How a Chicano band blends urban and wild life

Quetzal finds a sense of place in East Los Angeles.

 

The band Quetzal, founded by Quetzal Flores. From left to right, (top) Alberto Lopez (percussion), Quetzal Flores (guitar), and Peter Jacobson (cello); (bottom) Martha González (lead vocals, percussion), Juan Pérez (bass), and Tylana Enomoto (violin).
Pablo Aguilar

As a child, Quetzal Flores used to cut through Ascot Hills after school. On those walks through the 100-acre park, instead of railroad tracks, warehouses and chemical plants, Flores saw coyotes and hawks. That green refuge in dense, urban East Los Angeles County left a profound mark on the boy. “This is one of the last open spaces — the last spaces for animals: a refuge,” says Flores, now 43.

It’s a refuge for people as well, one of the area’s few safe open spaces. Los Angeles lags behind all the other major West Coast cities in terms of acres of park per resident, and East L.A. is especially park-poor; its largest open space is a 137-acre cemetery.    

As a Grammy-Award winning musician, Flores celebrates the open space of East L.A. and its urban animals with his Chicano rock band, Quetzal, and the songs on their 2014 concept record Quetzanimales.

Flores, Quetzal’s music director and guitarist, sprang from what has become known as the East Los Angeles Renaissance, an early-’90s blossoming of politically engaged musicians and artists, including Grammy Award-winner Ozomatli. These were multicultural groups led by the daughters and sons of Mexican immigrants and first-generation Mexican-Americans, who inherited both the gains and the ongoing struggles of a civil rights movement.

Quetzal captures the sounds of Los Angeles — rock, soul and classical as well as salsa, cumbia, boleros and rancheras. Band members are proud of their role as community musicians, a role that Flores describes as taking an active part in preserving and protecting people and places through a dedicated commitment to craft. The musician, he says, is not the soundtrack to the movement, but part of its fabric.

As the band began to write Quetzanimales, they drew inspiration from a genre nearly five centuries old: Son Jarocho, traditional music from the rural villages of Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Many of Son Jarocho’s lyrics focus on the lives of animals — woodpeckers, doves, iguanas, rabbits and bulls — as metaphors for people: lovers, dancers, the curious and the proud. Quetzal’s members focused on the urban animals in their lives — the coyotes of Ascot Hills, the geese of Hollenbeck Park and the rooster of Mariachi Plaza — meditating on the conditions in which urban wildlife thrives, beneath bridges, in storm channels and otherwise hidden in plain sight. The urban animals became symbols of the people of those places: street vendors whose livelihood is illegal, community organizers returning to work after crushing defeat; resilient immigrants upholding their culture and language.

Flores also finds inspiration in the perseverance of Hollenbeck Park, one of Los Angeles’ oldest. Once the green jewel of Boyle Heights, the park was severed by the Golden State Freeway more than 50 years ago. As the park lost its prominence, residents took on maintenance work neglected by the city. Today, those residents hail from Mexico and Central America; 100 years ago, they came from Russia, Germany, Eastern Europe and Japan. The commitment to communal space over generations and across culture and language awes Flores. “There’s something telling about that. Something so profound and beautiful,” he says. “Boyle Heights is a great lesson for humanity.”

A sense of place has always been central to Quetzal’s music. And with that place come collaborations that are part of the band’s legacy. In 1997, the band helped organize an encuentro, or gathering, of Chicana and Chicano artists and Zapatista rebels in Southern Mexico. The proliferation of Son Jarocho within West Coast Chicana communities is partially due to Quetzal’s work with musicians from Mexico’s Gulf Coast. For the past few years, the band has worked with Japanese and Japanese American musicians in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo to create FandangObon, a participatory festival fusing Japanese, African and Mexican traditions. Locally, the band mentors young musicians, and Flores is part of a group of artists working with California prisoners.

Quetzal Flores teaches a guitar class for prisoners at the Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California. The music his band plays is meant to inspire social change.
Peter Merts

The legacy of nearly a quarter century of work continues with the release this spring of Quetzal’s latest album, The Eternal Getdown. Much like Quetzanimales, The Eternal Getdown is inspired by the people the group has met as well as the places they come from.

At his office in Boyle Heights, Flores often encounters the rooster of Mariachi Plaza, which stalks the sidewalk daily, its feathers a mix of deep red with hues of orange and a black tail with a blue sheen. Despite the congested streets, the bird safely roams up and down driveways, onto porches and through fences around the neighborhood. “Everybody knows that rooster,” Flores explains. “He’s part of the cultural web of Boyle Heights.”

