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!”

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - Winter Wildlands Alliance seeks an experienced and highly motivated individual to lead and manage the organization as Executive Director. Visit https://winterwildlands.org/executive-director-search/ for...
  • Background: The Birds of Prey NCA Partnership is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in Boise, Idaho, which was established in 2015 after in-depth stakeholder input...
  • Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor of Native Americans and the News Media The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is...
  • AWF seeks an energetic Marketing and Communications Director. Please see the full job description at https://azwildlife.org/jobs
  • The Southwest Communications Director will be responsible for working with field staff in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico to develop and execute detailed communication plans...
  • An intentional community designed for aging in place. Green built with Pumice-crete construction (R32), bamboo flooring, pine doors, T&G ceiling with fans, and maintenance free...
  • (CFROG) is a Ventura County, CA based watch-dog and advocacy non-profit organization. cfrog.org
  • Take your journalism skills to the next level and deepen your understanding of environmental issues by applying for the 2019-2020 Ted Scripps Fellowships in Environmental...
  • The San Juan Mountains Association is seeking a visionary leader to spearhead its public lands stewardship program in southwest Colorado. For a detailed job description...
  • The Cascade Forest Conservancy seeks a passionate ED to lead our forest protection, conservation, education, and advocacy programs.
  • Mountain Pursuit is a new, bold, innovative, western states, hunting advocacy nonprofit headquartered in Jackson, Wyoming. We need a courageous, hard working, passionate Executive Director...
  • The Draper Natural History Museum (DNHM) at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center of the West in Cody, WY, invites applications for the Willis McDonald, IV...
  • Couple seeks quiet, private, off-grid acreage in area with no/low cell phone service and no/low snowfall. Conservation/bordering public lands a plus. CA, OR, WA, ID,...
  • Former northern Sierra winery, with 2208 sq.ft. commercial building, big lot, room to expand.
  • The dZi Foundation is seeking a FT Communications Associate with a passion for Nepal to join our team in Ridgway, Colorado. Visit dzi.org/careers.
  • Available now for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojaidigital.net.
  • Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • Suitable for planting hay, hemp, fruit. Excellent water rights. 1800 square foot farmhouse, outbuildings, worker housing.
  • More information: jobs.wisc.edu. Search 96076

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