The story behind DJs preserving Latino culture via music: 'It's something sacred'

"It's a part of me being able to share musica en español or being able to share that part of my culture feels like an extension."
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As we reach the end of Hispanic Heritage month, we're introducing you to a group of Latina DJs who are keeping their traditions alive through music.

ABC7 news reporter Luz Pena has the story of the Bay Area Chapter of "Chulita Vinyl Club."

Growing up Latino means growing up to a common beat.

"On the weekend, I just remember waking up and my mom was already playing Los Bukis or Los Temerarios and she was already cleaning. She was already cooking. It was just a part of life every day at home," said Mar Velez, DJ of Chulita Vinyl Club.

"Every Sunday, when I was at my grandpa's house he would say 'ok I'm going to teach you how to dance merengue, salsa and cumbia. Get all the steps down.' Sunday School for us was teaching me how to dance," said Gitana, DJ of Chulita Vinyl Club.

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From actors to activists, Latinos and Hispanics share stories of celebrating their heritage, expressing their identity and representing their diverse cultures.

La Musica transports Latinos to their childhood and reminds them of home

"In playing these songs, it feels like I'm there. Like I'm at a carne asada, or a birthday party, or a quinceañera," said Maryela Perez, DJ of Chulita Vinyl Club.

All these memories have shaped the lives of Mar, Gitana and Maryela. They are daughters of Mexican immigrants.

"I was born here, but I didn't learn how to speak English until I was 11 or 12 because I was in bilingual education. So, it's a part of me being able to share musica en español or being able to share that part of my culture feels like an extension," said Perez.

"Family is very much a part of who we are as people," said Gitana.

Luz Pena: "You are 100 percent a proud Chicana."

Gitana: "Absolutely, 100 percent. We still have the same culture the border doesn't define us."

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When they put headphones on and spin vinyl they walk in their purpose. They are LatinX DJ's known as the "Chulita Vinyl Club" with chapters in seven cities across the country.

"We are Chicano, we are Latino, we are brown and we are proud to play these records and hold them down as women and be a force to reckon with," said Gitana.

Their parents introduced them to their first records and now they are witnessing how their daughters are sharing their music with America.

"They actually saw me DJ. They came up from L.A and they were stunned. We got to this one place and people know you. They've (Parents) been there for those moments," said Velez.

Luz Pena: "Are your parents like, 'esta es mii hija, this is my daughter?'"

Mar Velez: "Yeah, a little bit. It makes me proud that they are so proud."

Mar's mom is now buying vinyl for her shows. Maryela's collection includes records passed on by her family.

"There are over 200 for sure because I have more in my room," said Maryela.

Gitana's mom goes on stage with her, "My mom comes to all my gigs. Almost all of them even if she works the same day. She is my roadie and she wants to be there with me. Sometimes she brings her own records and she asks me "can I throw my records in there too? I say mom wait a second because I'm trying to get my grove too."

"I think we bring a different vibe as mujeres. The party is better with us," said Velez and added, "It's just another energy. It's a beautiful feminine energy also non-binary also non-male identified. It's a beautiful thing."

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Las Chulitas are not only spinning records. They are also ambassadors of the Latino culture.

Luz Pena: "What does it mean to you to keep these traditions and music alive?"

Gitana: "I mean it's something sacred, and I also think it's a responsibility."

Luz Pena: "When you play do you feel like you are also bringing your parents with you?"

Maryela Perez: "Yeah it really does. I personally do with every set ... I will try to sneak in cumbia every single time or a banda."

"Folks know the music. They know the dances, it's like we are continuing that tradition of the music and the dance and the culture," said Velez.

For Gitana, Maryela and Mar music was "La herencia" or "the legacy" their parents passed on to them and now they've made it their goal to keep those beats alive one record at a time.

"A gift that they didn't know they were giving to me but that I really treasure," said Velez.

Chulitas on Instagram:

Mar Velez


Maryela Perez

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