,” said Rudy Vasquez, CSUN alumnus and trumpet player for Mariachi Arcoiris “to inform people because they are not only being informed, they feel what you feel.”Music is considered the universal language. People listen to music for many different reasons, but it makes an impact on most. Musicians have taken that into consideration and many now use their music as a form of activism.

Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles is likely the very first openly LGTBQ Mariachi in history and is trying to use their music to break barriers in the music world. The group provides a safe haven for mariachi musicians identifying with the LGTBQ community who want to perform traditional Mexican regional music.

Traditionally mariachis are male dominated and considered to have a “machismo” stigma, meaning to have male chauvinism tendencies. Therefore a mariachi is not a place where someone of the LGTBQ community may feel comfortable or be themselves openly.

“We (gay mariachi musicians) needed a place where we were free from bullying, being made fun of, being talked about behind our backs, and discrimination,” said Carlos Samaniego, director of Mariachi Arcoiris. “Different type of things that all of us unfortunately have suffered.”

“The group also has members who are straight and considered allies,” Vasquez said. “It’s great to see they could play comfortably with us, and know that about us and they are not going to feel that their masculinity is being threatened or anything. It’s like helping out or being a part of any other mariachi. They go in there and play with no reservations.”

Females have been a part of the mariachi world since 1903 when the first documented female, Rosa Quirino, played in a mariachi band, but to some it is still uncommon to think of female mariachis. The first all-female group was the Las Adelitas formed in 1948 and was directed by a male. Today only about thirty all female mariachi reside in the U.S. Mariachi

Arcoiris welcomes women and is proud to have the first transgender female in mariachi history, Natalia Melendez their violinist.

“There was a lot of obstacles I had to go through, to being comfortable and not even expecting to be in a leadership role to the world, and I’ve been blessed with that, Melendez said. “I’ve been given this kind of responsibility through everything that I’ve done.”

States such as California have legalized gay marriage, demonstrating that times are changing for the LGTBQ community in a positive direction.

“Your generation is more flexible, adaptable and open and not as concerned about rigid boundaries about sexuality and gender,” said Kathryn Sorrells, CSUN Communication Studies Professors. “I think those kind of performances are shifting for people in ways that I think are really helpful. Not everywhere, not all the time certain spaces are more open,”Sorrells.

Despite advances ,the LGTBQ community is uncertain under the new Trump administration and still continue to experience discrimination such as harassment, misgendered pronouns,denied basic public accommodations , homophobic comments, lack of protection, and exclusion from some areas in society.

But with artist and groups such as Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles who use music as a tool to advocate for a change, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

“Music and protest are going to continue to come together in really powerful and creative ways in the next decade.” Sorrells said.4631796236_631x297

Remittances Are Being Targeted by Administration

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by Gustavo Muro

2015 Remittence Flow by Gustavo Muro

Creating a map that show the estimated amount of remittances sent out from the US into other countries during the year of 2015, provides us with a clear understanding of the amount of monies sent from immigrants in the US. Utilizing data from the World Bank, I was able to cluster together received remittance totals by separated by continent.

The current regime in Washington DC proposes a tax on remittances to build a symbol of division in the form of a wall is an insult to citizens of Mexican culture. If a tax is levied from such a proposal, the backlash would affect immigrants and US citizens.

Honestly, the tax would be unjust for the simple fact the tax would disproportionately affect the working class.

In 2008 the top three countries receiving remittances were number one India, second China, and third Mexico. According to The World Bank, The average value of a single remittance to Mexico was between $340-$350 US dollars in 2007. An interesting observation is that increase in remittances have been seen to correlate with reduced homicide rates in the country that is — for every 1% increase in households receiving remittances in Mexico there is a 0.05% decrease in the homicide rate. Lowering the costs of sending remittances to other countries including Mexico would help fight poverty as well as being an effective method to reduce the organized crime rate according to a study from the ‘Inter-American Development Bank’.

