The St. Louis Ballpark Village is usually a venue for throwing back a few cold ones and watching the Cardinals game. But today the venue will give locals a taste of Los Angeles. La Santa Cecilia, a modern band that fuses Mexican roots music and Pan-American sounds, from cumbia to soul, is the headliner for the En Vivo Latino Music Festival.
Named for the patron saint of music, La Santa Cecilia touches on musical themes of love and loss like many other bands. But the band's members have been recognized as voices of a bicultural United States, tapping Mexican and American styles.
In 2014, the band won a Grammy for Best Latin rock album for Treinta Días, which included the hit song, "ICE El Hielo." The song's title is the Spanish word for ice, but it also is a reference to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. The tune offers a chilly critique of immigration law and an empathetic picture of immigrants living under threat of deportation.
St. Louis Public Radio spoke with percussionist Miguel Ramírez about the band and how the musicians feel about performing in St. Louis for the first time:
Ramírez on political songs:
"We never had that intention to start off as a political band, and we don’t ever really want to be seen in that way — we just do what’s natural for us, what’s natural to our heart, what’s natural in the moment. When we have written political songs, it’s been a thing that happens out of necessity. You feel it weighing on your conscious, or sometimes you don’t even know how strongly you’re carrying around certain emotions until you start to talk about them or express them or write them down or make them into a song."
On growing up Latino and connecting with other band members:
"We spoke Spanish before we spoke English. In our house it was like a little Mexico and when we went outside of our house, we were in the states or whatever. And then from there our identity became very Angelino, very L.A., very multicultural, very bicultural, very American and very Mexican at the same time."
"It's one of the elements of our chemistry within the band, we all grew up listening to such similar things. At home my mom was listening to Juan Gabriel and Los Bukis and all that kind of music you know. My dad was listening to José Alfredo Jimenez and Javier Solis — so it was a really cool mixture of contemporary Latin pop and classic Ranchera stuff. And that’s what we always talked about [in the band], it was this thing where you were embarrassed to say you liked that stuff when you were a kid, because people would be like, 'Oh what do you mean? Who’s Juan Gabriel? Blah blah. You know, whatever. But now it's a badge of honor that we grew up that way."
On immigration policy in the United States:
"It’s a super crucial time right now politically for so many things, but especially for immigrants in the United States. For us it’s a process of empowering ourselves, empowering our community, and educating. We take any chance we get to let people know, hey, we’re here, we’re no different than any other ethnic group, we’re doctors we’re lawyers, we’re entertainers, we’re all this stuff — we’re not just "hard-working Mexicans that mow peoples lawns like some idiotic stereotype. We have to take every opportunity we can to represent that."
On playing for new audiences:
"We love, more so than anything, that challenge of accepting a new audience in a place that we’ve never been to and really trying to win them over and making sure we give 110 percent on stage. We want to connect with that new audience and let them know who we are, where we come from, what bands are doing out here in L.A., or on the West Coast, and try to represent that as best as possible. For us, it’s like, 'You guys wanna go to St. Louis?' It’s like, yeah, we want to go everywhere."
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