Las Cafeteras Use Sign Language in Video Supporting Immigrant Rights, Urge Signing of Petition

Las Cafeteras! (Annette Torres front/left)
Las Cafeteras! (Annette Torres front/left)
Piero F. Giunti

An apparel company raid in Tempe, Arizona earlier this year by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (or Arpayaso we like to call him!) has another immigrant family on the brink of separation. "We don't want our mom to be in jail. We want our mom to come back. Please, help us," 17 year-old Diana Blanco said in sign language during a press conference. Her grandparents are also detained and face a repugnant county attorney whose racist policies push for felony charges and deportations.

Los Angeles-based Chicano folk-fusion band Las Cafeteras first learned about the family's case during a stop in Phoenix along the way to the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas. They had performed at an event for Puente, a local immigrant rights group, when the idea came from an organizer to link the band to the Blancos.

"I use sign language at our shows," says Annette Torres of Las Cafeteras. "The reason why is because I have brothers and sisters who are deaf and hard of hearing." When the organizer for Puente saw her do just that during the song "Luna Lovers" she asked the seven-piece

son jarocho

-flavored band to sign the song and record it for the Blanco family. They readily agreed, though they didn't have the opportunity to meet Diana or her two younger sisters.

"It's a way of speaking through hands," the


says of sign language. "Whenever you see someone signing there's a connection." Their message of support certainly accomplishes that in its deeply visceral, heartfelt manner. Las Cafeteras had originally thought the video would be of just them performing. The finished product, though, showed footage of Diana Blanco and her sisters watching the show of solidarity on a laptop with her wiping away tears as she signs for applause at the end.

"When I saw that, it just brought tears from my own eyes," Torres adds. "It was very powerful for us to see that side of it." Her nephew and fellow band member Hector Flores, also signs dedicating the song off of It's Time, their debut album released last year.

Torres showed the captioned, bilingual video to her deaf and hard of hearing siblings and the reaction was just the same as it stands as a rare show of support twice over for immigrant and disability inclusion with everything being so catered to the hearing world.

The moment is not simply a candidly caring one. "Luna Lovers," like La Santa Cecilia's "El Hielo" is music for the movement. "We're trying to get 3,000 signatures by Monday," Torres says of a Puente petition drive to have charges dropped against the Blanco family members and others afflicted by Arpayaso's raids.

Las Cafeteras have already displayed their sign of support. The petition awaits yours.

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