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José G. Anguiano

José G. Anguiano is an Assistant Professor in the Honors College and the Department of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Anguiano is a cultural studies scholar with a primary focus in listeners and audiences of popular music. Dr. Anguiano’s research documents how popular music links communities of listeners across time and space, and how listening can be an active and creative form of claiming space, citizenship, and respect.

“Voicing the Occult in Chicana/o Culture and Hybridity: Prayers and the Cholo-Goth Aesthetic”
Prayers are a recently formed electro-goth music duo from San Diego, CA, comprised of vocalist Rafael Reyes, AKA Laefar Seyer, and beat-maker Dave Parley. Initially calling their style “kill wave,” the band’s notoriety increased since embracing the label “cholo-goth.” Indeed, Rafael claims membership in one of San Diego’s oldest Chicano gangs, and presents himself on stage as a prison-tatted gang member with a taste for the occult and shoe-gaze goth music—“what’s darker than being a cholo?” Rafael quips. Dave, who hails from Tijuana, is the stoic beat-maker and producer charged with creating a dark sonic canvas. The band’s music and aesthetic challenges the audience on multiple fronts by presenting and smashing a series of binaries: cholo/goth, Chicano/white, straight/gay, male/female, violence/passivity, and sacred/occult. 

The band’s aesthetic finds its full expression in the multiple music videos that showcase a menacing hybridity of satanic references, Chicano gang culture, post-punk synthesizer music and a llorona-wail vocal delivery. The band revels in occult imagery of both goth culture, with too-obvious references to Lucifer, as well as Mexican culture, with allusions to La Santa Muerte and other dark figures. Yet, it’s also important to consider the secondary meaning of occult as hidden or mysterious and how it speaks to secret pleasures and connections, and the unpredictable ways that popular culture and music establish and destabilize identities. In this case, Prayers represents a wider and darker Chicano/a experience of growing up between (music) cultures: with R&B oldies, Pet Shop Boys and Christian Death, violent masculinity and morbid introspection, rigid heterosexuality and gender-queer icons, blood-claims to neighborhoods and feelings of statelessness. Prayers names and voices that feeling and experience.

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