Many of you have already noticed that I am no longer performing with Las Cafeteras. I still get tagged in some post, so many of you still don’t know that I am no longer performing with the group. I want to mention before I start my story that I did not leave the band, Las Cafeteras kicked me out of the band. This is not the final statement I will be posting, you have a choice to unfriemd me if you do not wish to know the truth.
I was kicked out of the band because I spoke up. The men were controlling and abusing the women in the band. There was a lof to verbal abuse from them. In the last three years I suffered from low self-esteem. I lost my voice and I lost myself being part of Las Cafeteras. We were constantly being bullied and criticized mostly By Hector Flores and Daniel French. It wasn’t a safe space to express and voice out what we felt. The women were being silenced at rehearsals, interviews, and shows.
Denise, Leah and I started loosing our right to create, speak, make suggestions, feel safe when the men created the “bro space” for themselves. This happened a little after our CD release of “It’s Time.” They became more desperate to control the image of the band, and everything seemed so fake after that. It was controlled who spoke in front of the cameras, and most of the time Hector Flores would assigned himself. He would event speak on women issues even if we expressed to him that we could sopeak on issues that we were most related to.
Rehearsal were brutal. Hector would constantly make Denise cry at our rehearsals, and always made her doubt her potential in playing her instrument. There was a period when she stopped playing the jarana, because she didn’t want to hear his criticism. The rehearsal space was taken over by the men, and this happened because the men figured out that if they got together it was easier to control us. It became the “bro” space, and eventually it got to the point where none of the women felt safe enough to speak up to or give ideas. If we did speak up Daniel would question us to the point of intimidation. He would use misic language that he knew we didn’t understand just to dumb us down. We were also ignored while the men huddled up and figured out chord changes and music ideas. If we wanted to dance, Hector would criticize the way we were dancing, or Jose Cano would complain that we were interrupting his concentration. Eventually we were too intimidated to dance, and stopped bringing the tarima with us. Jose became very controlling in the arrangements of the songs, and the other men gave him that power. They felt that since he was the one taking the songs home, that he was entitled to have more say in the making of the music. This evenntually was switched uo by the producer, because everything sounded the same. We were never given the chance to present our ideas even if we worked on them at home. The men would always find an excuse to change what we brought to the table. Daniel was also given this power because somehow Hector and David thought he knew more than all of us. The women ended up showing up to rehearsal to take orders, and sit through hours of “bro” arguments that lead to the same conclusion. Hector would throw tantrums if someone had a different idea than him, and he would stop rehearsal because he wanted to discuss why he was so upset. He would argue how he had an idea, and we weren’t following his lead. If one of us women would have a disagreement with one of the men, the other three would get involved, so the argument became one woman against four men. This happened to me a lot of the times, because I would get frustrated and speak up. I was always defeated, and left feeling powerless. There were also some times when I would speak up, and the Denise and Leah would side with the men because it kept them from getting picked on.
Performance were no different. Hector would yell at us on stage if we didn’t do what he wanted us to do. Leah got the worse of this because she was next to him. So he would yell at her the most, or intimidate her with his look if he wanted her to do something. When we would get off stage Leah would break down in the dressing room, because she was fed up with Hector yelling at her. She would also complaint that he would get in front of her, or was careless with his instrument and hit her with it. Denise and I would tell her to bring it up at a meeting, and we would support her, but she never wanted to start conflict. David Flores also knew this was happening, but he never confronted Hector about it. Daniel treated us like his secretaries, and always demanded things from us. When we went to Canada we were given two dressing rooms, and the women decided to get one for us to have more privacy to get dressed, and the men mostly Hector threw a fit because they said we were separating ourselves from them. Denise, Leah and I started getting dressed, and Daniel came in and asked me last minute to give his guest names to the person in charge. I asked him if he could do it, and he yelled at me telling me it was my job. I told him it was our job, and he wasn’t doing anything but eating snacks. He continued to yell at me until I asked him if he could do me a favor and give the names to the person in charge. He said he would do it but to remember that this was my job, and that he was doing me a favor. Before Daniel came into the dressing room Denise, Leah and I were laughing and joking around. When Daniel left the room after yelling at me, it was silent and the women just put their heads down. Later that night during his part in the song of Trabajador/trabajadora he was saying how we needed to give thanks to those who were putting in work, and we needed to appreciate each other. I just shook my head.
