Although some band members in the musical group Ozomatli have changed, their focus on social justice and human rights through art and musica has not. While reading an article from the Los Angeles Times, I was introduced to the single Gay Vatos In Love from Ozomatli’s fifth album, FIRE AWAY, which is in stores now. Ozomatli does not just create a song about gay men in same gender relationships. They also discuss couples who are not “out” and make connections to love and the murder of Angie Zapata (although not a fully convincing recognition to what trans-misogny is and how this led to her murder, but one of the first times I’ve heard a pop culture reference has mentioned her). Below is an upload of the song with a seperate video (not an official one by Ozomatli).
Here are some quotes from the LA Times article about audience reactions to the band performing this song:
The band began putting together “Gay Vatos in Love” during the height of the Prop. 8 debate in California and while one of the band’s members, Asdru, was working on writing music for a independent film project about a Mexican American gay gangster….
They’d played “Gay Vatos in Love” live on several recent tour stops, and the reaction was sometimes mixed, Pacheco said. “It can be polarizing.” So, he added, “we had to find a way to suck people in without giving it away.”
The singer says he now prefaces the song by asking audiences: “Do you believe in love?” The response is almost always enthusiastically affirmative. “People are like, ‘Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!’ And we just start singing.” Pacheco laughed.
Still, the song consistently challenges comfort levels among some listeners, the singer admitted. “I think people get confused, they don’t know where we’re coming from. Some people ask, especially in the Spanish press, ‘Who’s gay in the band?’ So there’s an assumption there.”
(When reporters ask about the sexuality of the band’s membership, Pacheco says he sometimes responds with a purposely blank, “I don’t know.”)
“For us it’s a bigger issue,” Pacheco went on. “We felt that [gay rights] is just another in a long line of underdogs, so I think we connected to it on that level. It was totally natural for us to take that stance.”
But “Gay Vatos in Love” is not just a celebration ballad. The lyrics, as provided by Pacheco, address gays in the closet as well:
Javi and Kike with their girlfriends in the car/
Fronting on Crenshaw, knowing who they are
Ozomatli also made a very specific decision to challenge the idea that “amor es amor” by incorporating the murder of Angie Zapata, a young transgender Latina. I interpretated their mention of her murder as not confusing the fact that Angie was a heterosexual Latina, rather challenging our collective belief that if “amor es amor” then why are we burying more and more transgender women of Color each year who are murdered through violent and horrific acts perpetuated intra-racial/culturally? They sing:
Juan Gabriel says amor es amor/But Angie Zapata is lying on the dance floor
The LA Times article continues:
The track also mentions Angie Zapata, the 18-year-old transgender woman in Colorado who was killed in 2008 by a sexual partner who discovered she was male. Zapata’s killer was convicted last year of murder and a bias-motivated hate crime.
That level of complexity in a studio album cut is what is surprising gay-rights advocates as the track spreads on the Internet. Francisco Dueñas, who organized around LGBT Latino issues with Lambda Legal in Los Angeles, said in an interview that he found it “amazing” that the song was just not celebratory but also “substantative” in dealing with gay issues.
“It’s powerful, a very inspired move on their part,” Dueñas said. “As people of color, as progressives, there are other causes that would be easier for them to take up. Immigration, obviously, housing rights, economic justice. But this song is about just another part of the community that they’re from and that they’re talking about.”