The Trump administration has threatened Mexico with taxing remittances sent from the US to assist in funding for Trump’s proposed border wall. It would be counter-intuitive to de-rail efforts of Mexican and US officials who have been working to make money flows between the two neighboring countries more transparent. If remittances were to become taxed then senders of remittances may consider the use of other methods of sending money, such as physically smuggling it across border lines. Some have even suggested Mexicans might turn to a currency transfer medium such as ‘Bit Coin’ among others which is an online currency that eliminates banks and fees to transmit currency.a

A survey by Inter-American Dialogue of remittances to Mexico found that a majority, 67 percent in 2013, were sent by “undocumented” individuals living in the U.S.

Data gathered by the Mexican government and BBVA Research shows that in 2015, nearly one-third (29.6 percent) of all of the remittances sent from the U.S. to Mexico originated in California. Just over 14 percent was sent from Texas, and 5.1 percent from Illinois.

In 2015, remittances sent to Mexico totaled 2.3 percent of the country’s GDP, the data showed.

Forbes reported that the money sent from the U.S. to Mexico by migrants “replaced oil revenues as Mexico’s number one source of foreign income” in late 2015.

Mexico has relied upon immigrants to maintain families, communities, and in many cases municipalities.

TWO GENERATIONS OF “ZOOT SUITERS”: Valdez’s Masterpiece Returns to the Mark Taper Forum

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 by Celina Fernández-Ayala

Picture of Celina
Celina Fernández-Ayala

Fifteen-year-old Angel Fernández-Chavero knew nothing about the play that Father Hernandez invited him to see. It was a reward for the teen’s job as a typist for the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As a good Mexican Catholic boy, he looked forward to visiting the Mark Taper Forum with his parish priest.

Angel Fernández-Chavero did not anticipate how important this outing would be. The year was 1978, and he was to see “Zoot Suit”.

Famed Chicano playwright Luis Valdez wrote and directed the play. This piece is based on the 1942 Sleepy Lagoon murder, in which members of the 38th Street Gang were convicted of José Gallardo Díaz’s death. The production focuses on Henry Reyna and his friends’ struggle for justice within an overtly racist justice system.

Fernández-Chavero was stricken by Edward James Olmos’ performance as El Pachuco. “He really had an impact just on my seeing this live show and him just being this character I couldn’t totally figure out, because one minute he’s being this good guy and the next minute he’s a jerk.”

“I didn’t understand for a while how he was Henry’s alter ego. And then suddenly a representative of the Chicano Nation”, he stated.

Angel Fernández-Chavero is my father, and he introduced me to the 1982 film as an 11-year-old. A movie on a school night was a big deal. It is one of my favorite memories.

As a preteen, my father did not expect me to take anything away from the film. New England, my birthplace, is no hub of Chicano culture. Even so, I grew up calling myself a Chicana.

“Whether you would totally understand [the film] or not actually wasn’t too much of the point. I just wanted you to be exposed to it” said Fernández-Chavero. “I hoped you would like it. I hoped that the music or the ‘cha-chas’- or whatever- something would hit you, but that was it.”

I loved “Zoot Suit”. The film spoke to my nascent skepticism about the U.S.’s judicial system. Reyna’s treatment angered me, and I remember telling my father that “there were so many things Henry could have been.”

Despite Fernández-Chavero’s statement that comprehension was a concern, I learned a lot that evening. I never forgot the line about the “blood thirsty Aztecs”. Or my father’s response that it came straight from the court records.

I did not expect to watch the play as a Chicana/o Studies major nearly 40 years after my father. This time, under the current political climate, “Zoot Suit” felt even more personally relevant. The courtroom script could have been pulled from today’s headlines.

After the performance, I concluded that “Zoot Suit” serves today’s Chicana/o/x community as a reminder that racism never dies, but manifests differently each generation. My father added its value as a production about “The struggle of young men trying to figure out who they are and the lies that society’s institutions will tell you. I really think it should be part of the standard high school curriculum.”


Southbay LA Sound: Back-Bone

in The Word is Text/Videos by

by Mauricio Ruiz


The band’s first step towards becoming Back-Bone happened in December 2012 when Reuben Cortez, Christian Gomez, and David Naranjo left the band Hierba Mala. From that point, the group started collaborating with other musicians from neighboring bands in the area that lead to the induction of Richard Cortez.