The workshops were also controlled by the men. David, Hector and Daniel took lead in the educational component, and didn’t give the women room to feel comfortable to also participate. It wasn’t until the female students at different universities started to speak up when they noticed that we were either on the side or seating in the back. This is when Denise was given permission tell her story in the beginning, and Leah was given permission to lead the last part of the meditation. The men were very critical in how the women would give the workshops. They felt we were too boring.
Hector, Daniel, Jose and other men who came on tour with us were not always very professional with the ladies we would meet on the road. They would hook up with many women even if they were in relationships back home. At times it was awkward because when we returned to the same place, the women would show up, and they would get ignored by the men of Las Cafeteras. Denise and I were most of the time excluded from attending after parties, because Hector didn’t want us to get in his way, especially Denise because of their past realtionship. In New York after one of our shows we all wanted to go to the house we were staying at, and Hector held up the whole group because he wanted to stay up to party. We needed both cars because we didn’t all fit in one car, but Hector threw a fit and was arguing with us in the middle of the street. I offered to go with him, bu he didn’t want me to go with him because I was going to get in the way of him sleeping hooking up with someone. After an hour or so David volunteered to go with him, and the they returned the next morning. It was so uncomfortable because everyone gave Hector the silent treatment the whole day.
As a mother I didn’t feel supported by the band. Even if I never missed a show in town or out of town, the band always had a problem with me having to attend to my motherly responsibilities. The girls were my only reason for missing or being late to rehearsals. Everyone else had other commitments that constantly got in the way of performances or rehearsals, but my commitments to my girls were never considered important enough. When I would be late because I needed to pick up my girl from school, the band would give me the silent treatment. One time I couldn’t make it to rehearsal because one of my girls had a play for her theater class, and Hector dared to question my youngest daughter to see if I was lying.
When Daniel finished grad school and joined the group again, Daniel and Hector started working together. The group dynamic changed again, and these two were trying to gain control of the group. Daniel got out of school with a chip on his shoulder, and was very edgy and bossy. Hector and Daniel started harassing mostly Denise and I, and questioned our commitment to the band. They were not satisfied with the work we were doing, and wanted to add more work days to our week. Daniel suggested that we meet Friday, because he didn’t trust that we were doing the work we said we were doing. So he wanted to keep an eye on us and meet on our only day off which was on Friday. We were already meeting Monday through Thursday, and performing on the weekends. Later Daniel told us that he wanted Las Cafeteras to start making a million dollars a year, and Hector wanted to build an empire. When I spoke up in a meeting about the men’s behavior in the band everything changed for me. I became a threat, because I was no longer staying silent. I was using my voice to point out the unhealthiness of how the men were behaving, and how they were not respecting the women in the band.
On March 26, 2015 I finally spoke up. I was tired. I was tired of all the abuse, and I was tired of all the controlling by the men in the group. Things were getting worse when Daniel French got out of school and joined the band again. He started working with Hector on some of the business deals, and it all felt so corporate. At this meeting I called them both out, and told them that they were being bullies, and that the space didn’t feel safe because of them. I told them that they had no right to question my commitment to Las Cafeteras after Daniel just got back from a two year haitus. I told them that they were the oppressors that they spoke of on stage, and that they needed to practice what they were preaching. The men didn’t like that I finaly spoke up, and got scared that I would get the other ladies to speak up as well. Within two weeks I was out of the band. I was put through hell. I am going to post more during the week. I give you the opportunity to unfriend me if you don’t want to hear my story. I need to do this for me. Thank you for allowing me to share.
(Unedited. I’ve been trying to post something for months, but Las Cafeteras have asked their lawyer to send me a contract where they want to buy my silence. More on this in another post.)
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