It’s been over two years since the disappearance of 43 Mexican college students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, a teachers' college in the Mexican state of Guerrero. The students were en route by bus to a demonstration when they were abducted by police, never to be seen again. The families of the 43 students received support from people around the world and demanded justice, but to this day, what happened to them remains a mystery.
Los Angeles-based indie-Latin artist Ceci Bastida was inspired by the rally of hope around the missing students to record the electro-pop single “Un Sueño,” a collaboration with R&B singer Aloe Blacc. That was the beginning of her latest 6-track EP, Sueño.
“People are not forgetting or letting go, thank God. That’s what inspired me. They have everything against them, all the obstacles in the world, and they are still there fighting to change their country,” says Bastida.
It’s her most collaborative project to date, also featuring South African rapper Spoek Mathambo and Chilean artist Mariel Mariel.
“My last album [La Edad de la Violencia] was very focused on one thing, violence, and I wanted to step away from that," she says. "It was kind of an experiment for me to be open, work with others and see what happens."
The Tijuana-born artist has always been recognized as an activist and creator of politically charged music. Bastida joined the Mexican punk-rock band Tijuana No! when she was just 15 years old.
In the mid-'90s, Tijuana No! made music in response to Mexican leftist group the Zapatistas, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Clinton-era Operation Gatekeeper, which militarized the U.S. border to prevent illegal immigration.
Last week, Donald Trump won the Electoral College and became president-elect of the United States, after running a campaign that promoted fear, violence, racism and sexism. Every day after the election, Los Angeles has erupted in protests. Thousands have taken to the streets of downtown and marched to City Hall where chants of “not my president, “fuck Trump,” and “reject the president-elect” echo across a sea of people.
Bastida’s EP was recorded in advance of the presidential election, but her songs are filled with messages of hope, love and heartbreak, which feels like a timely response to how Angelenos are reacting to Trump's election.
“This is the time for people to get together for sure," says Bastida. "I woke up sad and angry and i'm allowing myself to feel that. But it’s not going to be the rest of my day. It’s important to figure out what happens next. What do we do to not let this become chaos and a dangerous place? I feel like it’s a moment for us to connect with community and not let this become a disaster.”
Most Americans were shocked by the outcome of the election, but that was not Bastida’s initial reaction.
“We know this county has a problem with racism and is completely divided. As much as I did not like Hillary, I voted for her. I liked the idea of my daughter knowing there was a female president.”
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Bastida talked to her 5-year-old daughter about the candidates leading up to the election. When she broke the news, her daughter said, “Oh yuck. Why did people vote for him?”
“That’s a good question,” responded Bastida.
Bastida has been busy this year touring with the Mexican supergroup Mexrrissey, paying tribute to Morrissey, an artist who has always brought together people from different backgrounds and is a major inspiration to Latinos. Given Trump’s racist remarks in the media about Mexican’s being rapists and criminals, sharing this positive music internationally has been enlightening for fans of Morrissey.
“There were moments when we [were] in the U.K. and people came dressed in sombreros," says Bastida. "Sometimes I know it comes from a good place. It can be somewhat of a caricature, but that’s the way they see people from Mexico and their way of saying, 'We're with you.'"