Photo by Stephanie Manriquez
As told to Leor Galil
I was born in Chicago, but we moved to Texas when I was ten, so I grew up there. When I came back, I met someone who introduced me to local shows. I started going to local rock en español shows. One of the bands, Descarga, I started following them a lot. One day the singer, Hector Ivan Garcia, came out of the show, and I was standing outside, and he was like, "Would you like to be a band manager?" That's where it all started for me, as far as covering music, being involved in music management, and booking shows and all that—that was in the early 2000s. I was with them for about 13 years.
I remember one of the first things they asked me to do was to cold-call someone that they knew and just ask if they could play. I was like, "I'm the band's manager—I want to know how this works." He was very nice and told me how they did the booking and how they paid out.
I realized that a lot of the bands weren't reaching out to venues that they didn't know because they thought the venues would automatically say, "Rock en español, that's not something we know, so no." I approached it like, "Why are you saying you're a rock en español band—you're just a rock band." And that's when I started to get bigger bookings. We did the first rock en español showcase at Double Door—I was so happy and so proud.
When we saw the lack of coverage for the rock en español community—nobody was reporting about it, we weren't getting written up—the band's singer and myself decided to do something about it. He studied cinematography at Columbia College and he's like, "I know how to do video. If you're interested in interviewing bands, why don't we cover the community?" We started a TV show on channel 25 called Errores no Eliminados, which means "Errors not Eliminated." We started covering local shows—going to every single show out there, interviewing all the bands. That's where my love for covering artists that weren't being covered comes from. Now that's what I do all the time as a music journalist.
The TV show was in 2002. We were on the air for about two years, and then we stopped. We wanted to do it again, and we came back with a bigger team—we had a dozen volunteers. We decided we were gonna do it in one location for a certain amount of time, so we would do a month at Cobra Lounge, a month at this other venue, and different venues; the bands would just show up, do their performance, then do the interview. So we did that for about a year. The local rock en español community wasn't interested in us doing that, so we just started adding bands that were outside of that specific genre. At some point, we were like, "People aren't really interested," so we stopped. But before that, I did start my website, Enchúfate.
I started it to cover music that I liked—music outside of rock en español, which is what we call Latin alternative. I liked it because it wasn't just the hard rock and metal that we were used to seeing at the Latin rock shows; there was stuff that was electronic, a little pop, just different fusions of music that I loved, but that wasn't accepted by the people that loved rock. That's why I started Enchúfate—to promote all these other amazing artists that were doing music that had a Latin background.
I kept doing it on Enchúfate, and then I started working with Gozamos, which is a Latin outlet for art and culture. Eventually Vocalo reached out. Jesse Menendez, who used to work there, reached out and said, "Would you be interested in coming in so we can interview you?"
After that, he asked me if I was interested in coming in to talk about Latin alternative music once a month or once every two weeks, and that's how my segment started on Vocalo. Now I have the privilege of doing the Friday-morning segment on Latin alternative music, and I've been doing that maybe seven years.
I got into radio through them. I started working with Radio One Chicago on WLUW—I was with them for a few years. And then Lumpen Radio happened. Me and my DJ partner, Stephanie Manriquez, we decided we wanted to push women-fronted music, mostly from Latin America and South America. We were asked to DJ at a show, and then when Lumpen Radio popped up, we submitted our show idea; we called ourselves the Ponderers, because we were always pondering about music.
Now I work with Future Rootz. I'm part of their DJ crew—I'm also a DJ. I started DJing because when we would go to clubs or venues and it was supposed to be a Latin night, they would play the same thing all the time. It got to the point where we would get to the show, and we were like, "OK, he's gonna play this next, this is next, and now this is next." And sure enough, that's the way it was. Again, it was the singer of Descarga who was like, "Why don't you start bringing your CDs and playing when we have a show?" And that's how it started, and I've expanded to vinyl, which is great.
I love that I can share the music that I love, and that once people hear it they're gonna love it too. But my love isn't just rock en español—Latin alternative music, tropical music, some global bass here and there. Cumbia is my favorite. I have the Future Rootz radio show as well, on Lumpen. And I write with whoever wants me to write for them about Latin alternative music, mostly because that's my favorite thing to write about. v