Monarchs, "Mexicans": California Band Hires Latino Day Laborers to Play Them In Music Video

San Francisco's Monarchs have an interesting new video featuring three Latino day laborers. It is, at turns, both hilarious heartbreaking.

The really touching part comes about 35 seconds in when you see how nervous, and probably a little scared, the three laborers who the band pick up in their tour band are. It gives you some small sense of what their day-to-day life must be like, and you can imagine the circumstances that'd force them into such a thing.

The hired actors do a great job of hamming it up, but that's not the funny part. Personally, I love the scene when the camera pans over to show the band (one with pink sunglasses glasses, another in a trucker hat) sitting in chairs, drinking Modelo and impatiently instructing the band on what to do. If that doesn't perfectly satirize the pro-SB 1070 viewpoint, I don't know what does.

How did the whole thing come about? Read on, we talked to the band.

The song itself is pretty cool, too. I'm sure the band would classify themselves as post-shit rock gaze or some such thing, but I'd say it's just a good, loud and lo-fi, rock track.

Here is what Joey from the band had to say about the video shoot:

As you can see in the video, we picked up these day laborers near a Uhaul station, literally just showing up unannounced to their camp and asking if anybody wanted to be in a music video. At first, they thought we wanted them to actually play music and so nobody wanted to do it, but we explained the premise further and they sort-of got it (you can see me in the video demonstrating this to them in the brief clip where I'm dancing with the bass guitar). So from there we went up to a hill/dog park and shot the thing. We lugged our own equipment up the hill while the day laborers stood and watched. When we shot, they were a bit stiff at first, but after an instrument change (the guy playing bass originally played drums) and a few beers, they started to get into it. The whole thing took about four hours, and we paid them 40 dollars each. My friend likened it to hiring a prostitute to hang out and play monopoly and watch TV (not that these guys are prostitutes, but you get the point).

And about the message?

America has already outsourced its manufacturing base to other countries, and we're in the process of outsourcing our technical and service base as well. It's only a matter of time before we start outsourcing our basic creativity and ingenuity as well (perhaps we've already begun doing this). And all the while you have these white people looking ridiculous trying to dance, just totally insulting the art of dancing, and it's totally ironic when you consider the lives of these Latin immigrants who come here and how hard they're working and what they're adding to our culture. And that's a wonderful thing, you know, totally in line with the spirit and history of America, but for some reason a lot of people just can't understand that, and they'd love to just spend the rest of their days dancing like idiots in this priveleged white world. The chorus of the song goes: "Braceros, you're the future now/ Everyone says, no one knows what town." This references the Bracero program, where hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were brought here during World War II to fill a shortage of manual labor (primarily in West Texas). By the 60's, the program was shuttered, but the idea of hiring cheap farm labor from Mexico had already been established. So fast forward to now, and the literal and figurative descendants of these Braceros are no longer just a group to be exploited. Their numbers are so great, their imprint so established, that they are, by any metric, the future of our country. Everybody kind-of knows this already, and so a lot of people's response is to look at the issue and say, "not in my town." But the truth is, if you look around, they are already pretty much in everybody's town. The end of the song repeats the phrase "14 Mexicans in a van." This phrase has proven somewhat controversial when we play the song live, but it's really just telling it like it is. Every day you have all these people coming up from Latin America, using every bit of money they have for the privelege of crowding into a van or whatever, risking all kinds of calamity just to come here and work some difficult job. That's heroic when you think about it. It should make people feel like John Wayne in some WW2 movie: "that's the kind of man I'd like to have in my regiment." But instead, our xenophobia gets in the way and we try to build electrified fences and legalize racial profiling to keep these relentlessly hard-working, self-made people out! What a world.

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Martin Cizmar
Contact: Martin Cizmar