Life & Arts
1:24 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

From East L.A. to Austin, Las Cafeteras Stomps Out Racism With a Beat

Los Angeles band Las Cafeteras came to UT-Austin yesterday to spread an anti-racism message of understanding.

After leading a group of students in a workshop called “Racism, Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That,” the band played to a crowd of around 100 students, staff and community members.

The group of young musicians pairs socially conscious lyrics with a melodic fusion of hip hop and Son Jarocho, a type of folk music born from a blend of cultures in Veracruz, Mexico. Band members played traditional instruments like the jarana jarocha, a small-guitar like instrument; the quijada, a donkey jaw-bone; and the marimbol, a plucked key box bass. 

Las Cafeteras say that their music really began as a way to talk about their identities and the history of their community – topics they say are under or only partially represented in mainstream depictions.

“What do you know about East L.A.?” band member David Flores asked a group of students during the workshop. “Violence, gangs, tacos, right? And all those things are true, but they are only one story. There are many more.”

Race at UT can be a controversial topic. Last year, UT's affirmative action policies were challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was sent back to the Fifth Circuit where a decision is still pending.  And last year, the Young Conservatives of Texas announced and subsequently cancelled a "game" called “Catch an Illegal Immigrant.” Counter protesters held a pro-immigration rally.

Flores says that institutions have a responsibility to foster tolerant environments, but individuals have a responsibility to share their stories and perspectives with others. He says these connections are really what will make a difference in combating racism.

Las Cafeteras’ ideas about social inclusion are based on the Zapatista model promoted by the revolutionaries in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Their songs include overt but lighthearted discussions about race, gender, sexuality, immigration, social justice and culture.

"It's a heavy subject, but we try to keep it light and fun," says Flores.

Last night, audience members of all different backgrounds danced together and watched as couples stepped onto a wooden box to try out their zapateado, or stomping skills, beating out an upbeat rhythm with their feet.