Sueños Festival Brings Diverse Latinos to Downtown Chicago – South Side Weekly

IIt’s Saturday, May 28 at noon and people are leisurely heading to the festival site with no real hassle or long queues. Tokischa, a Dominican rapper who has drawn controversy for her sexually explicit lyrics as an openly bisexual woman, started her set by asking the crowd if she had sex today. Then she danced and rapped all of her songs without the typical lip-sync bits on studio recordings that many artists make these days.

Photo by Mateo Zapata

Halfway through her set, she opened the back of her pants and started showing off her body while getting into a half striptease. Tokischa opened up about her past as a sex worker in the Dominican Republic—the Dominican government recently sanctioned and banned some of his songs. His musical expression demonstrates how oppressed communities have historically used art to liberate themselves. In her case, she’s an Afro-Latina who challenges her country’s misogyny and heteronormative gender roles.

La Gabi, another young Dominican rapper who performed early Sunday, shared her thoughts on the censorship of Afro-Latinas. “Each artist is going to create art in their own way. Artists are going to make art based on what they have experienced in life. Artists want to express themselves freely and liberate themselves with art.

Photo by Mateo Zapata

La Gabi is a lyricist at heart and has a vocal range across the spectrum of musical styles that can match anyone else coming right now. Its greatest flex is its versatility – The Gabi sings melodic soul balladseffortlessly rhymes over bass-heavy reggaeton melodies, and can rap louder than many over trap beats, while retaining the substance behind his wordplay.

Attendees and reporters from as far away as California, Miami, Boston, Philadelphia and Milwaukee gathered to talk about how they looked forward to the unprecedented moment when thousands of Latinos would occupy space in the center -City of Chicago, Grant Park.

Photo by Mateo Zapata

“You never think of Chicago when you think of Latinos, you think of New York, Miami. It’s beautiful to see and I love that we’re here in Chicago too! I’m blessed [to be here] in Chicago,” La Gabi said in an interview for Weekly South Side. I heard this same view from a few other visitors as well.

Although the 2020 census reported that Latinos are Chicago’s largest ethnic group, it seems our presence has been overshadowed by a lack of representation and anti-Black Chiraq narratives driven by establishment politicians.

The closing of two Afro-Latino artists on Saturday night in front of a predominantly Mexican audience illustrated how these moments connect different cultures and celebrate our diversity as a multi-ethnic group.

Just before Myke Towers took place, Mayor Lori Lightfoot made an appearance and was booed by many thousands shortly after announcing a citywide curfew in effect for those under ten -eight years.

Photo by Mateo Zapata

Myke Towers shouted “Viva México,” and Wisin Y Yandel’s Wisin draped a Mexican flag across his back and shouted Mexico more than five times during his set.

Ozuna also shouted Mexico, just before bringing Saturday night to a climax when he asked the audience to raise their hands: “Manos arrived, Latinos, who sat down.” (Latinos, put your hands up, you gotta feel it.)

Photo by Mateo Zapata

Much of El Alfa’s energy relied on flying sparks, flame effects, smoke machines, and a huge lighting system. Putting all the glamor and glitz aside, you can never deny the hypnotic appeal of hearing the mantra start of “La Mamá De La Mamá”.

Halfway through his set, he shouted Mexico and made it clear he loved all other Spanish-speaking countries in the Western Hemisphere, but reiterated his awareness that the crowd was predominantly Mexican as he smiled and kept the Dominican energy going fast. at a record high.

Photo by Mateo Zapata

“I’m Mexican, and having us and our gender in this kind of festival is crazy,” said Jesus Ortiz Paz, lead singer of Mexican band Fuerza Regida. “For a Mexican to be on the same stage as J Balvin is crazy, but we’re here to stay.”

The whole group had a clear understanding of the importance of bringing together the powerhouses of the Mexican and Caribbean genres.

Photo by Mateo Zapata

“Having a Mexican next to reggaeton artists is good because before [it used to be that] people who listened to reggaeton weren’t attracted to mexican music, and mexicans used to say “i don’t like reggaeton”…now we get together. We are going to be bigger and stronger,” Ortiz Paz said. “It’s crazy how our genre has grown so much.”

Ortiz Paz also spoke about the roots and motivation of his music. “We grew up playing in backyards and quinceñeras for a hundred dollars an hour. Fuerza Regida is from the neighborhood. I’m going to write about what I see and what I experience on the street. Just like the songs of rap, that [life] that the rappers talk about, we talk about it in our corridors,” he said.

During Fuerza Regida’s set on Sunday, they played recently deceased Chicago rapper King Von’s “Crazy Story” in the middle of his set while lighting a joint, showing that he’s also in tune with the music emerging from the black community. from Chicago.

Photo by Mateo Zapata

Fuerza Regida reflects the duality that many children of Mexican immigrants experience – being proud of Mexican heritage and culture but at the same time identifying with the parallels of struggle exemplified by the black experience through rap music. If Fuerza Regida were ever to explore crossing, Ortiz Paz said in an interview, he would want to with Lil Baby. He hinted at a collaboration that is currently being prepared with the very well-known Mexican rap group Santa Fe Klan.

Fuerza Regida ended their set with a moment of silence for the children and all the victims of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The same sense of gratitude for the recent tragedy was shared by DJ Dynamic, one of the resident DJs who hosted the whole weekend. “It was just a moment, it was about respect. It was the right thing to do,” said DJ Dynamic, who is also the official DJ for the San Francisco 49ers.

Photo by Mateo Zapata

J Balvin did his thing. His performance began with “Mi Gente,” which shares the name of the iconic song released in 1975 written by Johnny Pacheco and performed by Hector Lavoe. The term “Me nice” (My people) has often been used in songs by artists like Proyecto Uno, Nicky Jam and Kumbia Kings as a way to encourage unity. This Sunday evening, J Balvin met La Gabi at an after party and congratulated her on her artistic talent.

Sueños not only brought Latinos from all over Chicago to share the space, but also provided an opportunity for artists who don’t normally cross paths to meet and connect with each other. The combination of diverse artists ranging from all Spanish-speaking skin tones truly represented the spectrum of who we are as a community.

Photo by Mateo Zapata

The same couples who showed up for J Balvin on Sunday were singing verbatim the lyrics to Mexican singer Natanael Cano’s famous “Disfruto lo Malo.” song. Our language, our rhythms and our styles have taken place in a park that the mayor called a few weeks ago the “crown jewel” of the city.

It’s worth understanding what our communities are going through on a daily basis across the city this summer as well. More than fifty people were shot, nine fatally over Memorial Day weekend, the weekend of the festival. But the festival was not interrupted by incidents of gun violence. It was almost as if the attendees knew how important it was for the whole community to come together downtown to celebrate their culture – we couldn’t afford to spoil our moment by behaving like the stereotypes that the media and politicians have made us lately.

Photo by Mateo Zapata

Our unity in the Chicago epicenter made our collective strength visible to each other and reminded us all that we belong here too and this is our city too. The challenge now is to transform this cultural power into political, social and economic power. He’s the real Sueño to me.

No you rajes. If you have a dream, go for it. Don’t give up on your dream,” Ortiz Paz said.

The name Sueños itself carries the force behind the symbolism of its meaning: dreams. The very reason why several generations of immigrants have arrived in this country. The American dream.

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

Mateo Zapata is a Colombian/Chilean-born creator raised in the south of the country and working at the intersection of photojournalism, cinema, artistic production and hip-hop. He last contributed to a reflection on police shooting victim Miguel Vega.

David H. Henry