(A belated post from May 24, 2011)…
So, today is my birthday (May 24, that is . It’s also Maria Auxiliadora day. She’s the patroness of the Salesian community, with whom Jodi and I lived and worked in El Salvador for 8 months. Living in a Salesian community and having the same birthday as Maria Auxiliadora means I had a CRAZY birthday last year, complete with singing songs to La Virgen at 6:30 a.m., playing a student vs. teacher/sister basketball game (we, the teachers & sisters won!). We had dance presentations at a pep rally and lots of cake and partying.
This is all to say that I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I was in El Salvador. Jodi and I really miss our girls. If you don’t know, we started a college scholarship fund for 4 of the girls we lived with in Soyapango. Two of them, Marta and Xiomara have already finished their first semester at Don Bosco University, a private Catholic (and Salesian) college in Soyapango. We need to raise $3,500 to get them through their next year.
We set up a fundraising campaign here and we just need $10 or more. Go to:
All we need is $10 or more and you can help us send these beautiful girls to college, something that will offer them opportunities they could otherwise never dream to have.
Thank you so much for your help!
-Gina y Jodi
So, I knew playing an official SXSW show would bring good things, but I’ll admit I was shocked when my favorite radio show, Alt Latino, picked up my newest single, “Miles de Millas (2000 miles)” and featured me as one of eight “New Latin Artists Playing at SXSW” on National Public Radio!
Listen to the show (I’m featured around minute 18:00 – it’s a hysterical intro, hehe)
Speaking of my latest single, “Miles de Millas (2000 miles)” — which is featured on the official 2011 Austin Music CD — is now available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon and all your favorite digital download joints. Please check it out and, if you likey, tell your friends!
In other exciting news, the guys and I have been invited to play PACHANGA Latino Music Festival here in Austin! They just announced the lineup and it’s incredible (Ozomatli, Chico Mann…), so save your Saturday, May 21 for beer-drinkin’, hip-shakin’ fun in the sun. Click here to get $15 tix while they last…
If you’re looking for something more introspective, I’m playing a great solo show this Friday in the beautiful sanctuary at United Methodist Church in North Austin. The show benefits an Alzheimer’s respite ministry and I’m dedicating my performance to my grandmother, CiCi, who suffered dementia for 14 years before passing away in 2005.
Abrazos y bendiciones, gina “chancleta” chavez
PS: The SXSW show itself was incredible! Thank you so much to all of you who braved the downtown madness to rock with us at Mellow Johnny’s – t’was a day to remember…
HAHA! So, this is crazy. When I returned from El Salvador, one of the first things I did was what any volunteer who’d been in a third world country for eight months would do…I bought an iPhone.
Ok, I realize that’s kinda sad, but it was through this purchase that I was united with what is now my favorite radio show, “Alt. Latino” on National Public Radio. (The NPR Music app is a MUST HAVE!). I’ve been listening to this show almost since it’s inception and thoroughly enjoy the dynamic between show hosts Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras and the musical journey they bring to my headphones. Long story short, I quickly added “being featured on NPR’s “Alt. Latino” to one of my “lifelong goals” (that’s right, lifelong) and went on my merry way.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was offered an official showcase at SXSW and lo and behold I’m contacted by Jasmine about being featured on the show for their episode, “New Latin Artists Playing at SXSW!” In the words of Salvadorans everyone, “QUE CHIVO!”
The show aired last Wednesday and I am still in awe at the generous synopsis Jasmine and Felix gave the song. And if you’re still a bit confused by the title of this note, listen to the show! (My latest single, “Miles de Millas (2000 miles),” is featured around minute 18:00). Click here: http://t.co/rFyJ3d8
Thank you all so much for your incredible support – this journey keeps getting better and better and I am so blessed to have you in my life. I’ve pasted a transcript of the show below in case you don’t have time to hear it, but you should make time anyway
Hugs to all!
NPR’s “Alt. Latino”
Episode: New Latin Artists Playing SXSW
Hosts: Jasmine Garsd & Felix Contreras
Published: March 16, 2011
Jasmine: “So let me paint a picture for you: you’ve been at SXSW for several days. Your ears are ringing. You’ve been moshing and sweating and dancing. You’re dehydrated; maybe you’re crying; and perhaps bleeding. You don’t know where you are. You’re wondering where your pants went. And you need an audio palette cleanser while you figure what your name and last name are. I would suggest you check out Gina Chavez.”