Flores and the rooster squawk at one another. They follow one another. They play. The relationship, Flores says, is crucial to understanding our humanity and sense of place in one of Los Angeles’ most dense urban neighborhoods.

The rooster is given the first words of Quetzanimales. Flores says it is a direct call to action: “Wake up, everybody!”

Republish Print
Comments (1)
NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • MOUNTAIN BIKE HEAVEN!
    Home For Sale $320,000. Apple Valley, UT. It is in a very quiet, peaceful part of the county and has the dark night sky. It...
  • GENTLE WILD HORSES NEED HOMES
    Jicarilla Mustang Heritage Alliance gentles and finds homes for mustangs. With every day, more homes are needed for wonderful loving horses. Can you Save a...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Colorado Conservancy is seeking an innovative and dynamic Executive Director to build on growing regional impact within the current strategic plan. This is a...
  • WESTERN MONTANA FIELD COORDINATOR
    Job Title: Western Montana Field Coordinator Reports to: Programs and Partnerships Director Compensation: $33,000 - $37,000, plus competitive health benefits, retirement savings, and vacation leave....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Please send a resume and cover letter including salary requirements to [email protected] The Madison River Foundation is a fast growing, non-profit that preserves, protects, and...
  • CAMPAIGN OUTREACH ASSISTANT - SALMON AND STEELHEAD
    The Campaign Outreach Assistant will be responsible for grassroots efforts to organize, empower and mobilize supporters to take action in support of ICL's salmon and...
  • OWN YOUR DREAM - TAOS BIKE SHOP FOR SALE
    Gearing Up, well established, profitable, full service bicycle shop. MLS #103930. Contact: 435-881-3741.
  • DIRECTOR, TEXAS WATER PROGRAMS
    The National Wildlife Federation seeks a Director to lead our water-related policy and program work in Texas, with a primary focus on NWF's signature Texas...
  • PLANNING MANAGER - FORT COLLINS NATURAL AREAS
    The City of Fort Collins is seeking an Environmental Planning Manager in the Natural Areas Department. The Department has an annual budget of approximately $13...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Colorado Canyons Association seeks an Executive Director to join a motivated board of directors, an experienced staff, and a strong national following at an important...
  • SPLIT CREEK RANCH
    Spectacular country home on 48 acres with Wallowa River running through it! 541-398-1148 www.RubyPeakRealty.com
  • LOOKING FOR EXPERIENCED FARMER
    for 25-year certified organic vegetable farm. Business arrangements flexible. 7 acres raised beds. Excellent infrastructure. NW Montana. Contact: [email protected]
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM NM MOUNTAIN VALLEY HOME
    Home/horse property on 22.8 acres, pasture & ponderosa pines, near Mora, NM. Views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Near fishing, skiing, back-country hiking. Taos...
  • PROJECT MANAGER
    - Project Manager nat. res. mgmt, stream restoration, conservation http://www.washingtonwatertrust.org
  • CLIMATE EDUCATION & STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM MANAGER
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a wildly enthusiastic person to develop curriculum and educational, stewardship, and ecological restoration goals for a new grant-funded program.
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE, INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES INITIATIVE, NOVO FOUNDATION
    About NoVo Foundation NoVo Foundation acts from the original meaning of philanthropy: the love of humanity. The Foundation is dedicated to catalyzing a global social...
  • SEEKING ORGANIC FARMER/RANCHER TENANT
    Large garden, current garlic production, small cottage, barn cats, small herd of livestock, poultry flock; some experience necessary; Union, OR. Contact: [email protected]
  • PERU: WEAVING WORDS & WOMEN ADVENTURE
    April 2020. A 13-day women-only immersion into the culture of Peru led by Page Lambert and True Nature Journeys. Includes Machu Picchu. Graduate credit available...
  • ELECTRIC MOUNTAIN LOTS - PAONIA, CO
    Only 2 lots left in Electric Mountain Recreational Subdivision. Spectacular vistas. Visit & dine at the reopened Electric Mountain Lodge, Thurs-Sun. Contact: [email protected]
  • FOR SALE: SOUTH AUSTIN RANCH NEXT TO WILDFLOWER CENTER
    Seeking LMP/family to share one of two complexes, ranching, hunting and recreation as allowed on a City of Austin held 385 acre water quality conservation...

Этот популярный веб сайт со статьями про раскрутка сайта астана progressive.com.kz