Quetzal is an ensemble of highly talented musicians, joined for the goal of creating good music that tells the social, cultural, political, and musical stories of people in struggle. Martha Gonzalez (lead singer, percussionist, and songwriter) calls it an "East LA Chican@ rock group," summing up its rootedness in the complex cultural currents of life in the barrio, its social activism, its strong feminist stance, and its rock and roll musical beginnings. Besides being a rock band, the group and its members participate in a much larger web of musical, cultural, and political engagement.
Quetzal’s approach to music is influenced by much more than the East L.A. musical soundscape of Mexican musica ranchera, salsa, Chicano Rock, R&B, and international popular music. For members of Quetzal, music expresses the ultimate struggle for dignity. In lead singer Martha Gonzalez’ words, "part of being in the band is having a Chicana feminist analysis. The presence of women in the group is not 'eye candy' or a tokenized gesture toward balancing any sort of gender scale: it's an honest recognition of the poetic, musical, and compositional strengths the female musicians in the community possess."
The group Quetzal emerged out of a particularly contentious time generated by events such as the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, the 1994 Proposition 187 campaign (to deny medical and public services to undocumented immigrants and public education to undocumented children), and the repercussive reach of the Zapatista insurrection in Mexico. These events spurred a powerful synergy, in which avenues of expressive culture such as music and public art emerged as platforms from which to voice marginalized people's desires, opinions, and resistance to the conditions in which they found themselves. The proactive strategy of Quetzal and other artists was to maneuver through the societal problems that were affecting the communities in which these artists were living. As a prominent force in this East L.A. creative culturescape, Quetzal vividly portrays how music, culture, and sociopolitical ideology come together in a specific place.
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