Latinx Bands and Fans Celebrate Coachella’s Largest Latin Music Lineup Ever

This year, Coachella represented La Raza like never before. Along with the debut of the Sonora stage, Coachella’s 2017 lineup included the most Latin music bands in the festival’s 18-year history.

Throughout the weekend, Coachella goers rejoiced in Latinx culture and sent a political statement by doing so during contentious times against communities of color in the United States. Considering that the actual city of Coachella has a 96 percent Latinx population rate and SoCal’s strong Latinx presence, some wondered why Coachella didn’t cater to its largest community sooner.

But thanks to a collaboration between Goldenvoice (the production company that puts on Coachella) and Rene Contreras, the promoter behind the Viva! Pomona music festival—known for showcasing both Latin and non-Latin indie, garage, punk music—the new Sonora stage offers a space for up and coming Latinx musicians to introduce themselves to Coachella. Animated desert themed decor in an air-conditioned mock-warehouse with couches and beanbags across the outer edge of the room, makes the Sonora stage feel like the coolest DIY venue to never exist.

The Latinx talent of Coachella 2017 included East L.A cumbia-punk band Thee Commons; Argentine Tall Juan; Colombian rock group Diamante Electrico; Mexico City punk band Los Blenders; and Providence, R.I., bilingual punks Downtown Boys, Venezuelan American singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart and the Spanish band Hinds, among others.

Hector Medrano, a Mexican-American raised in Tijuana and born in San Diego, says he digs Coachella’s latest move to include more Latinx talent and believes Coachella is taking a subtle political stance. “You see how the country (United States) is little divided right now and there’s a little hate against minorities,” Medrano says, “Coachella doesn’t discriminate against anyone, Coachella is for everyone to enjoy and be happy and to love each other.” He adds that he came to see La Ligas Menores, Loco Dice, The Martinez Brothers and Lady Gaga but would also like to see Julieta Venegas grace the polo fields again in the future.

Marissa Marrufo originally from Mexico but living in Los Angeles said in Spanish, “We haven’t felt represented since Caifanes performed in 2011—they (Coachella) would put one or two [Latin] bands but never like this year,” Marrufo adds, “It’s too much of a coincidence that there’s now a tent for garage, punk and Latino music—it could be a sign of solidarity like, ‘We got you guys.'”

“I feel like the heavy Latino presence this year is a huge resistance in itself,” says Phoebe Smolin, a Latin music publicist, “It’s like one giant middle finger.”

One Latin band on the bill who may have caught themselves in President Trump’s increased border sanctions is Argentinian surf rockers Las Ligas Menores (The Minor Leagues.)  Last month, the band learned that their work visas to perform in the U.S had been denied. U.S. immigration required further documentation of the band’s popularity even with the band’s name on the official Coachella lineup. After an appeal was filed, the band’s visas were approved 10 days before the start of the festival.

Las Ligas Menores say that although they’re from Argentina they do feel a political tension in the U.S and they believe the crowds watching Latin bands at Coachella were wanting to send a message by just showing their support. “By representing Argentina, we also feel like we’re representing something bigger than just our country,” says Anabella Cartolano, lead singer and guitarist of Las Ligas Menores.

San Bernardino’s Quitapenas—who are likely the most hometown act on the bill—shared how a friend of the band credited them for sparking a sense of cultural pride within him, “What we were doing has lead him to reconnect to a side of him, his Mexican side, that he kind of suppressed growing up,” says multi-instrumentalist Hector Chavez.

This similar sense of Latin pride was present at every Latin music performance. Rhythmic cumbia chants of “Aye, aye, aye,” broke out during Thee Commons and Chicano Batman’s sets. Chilangos Los Blenders ended their Spanish punk mosh pit with “El Jalisciense” by Vicente Fernandez. And Chicano Batman’s Bardo Martinez raised his right fist high in the air to close out the band’s performance—arguably the most anticipated set by Latinx music fans at Coachella.

The band played songs from their new album Freedom Is Free such as “This Land Is Your Land” a Spanish and English spin on the classic American anthem and “Freedom is Free,” a peaceful yet powerful resistance jam. One fan shouted “por la raza!” at the end of “Freedom is Free” while a woman held a “Mexicanos en Coachella” banner. Another millennial wore a scarf with the design of the Mexican flag and la Virgen de Guadalupe. Argentinian soccer jerseys were also seen throughout the festival grounds.

Young, brown and proud was indeed the theme throughout some of Coachella’s micro-communities but those groups weren’t necessarily Latinx exclusive. Diverse faces among the crowds danced along to the universal power of music as Latinx musicians provided a welcoming vibe for any music lover of any nationality. It was everything live music should be—a collective human experience without divides of any kind, humanity in its purest form.

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