On October 29th, 2014, Karla Lara and company stopped at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice on their national tour to play music and talk about social justice issues for a special ¡SOLAS Presents! event. Karla was joined by guitarist Dany Morales and pianist José Antonio Velásquez Mejia.
Karla is a political activist, singer/songwriter, and advocate of women's rights. She began singing in 1985 with the Choir of the National Autonomous University of Honduras and with musical groups likes Rascaniguas and Cutumay Camones. She is part of the National Network of Human Rights Defenders in Honduras and has been a prominent voice in the Honduran Resistance Movement. She travels the world performing and raising awareness for social justice issues in Honduras and beyond.
Dany began his musical career at the age of 13 and is currently seeking his bachelor's degree in music at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. He is especially interested in jazz guitar, and has collaborated with several musicians and musical groups in Honduras, including Hibriduz and Tambor Negro. He is the co-founder of the Crescendo Music Conservatory, an institution dedicated to teaching music to children and adults.
José began his studies in art at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, but eventually entered the National School of Music specializing in percussion and piano. He has collaborated with popular musical groups in the region, as well as with symphonic orchestras. Like Dany, he became interested in jazz and joined forces with several musical groups in Honduras.
Dany and José began collaborating with Karla in 2010 and 2007 respectively with the intention of spreading messages of positivity and equality through music.
Between songs, Karla spoke to the crowd about several subjects, including her family, life in Honduras, where her group had traveled to thus far, and what they had seen. She stressed the importance of working together to fight for human rights, to stop the oppression of and violence against women, and to love one another as people. Her song lyrics told stories of personal relationships and coexistence, but also of the exploitation of the environment, war and violence in Central America, and the pain of loss. A particularly moving song discussed the relationship Karla shares with her daughter. She stated that even though they don't always see things the same way, the respect and love they feel for one another allows for a meaningful and mutual understanding.
After a few songs, UNM assistant professor José Manuel Cerrato joined the band on electric guitar. José is also from Honduras, and has joined Karla onstage many times before. Before studying in the United States, he received his bachelor's degree from the National Autonomous University of Honduras in civil engineering.
After the concert, the entire group went out to eat with members of SOLAS. We shared stories, discussed politics, and reflected on the show, but mostly laughed, relaxed and enjoyed each other's company. The following morning, the group met with activists from (un)Occupy Albuquerque, a local organization created in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and indigenous and colonized peoples worldwide. The two groups discussed current issues of social justice and human rights abuses in Latin America and exchanged meaningful gifts they had brought.
Overall, having Karla and her group in Albuquerque for two days was an incredibly rewarding and meaningful experience for all those involved. Their music was beautiful and touching, and their words were extremely poignant. Karla tells the story of many people, and it is her desire for us all to see ourselves and our struggles through her so that we might make a difference.
This ¡SOLAS Presents! Lecture Series event was co-sponsored by the Latin American & Iberian Institute and UNM Peace Studies. It was organized and executed by SOLAS President Sarah Leister in conjunction with Karla Lara's tour coordinator, Aaron Montenegro.
All photographs courtesy of Melissa Leonard and Sarah Leister.
For more information about Karla Lara, including her own blog entry about the show, please visit her website.
For more information about (un)Occupy Albuquerque, please visit their website.