Eight years ago Cuban musicians who played bars and restaurants in Ensenada told me that while they enjoyed playing for visiting gringos, they were forbidden from crossing the border and playing for them in the U.S.
That’s all changed.
Say hello to Zaraguey, four Cuban expatriates now based in San Diego who play salsa, bachata, merengue, rumba, pop, and reggae.
The freedom-loving Cubans, who have managed to make a living playing music full time while living in San Diego, have no problem poking fun at Donald Trump, the presidential candidate who seemed to get ahead politically despite slurring Hispanics.
"La Rata Blanca"
...a clip of Zaraguey in the studio
At the center of Zaraguey are lead singers Fernando del Rio and Yorily Quintero.
“Naturally, as Cubans we are very passionate about politics,” says del Rio, the songwriter for the band, and they have one song that is a special salute to Mr. Trump, “La Rata Blanca.” Yes, the white rat.
“We know what you want Mr. Trump/ We don’t want you to be our president/ We are the people who clean your streets/ We grow what you eat/ We even teach your children/ You’re talking to us like you want to president/ Yeah right...you think you are slick/ You are the rat and we are the cat and we don’t like what you represent.”
“When we wrote the song we were thinking how it might not be right for a presidential candidate to be racist and to say how all Latino people are a plague on the community,” del Rio tells the Reader. “We are not here to fight. But our point is that we want our voices heard. Not every [Latino] is a rapist or a thief.”
“We have been in San Diego for two years,” says del Rio, who explains that they are allowed to live and perform here as political refugees. “We used to play in Cuba. We now have a visa to work in the U.S.”
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In spite of la rata, del Rio says he loves the U.S.
“America is the land of opportunity. This is a proud, free country where you can have freedom and grow and be whoever you want to be. It is a shame our two countries have always been involved in conflict.”
Del Rio says there are two other Cuban bands playing in Tijuana, salsa artists Orquesta La Faranduela and Doble Impacto.
Zaraguey appears January 24 at Queen Bees in North Park.