Felix: “Gina Chavez is from Austin and I was really knocked out by that voice. Her music is a perfect combination of all these different influences and different styles. It speaks a lot to Austin because that’s what happens in Austin. The cultural mix of Mexican and blues and rock and folk and everything else from the United States is there. And she’s another proud example of Austin music.”
Jasmine: “Do you know who produced this?”
Felix: “Well, I cheated. I read the notes, and I saw that it was Michael Ramos from Charanga Cakewalk, which explains the really artful presence of the accordion in the music. Very very understated but giving it a very very Mexican feel with the choppy rhythm and the sparse instrumentation with the acoustic guitar. It’s a great bed under that voice.
Jasmine: “It also explains the charango, which she had custom made in Soyapango, in El Salvador.”
Felix: “A charango, by the way, is a small little guitar that’s used in traditional music in Central America, but especially Mexico, sometimes in mariachi, but mostly in traditional music.
Jasmine: “I also want to talk a little bit about what a socially committed artist she is. She spends a lot of time in El Salvador and she’s very committed to her work with immigrants and in shelters. She’s just a very socially conscious artist. In that sense she also reminds me of an Ani Difranco, Joni Mitchell-type.”
Felix: “A lot to admire beyond the music.”
Jas & Felix: Mil gracias, de verdad!
First off, the weather in Austin, Texas, is absolutely gorgeous! The day began with a teeny cup of Einstein’s, piling two fabulous photographers (my Aunt Nettie and my dad), and my bike in my car, along with changes of clothes and photography equipment. The Chavez paparazzi and I hit the streets for a much-needed photo shoot with yours truly and the ever-colorful, ever-beautiful, ever-peaceful Virgin de Guadalupe! My dad and Aunt were like kids with their toys – so cute to watch together in action, hehe. The sunlight was already a bit harsh by the time we arrived, but luckily Austin artist Federico‘s Virgin on SoCo outside Tesoro’s Trading Company graced us with the perfect amount of shade and made for some fun, beautiful photos. I even wore a cutesy bright blue dress!
Last Saturday’s Austin 4 El Salvador concert was AMAZING! The guys and I played our best show ever to 120+ people who helped us raise more than $1,300 to send Esme, Marta, Sofia & Xiomara to college in El Salvador! Thank you so much for your attendance and support! Sign up on the mailing list to get more info on the college scholarship fund and our beloved Salvadoran girls.
In not so great news, there was a sniper on UT campus. But, fortunately, no one but the shooter was hurt, gracias a Dios.
With the weather so nice and the benefit concert behind me, I finally got back to my Tuesday-bike-to-work schedule and had a wonderful 40-minute ride down Woodrow and Red River. At 5 o’clock I hit my Cannondale and I hit the streets again. Luckily, traffic treated me relatively well (just a few honks) and I the cool breezes and smells of fresh bread cooking inspired me to drop in on my good friend, Emily, and her lovey pups, Pancho & Covey). Gotta love savin’ the Earth from a few exhaust fumes and seeing wonderful friends.
The end of my day brought me to Genuine Joe’s for some catch-up work on the Music Success in Nine Weeks blog challenge. The challenge is over, but I have SO much left to do. I spent the event working on the parts of the blogging chapter that I’d skipped – yikes! And I must say, I don’t get it. I really don’t quite understand the blogging community yet and how to figure out which ones I want to target as good for my music. I set up mybloglog and google friendconnect accounts, but I repeat, I don’t really get it. Just not sure what I’m supposed to do. There’s so many blogs out there! Which ones fit my music? Which ones do I leave comments on? Where do I find the time! Eeek!
I’ll do some more research and get back to you on what I find. Feel free to leave me some helpful comments For now, this little chancleta is off to clean up the house (yuk!) and hit the hay. Gnite!
That’s right, peeps, I am back in the steaming ATX and flopping around like a fish outa water. I’m sorry for being incomunicado about my return home, but I snuck out of El Salvador a little early in order to carry out a birthday surprise and had to keep hush hush.
But now the cat is out of the bag — and my crazy, furry cat, Red, is back in my face, bleh! — and I’m attempting to pick up life where I left off…
It’s hard. I’m torn between feeling like I left too early (in the middle of the Salvadoran school year) and feeling like I’m going through menopause… it is RIDICULOUSLY hot here, and feeling overwhelmed by all the life decisions and bills and yadda yadda that have done nothing but pile up over the past 8 months. Coming back from an adventure is definitely not as fun as embarking on one.
