Culture Trip’s 10 NYC-Based Latino Artists to Know
by Joan S. De Jesús : @
The rise of Hispanic America has made them the largest minority group in the country. Here in New York, this growth has brought an influx of culture, music, and art, blending the traditions of Las Americas with urban life. From Brooklyn to the Bronx, this list highlights just a few of the Latinos representing and creating for New York City.
Flor del Toloache
When you think of mariachi music you usually envision men in Charro outfits with elaborate sombreros singing of lost loves and the countryside. Flor del Tolache accomplishes all of the above while being New York’s first all female mariachi band in a largely male-dominated genre of music. They perform traditional mariachi while also composing original music that blends jazz, hip hop, and other genres. The band’s leader, Mireya Ramos, founded the group in 2008 and has been captivating audiences ever since.
A seasoned spoken word artist and poet, Bonafide Rojas has been bearing his soul on the stage for the last decade and a half. When he’s not running his publishing house or gigging with his experimental rock band, The Mona Passage, Rojas finds time to lead several after-school workshops for at-risk youth in South Bronx family shelters and youth detention centers. After a brief but charming exchange with the man himself, big takeaways are legacy and reach – leaving a mark on all of those who experience your gift and giving back to fill the well for other creatives.
The Martinez Brothers
Children of the famed Paradise Garage, prominent in the 70s and 80s, Chris and Steve wear New York on their sleeve. Hailing from the Bronx, these two young men have already created a global presence for themselves, holding residencies at clubs in Ibiza and dance floors worldwide. Although they continue to gain the respect of underground house and techno music communities, The Martinez Brothers remain forever humble and grateful to their New York roots.
You can catch her uptown, on the Lower East Side, and anywhere dancing is allowed. Her music is an exquisite mix of angelic vocals and African drums over carefree, electric synnths. Although comparisons can be made to other Latina alternative acts in the game, there is only one Princess Nokia. She refers to her sound as ‘high-tech fairy girl music’. She’s irreverent, cool, and into dragons. You can hear some of her discography here.
Originally from Guatemala, Brooklyn-based artist Carlos Pinto uses recycled MTA metro cards to recreate iconic images of public figures and landscapes that include Hilary Clinton, Frida Kahlo, and even the New York City skyline. Having fully embraced life as a working artist in New York City, his art is an act of recycling as much as it is homage to the city he’s called home for over 10 years. His collection of mosaic portraits and landscapes are currently on display for viewing at The Bishop Gallery.
His local followers know him as ‘the gem guy’. For Andres, what started off as a gifting of handcrafted works of art to friends and family soon became a local movement to share his talents to strangers across the country. A true labor of love, Andres has gifted hundreds of free art to random people over the course of a few years. To create these ‘gems’, he uses whatever materials he has around him as a canvas; driftwood, old vinyls, and t-shirts to name a few (the art is free, but the art supplies are not after all). The pieces are then posted on his Instagram page with a cryptic description or quote that launches a scavenger-like quest for his fans. Recently, his style has focused on recreating images of musicians and artists that inspire him.
Geko Jones of Dutty Artz, Que Bajo?!
Tapping into a very tribal instinct to move, Geko Jones has been setting dance floors ablaze for some time now. He has also found time to assemble a dream team of global music artists under his Dutty Artz label. Alongside his fellow compadre Uproot Andy, Jones founded Que Bajo?! , a long-running monthly tropical dance party that has taken over New York City. Pulling from every corner of the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa and beyond, they create sounds that feel like summer in the Tropics even in the most brutal NYC winters. Heavy gyrations, rain dances are set to ensue. You can listen to some of his tunes here.
Musician, indie filmmaker and all around advocate for the Republic of Brooklyn, Civil JustUsrepresents a voice for the underrepresented youth in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. A Bushwick native, Civil leads by example, becoming an activist in his community against issues like racism and gender inequality. He describes his music as ‘reminiscent of 90s hip-hop with a progressive sound’, and though it tackles complex social narratives, it is also wrought with a sense of optimism for a return to the days of doo-wop, stoop storytelling, and corner store bodegas. You can find him this summer performing at Afropunk’s Battle of the Bands.
Hector Arce-Espasas of D’marquesina
When he’s not forming one half of the DJ duo D’marquesina, Hector Arce-Espasas makes a name for himself as a visual multimedia artist. Like any of the parties he spins at, his work can be categorized as dynamic and slightly erotic. Inspired by ideas of cultural identity, colonial exploitation and nationalism, his series of tropical fruits and curvaceous derrières are guaranteed to leave you curious for more.
Jarana Beat is a collective of musicians and performers from all across Latin America and the Caribbean that have come to call New York City their home. Joined by their mission to educate and share the unknown Son Jarocho sound of Mexico to a younger generation, Jarana Beat puts on stellar performances that combine both the folkloric sounds and thumping footwork of Mexico’s countryside. Have a listen and allow yourself to take a journey throughout Mexico’s deep and colorful traditions of Son Guerrerence.
By Joan de Jesus