Chulita Vinyl Club: A Conversation with Shavone Otero
Chulita Vinyl Club is an all women's DJ Collective for self-identifying womyn of color providing a space for empowerment and togetherness. Spinning vinyl in Texas and California - their chapter locations include Austin, San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Bay Area, and San Diego. We were able to sit down with Shavone Otero aka Dj Canela ConSafos to discuss chicano soul, being mestiza y neplantera, cumbia and dance. Keep up with Chulitas on Insta or visit their site for more information - www.chulitavinylclub.com / @chulitavinylclub
Q: Thank you for meeting with me and answering questions about Chulita Vinyl Club, Shavone!
As a music-obsessed Latina, I really appreciate what Chulita Vinyl Club is doing. I'm currently based in Florida - is it possible to start chapters outside of Texas y California?
I am honored to be a part of this collective and feel blessed to be involved in what we are doing as WOC in a traditionally male-dominated industry. I've heard CVC isn't opening further chapters, however, check out existing chapters and shows on the website.
Q: Is CVC only for women with Latina heritage? Or is it a community for all WOC?
CVC is a collective of self-identifying womyn with a mix of heritages/identities, mostly Latina-identifying (Afro-Latina, Chicana, Xicana, Tejana, Mexicana, Salvadoreña, etc.)
Q: Chicano soul seems to be a big part of Chulita's playlists - a product of black and brown communities living side by side - it's nice to see a mix of old and new music being spun by WOC. Besides spinning vinyl only, are there any guidelines for the kind of music CVC plays or is it mostly about taking private collections into public spaces?
As both communities have struggled historically and currently with oppression, it is beautiful to create solidarity and celebration through a shared love of chicano soul / soul classics for black and brown communities. I love that we play whatever we like in CVC. There aren't any guidelines necessarily, but we communicate ideas of what type of music we'll bring, depending on the event. At our last meeting, one of the Chulitas said that she is proud to be able to play her Grandparent's vinyl in public spaces; when before they [her Grandparents] had to hide their culture, much like many of our Grandparents did during assimilation practices during that era. In a way, it's become a political statement to be able to proudly and publicly play our Latino music. We each have our own styles, and I enjoy learning about new artists from other Chulitas. It is great to let the music share the stories and celebrate the memories we have with our songs.
Q: Many DJ spaces - especially coming from Austin - are often white and male dominated; it's refreshing and powerful to see Latinas in these environments taking up space. Do you view this as a form of resistance in our current political environment?
Absolutely, and I think the infamous Caroline event speaks to that. Although the event was unfortunate all around, it was promising to see the support and solidarity we had afterwards. It highlighted the reality of how CVC is reclaiming traditional white and male spaces, which resonates as a political act of resistance at large. We partner with other women and WOC who are also creating similar spaces, such as Las Ofrendas and Boss Babes. Our collaboration is not only a fun way to meet other WOC in Austin (which took me some time to find when I first moved here) but it is also a collective resistance to create our spaces. Plus, it has provided opportunities to network creatively and politically as a WOC in Austin.
Q: Being from Las Cruces, New Mexico and being of mixed racial background, the concept of duality and borderlands is very near to my heart. Would you say that the spirit of the border is embodied through Chulita Vinyl Club since the chapters mostly reside in the border areas of Tejas y California?
Orale! 505 represent! Soy de Burque (Albuquerque). I recently bought a hand-made card from TK Tunchez of Las Ofrendas because it beautifully depicted how I feel as a Xicana -- "Neplantera. Ni de aquí, ni de allá. I belong in the space in between." I recently wrote a poem about feeling this duality. Although our chapters reside near the border, some of the Chulitas are from further south in Central America. Pero, yes, I'd say the spirit of the border is embodied in us in some way or another, especially considering what is happening with separated families on the border currently. CVC has recently partnered with RAICES on events to support the work they are doing around this.
Q: As a biracial, Chicana, it's often difficult to be openly proud of my Latinidad, even though it is very much who I am. I am a native New Mexican that grew up with my Mexican family, having deep roots in New Mexico and Mexico; but still, there is always a sense of imposter syndrome. Even when I'm practicing Spanish and studying the language, there are so many stigmas attached to speaking poor spanish as a Latina with native speakers - that I end up feeling too intimidated to engage. CVC seems like a wonderfully supportive and safe community for all Latinas to explore their identity. Do you think it's common for the Latin community to feel this sense of imposter syndrome - as Mexican Americans, 2nd/3rd/4th generation, Tejanos, Chicanos, etc.?
Totally, although my heritage is indigenous to New Mexico since before it was "New" and some of my Great Grandparents are from Namiquipa, Chihuahua and southern Mexico, I struggle with that imposter feeling with my Spanish. I am and look Latina but did not grow up learning Spanish in my nuclear family, per Xicana paradigm. Spanish is all my Grandparent's first language, but they were forced to learn English and physically disciplined for speaking Spanish when they were assimilated -- common stories from many of our Grandparents.
During the Mexican Repatriation, there was a fear of speaking Spanish in public because the U.S. was deporting people to Mexico, even if they were born in New Mexico. Pinche borders! It is sad to see how that has cut off recent generations from their language and culture, but I think the new generation of Chicanos feel a responsibility and pride to reclaim this. It reminds me of how my grandparents resisted through their own identity, street style, and sub-culture as Pachucos. My culture is beautiful and no one will ever take it away again. CVC has given me an outlet to celebrate that and find others who feel the same.
Q: I love that! Are there any records that hold sentimental space for you? Any records that tell stories of your history and cultura - something you can pass on to future generations?
Definitely Selena, I have memories of idolizing Selena growing up because there weren't too many mainstream Latina artists that I knew about at that time, besides Shakira and mariachi artists like Linda Ronstadt. I love playing my cumbia records because that was the first dance I learned, thanks to my Grandma, la cumbia queen. She tells me stories about how she would take her little portable record player around and show people how to dance. Cumbia es como the heartbeat of la gente. I can't help but dance when I hear it, and I love seeing others feel the Cumbia vibes when I play those records.
Q: How do you see the CVC community intersecting with dance? Have you learned more about dance through CVC?
CVC and dance are inseparable at this point. CVC is part of the music and creative scene, where we've met other rad artists, which has provided opportunities to network and support in our other creative endeavors. I've always been into dance as a free-ing and endorphin-providing therapy and have recently taken up learning how to b-gurl (more commonly known as breakdancing but they'll tell you that's not the correct term, hehe. See: Freshest Kids Legendado.) Many of my friends back home in Burque are quadruple-hitting bad asses as DJs, MCs, muralists/graff writers, b-boys/b-gurls ... I'm at a point in my life where I'm taking a spin at all those times I said "I wish I could do that." Pues, dale! Some other Chulitas have joined the fun, and we are learning from our new friend, b-boy Dorian Marquez aka B-boy Blink. We practice at a Chulita's studio space and another Chulita DJ Raquiqui said she wants to DJ some break beats for our practice. CVC is a dream come true, more than just for music, I love it.
Q: Where can our readers find Chulita Vinyl Club's playlists, events, contacts?
Most of us have our own individual Instagrams, which people often ask about, but we don't have an Instagram by chapter. Come out to our gigs! CVC ATX has a monthly residency at the legendary Tejano bar La Perla on E 6th. It is the last standing Tejano bar in a historically Tejano neighborhood, and we are honored to respectfully play at and support this family-owned and operated gem in East Austin. And keep up with our playlists, events and more through Chulita Vinyl Club on Instagram, Soundcloud, FB, Do512 ...
© Alicia Vega, Chulita Vinyl Club, Armoire Mag 2018