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Dangerous Women: Las Chollas Peligrosas Are Making Mexican Music for Change

Dangerous Women: Las Chollas Peligrosas Are Making Mexican Music for ChangeEXPAND
Sam Gomez

"Whether you like it or not, we’re going to express ourselves.”

That’s how Maria Hanneken, one of the members of Las Chollas Peligrosas, refers to her group. It’s an all-female band making traditional Mexican music, a field where women musicians are often overlooked.

Andria Bunnell, Anameke Quinn, Rachel Villa, and Tatiana Crespo make up the rest of the band, which formed when Bunnell began talking about starting up a duo that would play traditional Mexican music. A friend told her that it would be a good idea to perform for the Coronado Porch Concerts series, and after performing, they became enamored with each other’s music.

“Immediately, we just knew that it was something special and really unique,” Bunnell says. “It went from being one show to being a thing.”

A year and a half later, they cover a wide range of music, but focus on Latin and mariachi-inspired sounds.

Being from the desert influenced both the name of their band and their work. Literally, their name alludes to the desert flora chollas, a type of cactus. On another level, they are inspired by the imagery of the cactus, which survives in harsh conditions.

“We like to try and highlight, raise the level of awareness for a lot of important issues. Some of them are a bit prickly,” Quinn says.

Having peligrosas, which means “dangerous women,” as part of their name also has a role in their message.

“The peligrosas part is being a little bit dangerous, and being able to talk about things, and being in people’s faces, and addressing issues without fear,” Bunnell says.

Some of the issues that are important to them are immigration. Rachel Villa in particular has a personal connection with the issue, which helps shape her writing.

“As a baby, I came here from Mexico with no other choice, and I was lucky enough to get my paperwork in order to become a citizen,” Villa says. “But there’s so many people who don’t have that, and they struggle every single day to just be noticed, or to be included as a person.”

For female audiences especially, they think the music can help empower them.

“There’s a whole history of women not being able to say what they feel and do what they want to do just because they’re women,” Villa says. “And we’re not like that. We vocalize everything we feel is right and I feel like we inspire people to do the same.”

Although they wouldn’t necessarily call themselves a political band, they often partner with various advocacy organizations for their shows. Recently, they worked with The Florence Project, an immigration and refugee rights organization, and had them speak and table at their show. The band are also playing a benefit for the Kino Border Initiative, a humanitarian organization that offers assistance to migrants, at the Sagrado Galleria, where they will debut a song written for the event.

“That’s not politics, that’s just humanitarian work and being socially responsible,” Bunnell says.

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They also think that healing is a big part of the work they do.

“They’re expecting us to sing songs about social justice, and we are,” Bunnell says. “But we’re also bringing meditation songs, and we’re bringing songs that are really about healing people with the energy of the song, the resonance of the music itself.”

To them, it’s also about love and kindness; they believe that’s how they’re going to change the world.
“Getting involved is important, but doing it with a sense of hope is also very important.”

Las Chollas Peligrosas. 7 p.m. Thursday, September 20, at the Sagrado Galleria, 6437 South Central Avenue; thesagrado.com.

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