But in a certain sense, I guess I’m just on a new adventure. I’ve got some new musical endeavors in mind invovling Latin and jazz music (not necessarily together) as well as picking up where I left off with my amazing band and our original songs. Can you believe Roel, Sammy and Kenneth actually kept practicing together while I was gone!? I know songwriter friends of mine who would kill for band commitment like that! Amazing
But in the midst of the excitement comes that pesky issue paying bills, ugh! Part of me says take me back to the nuns in El Salvador where, sure I had no income, but at least I had free food and living. And then part of me says, omg I’m soooo glad to have a toilet seat and veggie burgers! mmm…PTerry’s…
Yeah, so I’ve got the whole J-O-B thing hanging over my head right now. I’m unsure of what I’m looking for since fulltime jobs make music difficult and parttime jobs make eating difficult. But at the moment, I think anything would do. No-time jobs leave my schedule a little too open if ya know what I mean. What type of work am I looking in, you ask? Well, the teenage girl inside me really wants to work in a coffee shop or a restaurant (I’m serious!) and the social worker in me wants to work with the homeless, immigrants, or kids in need.
So, if you’re in the business of helping a former volunteer who is currently looking for work, let me know of any openings you find. I have no experience as a barista, but I REALLY want to learn, I’m proficient in Spanish now and I think I’ve got a pretty nice smile.
As for getting back into music, I am planning a comeback benefit concert, so keep your eyes open and your ears ready for some rocking.
I can’t wait to see all your beautiful faces!
Saludos from your “chancleta” in Austin, Texas,
Just a quick note to say howdy from this tiny fruit- and flower-filled country. It’s May, which means flowers are in bloom on bushes, trees, shrubs and even in little girls’ hands. They are amazingly adept at creating the most intricate paper flowers here, it’s incredible. Everyday the “stage” in the gym is adorned with both real and paper flowers in honor of our mother Mary.
Tomorrow is the feast day of Maria Mazzarello, co-founder of the Salesian community. Both she and Don Bosco were from Italy, so we found a song to sing in Italian, hehe. Luckily, at least half of the sisters here speak Italian, so they helped us with the pronunciation. Such a beautiful language, Italiano
And in two weeks we’ll throw the mother of all parties for María Auxiliadora’s feast day on May 24. She is the Marian image (Mary Help of Christians) to whom the Salesians entrust their community. In a Salesian community, every prayer ends with, “María Auxiliadora, ruega por nosotros!” And the funny thing is, that just so happens to be my birthday, so everyone’s convinced I’m sainted. Or maybe that’s just what I’d like to believe, hehe.
And with that, this little saint is gonna go say her prayers and get some grub! María Auxiliadora…RUEGA POR NOSOTROS!
Please keep our beloved Sor Rosita in your prayers. At 3:50 pm today she had a brain hemorrhage that left her blind and mute. She is currently in the hospital and we’re all scared and praying that God hold her in comfort.
Sor Rosita is the dueña of our amazingly delicious panadería and our on-site St. Francis. She is a lover of all animals if there ever was one. Just last week, she took Oso, one of our guard dogs to the vet to see about a bad limp. It turns out he has arthritis and she was sure to get him all the meds and proper food necessary to aguantar the pain. Now, it seems she’s having to endure a terrible pain of her own. Sor Olinda got back from the hospital and told us that she has a constant stream of tears falling from the corners of her eyes even though she cannot see.
“Dulce Madre, no se alejes tu vista de ella no apartes. Ven con Sor Rosita a todas partes y sola nunca la dejes. Ya que la quiere tanto como verdadera madre, haz que le bendiga en el nomber del Padre, Hijo y Espiritu Santo.”
Ok, so maybe “jogger” is a better word. In any case, I’ve always hated, and I mean loathed running. In middle school I was on the track team (probably because I had no choice) and since I was one of the slowest creatures on the turf, they put me in the least popular races where you can often gain points just for finishing. So, I’m running the mile during a track meet (mind you, I was only supposed to be in the half mile!) and our tiny, strict and spry Coach Potter starts jogging along beside me and says, “Gina, go catch somebody.” I was like, “what!? you must be kidding! I would rather trip and fall than make myself go any faster in this !$@%& race.”
Yep, I literally would have rather fallen. Luckily, I didn’t. But I sure didn’t pick up the pace to catch up with anyone either. And to this day, I’ve harbored “hell no!” feelings toward running…until now.
It’s been said that “whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Jodi reminded me of that quote from the Gospel of Luke one day as I was whining about my inability to write songs. It struck me that my same feeling toward running, specifically that I CAN’T or WON’T try harder is not an occasional cold or allergy, but rather a perennial infection, a virus that’s taken root in my mind. And so instead of fighting for what I want, I find myself in an eternal battle to reclaim my self esteem, esp. when it comes to music.
