Q&A: Musician Angelica Garcia On Growing Up Chicana, La Virgen de Guadalupe, and Her New Album

Angélica García’s Cha Cha Palace – released in February 2020 – is a collage of memories, emotions, and traditions she’s inherited as an American of Salvadoran and Mexican roots, growing up between California and Virginia. The 26-year-old asks the hard questions about identity, culture, and femininity in a collection of 15 songs, from which she highlights “Valentina in the Moonlight,” as a starter song to the rest of her musical offerings. 

But one thing Cha Cha Palace really highlights is the role women have played in García’s life – from the iconography of la Virgen de Guadalupe to her mom’s mariachi background, which she showcases in her rendition of “La Llorona” alongside her mamá.

Emperifollá caught up with García to discuss Cha Cha Palace, getting a co-sign from President Obama, and how growing up chicana has influenced her style. 

Courtesy of Chromatic PR

Emperifollá: How would you describe your music and your album Cha Cha Palace?

Angélica García: I’m from Los Angeles. We moved to Virginia probably like around 10 years ago. At first, it was really cool because I felt like it’s just a total change of scenery and landscape. But then I think, as time passed, it became very hard because there were things that I’ve missed about like my family and my culture and it was really hard to connect with people. I missed speaking Spanish; I missed the food; I missed just the average makeup of the neighborhood.

I felt like Cha Cha Palace in a way was kind of me talking about the side of my identity that people didn’t know about, if that makes sense. The things that I eat or the prayers that I was taught when I was a kid – those are all things that I do at home and nobody ever saw that. Cha Cha Palace is almost like piecing together the memories of everyone and the memories of growing up.

E: One of your songs is titled “Guadalupe,” what’s your relationship with la Virgen? 

AG: It’s kind of my perspective on the iconography. It’s meant to start a conversation. As a kid, I saw the Virgen everywhere. I still have the core sense of respect that was embedded in me ever since. But as I got older and became a young woman, I started to look at it in a different light. I thought it was crazy that I had some family members that were very macho. That made me think of how strange it is that men would disrespect women but then idolize her [the Virgen]. I think that part of what makes her powerful is that she was an unexpected source of power in a very male dominated society historically.

E: You also got a co-sign from Obama on his summer playlist with “Jícama.” That’s major! 

AG: When I found out that was wild. I had no idea that was going to happen. I actually was asleep because I had a really late night flight the previous night, and so I woke up to my phone going crazy.

E: Your visual messaging is so rooted in your culture, where do you find inspiration for it? 

Courtesy of Chromatic PR

AG: A mix of a lot of things. I am very drawn to representing things, like memories, that I carry with me. And, um, kind of like portraying them on my body or on the things that I wear, but also mixed with things that I learned on my own. I have a little cross on my earring that was from a rosary and broke off. My tía gave it to me when I went to visit her in Mexico. My white boots, also, they remind me of the white boots that my mom used to wear when she was singing mariachi as a kid, but also, Go-Go girls. A lot of what I wear has something to do with a memory.

E: You also wear hoop earrings on a lot of your photos, what is your connection to wearing them?

AG: I did wear them for a little bit growing up and then I didn’t because I was getting frustrated with gender roles and stuff. As if, I was almost expected to fall into a trajectory, whether it was like at school or among certain family members. So I felt like I leaned into being a tomboy sometimes. I actually felt like I started wearing hoops kind of recently and since then regularly. But that probably happened around four years ago. I’m starting to realize that femininity is a powerful thing and I don’t have to hide it.

Frances Solá-Santiago

Born in Puerto Rico, based in New York City. She is the editor-in-chief on Emperifollá. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, NPR, Glamour Magazine, Numéro, Refinery29, Remezcla, and Bustle.

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