Time has left Back-Bone to the members to create the Southbay sound of Dirty Reggae. Back-Bone is based in Carson Ca, of which, the city has witnessed little to none of the specific genre they call Dirty Reggae. This type of reggae is specific to Back-Bone and their creation process of music. Their reggae is not the typical roots reggae, while they try to avoid mainstream fads. The band doesn’t have a specific demographic that they try to appeal to because they want the masses to enjoy their music. Dirty Reggae is Back-Bone’s version of reality music that derives from their own personal experiences. Their performances create an atmosphere where they encounter very little racism and generates positive experiences. The Band is currently working on recording new music to release their album with a complementary music video.


Reuben Cortez, Lead singer of Back-Bone, Mexican-American, says he was very closed minded with the type of music he exposed himself too. Early influences came from classic rock and first wave ska music such as The Specials. Initially, he wanted to play the saxophone but wasn’t given the opportunity, in which, he started playing the trumpet. His trumpet playing lead him to join the local mariachi. Then he sharpened his skills on the guitar taking characteristics from mariachi music such as the rhythms, scratching, redobles, fillings and note selection. The guitar gave him a platform to write lyrics and sing. Christian pushed Reuben to sing because he didn’t aspire to be a singer.

Christian Gomez, Drummer for Back-Bone, Mexican-Honduran, grew up listening to music and watching movies that weren’t appropriate for a child, due to the age differences between siblings. This exposed Christian to a surplus of content at an early age. Learning the drums has expanded his horizon of musicality by being around other musicians with different tastes in music, as well as performance levels. This pushed Christian to try and incorporate every type of music into his creation process.

Richard Cortez, Lead guitar of Back-Bone, American with Mexican heritage, grew up listening to classic rock because of his father. The guitar allowed him to recreate solos he heard from the songs he grew up with. He took great influence to movies and music growing up as well. When asked about his background influence on his music, he said he gained influence from classic rock, not his heritage because he couldn’t incorporate what he wasn’t exposed too.

David Naranjo, Bass player of Back-Bone, Mexican-American, grew up listening to classic rock artist such as led zeppelin. His brothers introduced David to a wide spectrum of music consisting of jimmy page, punk bands, thrash music, Slayer and music from the late 80s. His brothers played the guitar, in which the 9-year age difference influenced him to pick up the bass at an early age. In middle school, he first listened to the song “Take on Me” by Reel Big Fish which lead him to start learning the trumpet and the trombone. He continued to indulge in the Ska/Reggae arena by going to watch Streetlight Manifesto perform live. His heritage had little impact in playing the bass as he would listen to rhythms of the upright bass in Mexican songs. There wasn’t a necessity for him to play the bass until the opportunity arose during the creation of Back-Bone.


@backbonemusic Instagram SoundCloud


Fear of an American Monolith

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by Vanessa Alvarado

What? Does not make sense!

The news heard around the world is that Donald Trump won the Presidency.

There were mixed emotions throughout the elections and when anyone would go through social media everything and everyone was divisive.  Half of everybody was pro Trump and the other half was pro Clinton.  This election called the pick of the lesser of two evils.  But, lets face it, isn’t that the case for every election?

The election was undoubtedly going to be a close one and when towards the end of the tallying polls were taken, Trump started taking the lead everyone was on the edge of their seats.  Trump declared his win a few minutes early on after receiving a call from Secretary Clinton congratulating him on the news.  Everyone’s reactions became flooding in.  People’s emotions were and still are at an all time high.  Emotions so great that rallies began and peoples innocent lives have been lost.  We the people of the United States are ruining lives based off of someone who half the country picked.

The Latino community for the most part are all living in fear.  Trump made extreme statements stating that Latinos rapists, killers and overall criminals making those who have a small-minded point of view, stereotyping all Latinos as such.  They are living in fear of what Trump will do once he officially takes office and what it means for those undocumented immigrants who are here.  These immigrants came here to live the American dream and instead of living the dream, they are living in fear.

It is just as important to note that there were Latino voters for Trump.  Some reasons they did vote for Trump is because they did not see Trump making such extreme statements, but rather the fact that Mexico sends their criminals to the United States to deal with, not that all Hispanics are bad.  Other reasons include the fact that if they are citizens, so should all these other people be and that it is not fair that they are getting treated the same if not better, especially when it comes to education.  Trump supporters believe that the United States should be looking out for their own people before they start supporting illegals.