And then I find myself in El Salvador. And I can’t help but notice endless amounts of people doing an endless amount of work with so little. They start a pupusa stand on the side of the road with a portable stove, gas tank and some masa. They line streets and hop buses with toothbrushes, bras, toilet paper, dog collars, candy, coloring books, anything they can get their hands on. And they go. Without hesitation they find space where there is none and they get to work. And yet I spend weeks, months, even years brooding over what I’m called to do, sitting on talents that I’ve buried in the sand for later.
In April, I sang with a talented young Salvadoran, Jaime. He has no guitar of his own, but carries an awkward homemade guitar pick for the rare occasion that someone will lend him one to practice on. And yet my beautiful Ovation may sit in the corner for days before I take a pick to its strings.
Every day I teach schoolgirls who have nothing more than a white board from which to learn. No projector, few books, a computer lab without internet connection. And yet they learn. They move forward. They create beautiful and amazing things with the scraps people in the first world toss aside. The senior class absolutely transformed the simplest of gymnasiums into a true road to Calvary on Good Friday. They were fully-dressed Roman soldiers, pharisees and Jews, set changes, a life-sized pillar, crosses, sepulcher and even a real snake for Jesus’ agony in the garden. Though they have every reason to tuck tail and shrink into the shadows of poverty, these girls run with patient brilliance.
And so I’ve begun. With one step in front of the other, I’ve begun to pick up my feet. Observing the way I talk to myself, the resources I have at my fingertips, the doors that open at the mere sound of my voice. My stride lengthens. I reach for the guitar with a need to play. I look for pen and paper because I need to write. My pace quickens. And though I’m still not fast, I find I’m jogging steadily. I’m reading more books, learning new chord progressions and guitar rhythms. My breathing isn’t quite as labored. I take another lap around. And another, enough to lose count. Each day, a few seconds longer. A few more song ideas, a few more kind words to myself and others. And then one day I find that I’m actually looking forward to jogging at 4:20 on a hot Soyapango afternoon in the gym at Escuela Salesiana María Auxiliadora.
I mean, if a 12-year-old barefoot Salvadoran girl can outrun me in a game of tag on a concrete slab, and 38-year-old Salvadoran man can give a 10-minute oratory on the fabulous qualities of a blue BIC pen, and a then surely I can strap on my tennis shoes and jog for a few minutes every day. Surely I can write a few songs and use the gifts I’ve been abundantly blessed with.
Yes. Yes, I can. And I will. “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” -Mother Teresa
I’ve armed myself with this small yellow tennis-raquet-looking thing that electrifies them to death, mwah ha ha. So, as you read this you can picture me pausing every now and then to ZAP and SWAT!
The funny thing is, the zancudos never really liked me that much until Jodi left last week. What!? Jodi left? Yeah, she was on a plane exactly one week ago and I miss her terribly. Please keep her and her family in your prayers, esp. her grandmother and her cousin.
So, I’m going to finish out our last weeks solita. I know it’ll go by quickly, but I miss my partner in crime, especially since we embarked juntas on this missionary adventure. Plus, Jodi was the brains and organization behind our living and teaching, so I’m having to do my best with all the classes, laundry, cleaning supervising and loving the girls and getting up on time, lol.
And the internas miss her terribly. They ask about her every day and what news I have from our beloved “Yodi”. So cute. YODI, WE MISS YOU!
Speaking of the girls, I’ve been doing some informal research on our College Scholarship Fund around the school and finding there’s much greater need than we originally thought. I’ll admit that I’m not exactly sure about how to start collecting funds, but I guess I’ll start with the few of you reading this humble blog.
Basically, a college education costs anywhere from $15 to $75 a month, depending on the institution. I polled the senior class, 33 girls, and only 3 of them will immediately start college after graduation. The rest of them say they’ll work for 2 or 3 years to save enough money for school. But if they’re anything like American teenagers, there are probably very few who’ll achieve that goal. But unlike Americans, they have very few options here. Most likely, without a college education, our girls will end up housekeeping, cooking, or selling random things on the streets. I’m hoping we can give these girls a few more options
So, at this point in time, if you would like to donate to the CSF, you may click here to donate via PayPal or send a check to:
“Gina Chavez Music”
c/o Gene & Gail Chavez
7306 Greenhaven Dr.
Austin, TX 78757