This election proves to us that this country is not as great as it seems or as progressive.  It is not accepting of the different American experiences.  It is still a country stuck in the same ideas that were in place in history since the mid 1900’s of the segregation that was believed to no longer be prevalent in todays life, but clearly it is just with a new twist.  This election has divided the country and is letting our emotions take the best of us.  We are repeating history once again, yet we would think we would learn from our mistakes.

Anti-Trump Protests? More like a Cordial Invitation to Rally Together

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By Laura Gallegos, El Popo Staff

women holding signs at anti-trump rallyNo one was prepared for the election of Donald Trump as the President-Elect of the United States, including Mr. Trump himself and his staff. The People, with an uneasy feeling pitted at the bottom of their stomachs, took it upon themselves to hit the streets, uniting and uprising into proclaimed Anti-trump protest. Many felt compelled to join; including myself. What America told minorities and other groups of people targeted during the President elect’s campaign was that a majority of it did not care about them or want them to continue to be a part of the country.

The spirits of individuals that thought they were accepted in America were broken the following day. However, many realized that they were not going to be bystanders of the social injustices that were proposed by Trump and his team. We saw that many Trump followers now wanted any person they felt to be a “threat”, to be rid of. It is fair to say that white America felt the need to lash out behind the mantra, “take back America and make it great again.” This country has been divided since it came into fruition but we had gotten over many social inequalities in the last 200 years. This election has in some way undermine much of the progress done to make everyone equal in a country that was deemed the “melting pot” for as long as it’s been the United States of America.

Protestors do not represent hate; they are actually standing up against it. What Trumps campaigned on and apparently represents, is falsely allowing people to think that it’s okay to tell their fourth grade classmate to “go back to their country”. These same people turn and use the N-word to offend African-Americans because somehow we have returned to some mentality of the slave era, or tell a person with a Hijab that they’re apart of ISIS. No, as protestors we stand up for those that are being hounded by Trump and his posse full of hate and incompetence.

The energy in the crowd was electrifying and empowering not only to those in it but to those watching from their windows or sidewalks. To see that so many people together around you with this tireless drive to also stand up against hatred was something that must be experienced to truly understand. We are not a bunch of whiny cry baby liberals, we understand what the constitution stands for and what our founding fathers meant when they wrote the first amendment which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Protests have spurred across the nation and drawn thousands of people to these crowds to continue to march and shout what the other side so badly wants to take from us.

Many are pointing fingers and scolding us via online or social media saying things such as ‘they’re just a bunch of crybaby millennials that have always gotten what they wanted by throwing tantrums. I have even read things to the extent of “This could be the easiest round up of illegals ever the police should be thanking them all for surrendering” said Marnita Lynette Dixon on a live Facebook stream for ABC-7 News. Does the comment not sit well? You’re not alone. It seems like those upset with protestors are also a part of the fraction of Americans that have forgot the President of the United States of America, and leader of the free world, should not represent racism, sexism, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, and white supremacy.

In the protestors defense, many of us there were of different races, backgrounds, ages, classes, and distinct groups from numerous communities, but we had one belief in common: Hate cannot and will not win. All these people walking for hours high-fiving those sitting in their cars, chanting “say it loud say it clear, immigrants are welcome here” were unified at a level that one could compare it to an ecstatic and clear state of mind. Those protests are not due to the fact that Hillary didn’t win. They’re in response to those that went out and voted against a woman that was obviously qualified and experienced to ensure that their white privilege was protected by Trump and his elected officials. The amount of hatred that people have shown in society has been on the up-rise since they gave Trump a platform and an audience.
Finally, these protestors deserve more respect than what people are giving them sitting behind their computer screens writing hateful and racist comments about them, these “protestors” are out in the community voicing their beliefs organized and peacefully. Part of the problem with today’s society is those that feel they are entitled to put others down via Facebook, twitter, blogs etc. These protestors are being active in a country that supports freedom of speech and protests are one for of expressing their ANTI-HATE beliefs.

So those of you still wondering why Donald Trump actually won let’s look at the bottom line; White America fears having to share its privileges with the rest of America.

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