DJing as Community Education: An Interview with Bonnie Ilza Cisneros

By: Cloud Cardona
Bonnie Ilza Cisneros is a fourth-generation educator in a line of Tejana schoolteachers. She taught middle school English for five years in San Antonio Independent School District and coordinated the El Placazo Barrio Newspaper program at San Anto Cultural Arts. Bonnie earned a Creative Writing Master’s degree from Texas State University, was altered forever at the Macondo Writers Workshop in 2016, and was awarded the first artist grant she ever submitted from NALAC in 2018.  Her poems and essays appear in El Retorno, Chicana/Latina Studies, River Teeth, Porter House Review, Infrarrealista Review, La Voz de Esperanza, Buckman Journal, and Contemporary Creative Nonfiction.     All the while, Bonnie and her husband raise two m’ijas and keep a flock of five gallinas in San Antonio, Texas. She has many exciting upcoming projects and is available for creative commissions, DJ gigs, and collaborations.    Learn more about Bonnie on her website.   Her venmo is @bonniecisneros

DJ Despeinada at Casa de Cuentos/Cinefestival in 2019, taken by Carlos Sanchez De La Garza

The first time I met Bonnie Ilza Cisneros was in Dr. Geneva Gano’s feminist graduate course at Texas State University. I had heard Bonnie’s name through the echoes of San Anto and was elated to find out she was also pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing. Bonnie always showed up to class in colorful thrifted outfits, braided hair, cateye glasses, chunky necklaces, and earrings from El Puño Y Mano or Luna Sangre. I got to know her more while we had class discussions about the pitfalls of 2nd wave feminism, Sylvia Plath, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, y más.

 

Bonnie’s multiplicity never fails to stun me. As a nonfiction writer, Bonnie is immensely talented at capturing the hyperspecific emotions behind her memories. As DJ Despeinada, Bonnie has curated zodiac-themed DJ events at Jaime’s Place, hosted a “Grunge Tejana” brunch at La Botánica, has had guest spots on WFMU’s Radio Row, just to name a few. Additionally, she sells her vintage finds and earrings that feature tiny album covers, jukebox labels, paper marigolds, and more. I had the privilege to collaborate with Bonnie on a zine titled Grunge Tejana about her essay The Ana Files, an Aries-inspired DJ poetry event, and the chipster issue of Infrarrealista Review, which came out last fall.

 

In our Chipster Issue introduction, Juania writes “Chipster is not a label to be taken as the literal collision of ‘Chicano-hipster’ but rather it is used here as the marker for folx who cannot be boxed in.” I commissioned Bonnie for our issue not because she identifies as a chipster, but because when I think of chipsters, I see Bonnie spinning Tori Amos at the Grunge Tejana brunch in a black dress with a white lace collar, reminiscent of Courtney Love.

In this interview, we explore Bonnie’s matriarchal lineage of educators, the magic of the grunge movement, the chipster label, and much more.

 

INTERVIEWER

In your bio you write that you are a “fourth-generation Tejana educator” so I’m curious about all of those labels. Why include them in your bio, like how are they important to you and how do they inform you as a person?

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

Well, I was never asked to write my own bio until relatively later in life. I had lived a lot by that point. Early on, I dismissed my youthful dreams of being a writer because my great-grandmother told me that even in the Great Depression, she and my great-grandfather always had teaching jobs. So, that stuck with me and I decided against majoring in Literature. I got certified, got a plum teaching job at an inner-city academy, and my life seemed set in stone. I got married young, I started teaching young, we bought a house young, and life seemed settled.

The universe was not having it, obviously, so by the time I finished grad school at Texas State University, I was 38 years old and had already lived several lives. After I earned that degree, people were like, “What are you gonna do now?” and I was like, well I’m going to apply for grants and occasionally submit my work. The NALAC NFA was the first grant I ever applied for and in that process, I had to write a bio. So from that point on, that first line about being part of a Tejana lineage of educators never changed because it’s like, I can tack on whatever I want to tack on and take out what I want to take out, but my inheritance, being part of four generations of South Texas teachers, is also a way to declare the fact that education is always at the heart of everything I do, whether that be writing, DJ-ing, publishing, or performing.

 

I appreciate this question because I never thought about the fact that no matter the required word count, I will never delete that fact about myself.

 

INTERVIEWER

Yeah, it’s a good line. I like that cause it shows how you personally identify but also your background.

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

And I am proud of them, you know what I mean? I’m proud! I’m proud of the fact that my bisabuela, Martha “Bebe” Longoria, the first teacher in the line, and her husband, Samuel, were both educators their entire lives. And she helped raise me, so it’s my way of shouting her out and remembering how dedicated she was. And determined! She started teaching before there were formal state requirements, so she went back to school at PanAm (now UTRGV) after she had been working and raising her three daughters, and she earned her certification! She’s my patron Tejana trailblazer, and I’m always referencing her.

 

INTERVIEWER

And so what did all four generations of teachers teach?

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

She [great-grandmother] taught first grade bilingual for 55 years. 55 years, can you imagine? She was given a plaque and there’s a line about it on her headstone. First grade bilingual, in schools all up and down the Valley. She would move houses and towns a lot, ping ponging kind of, but she always taught first grade bilingual. Teaching little kids how to speak English, how to read and write.  Sometimes I think about how many students she must have taught.

 

Her daughter, my grandmother, was a fifties teenybopper on the Border: she was a cheerleader and loved rock n’ roll. She married my grandfather, a wealthy Matamoros rancher, and her life was all settled, but then she rebelled against the 60s housewife lifestyle, went wild, and got flung out of this life of comfort and security. That’s a whole other story, but fast forward to the 90s, when she was in her 50s, she started attending classes at San Antonio College. Slowly but surely she made her way up to UTSA and then I think she was like 55 when she walked the stage with a degree in Psychology. After that, she became a teacher on the Westside of San Anto, teaching GED and ESL to young teenage mothers at a place called PCI (Parent Child Incorporated) where she taught young girls how to pass the GED exam and how to speak English.

 

Her daughter, my mom, had me when she was 16, so she quit school and we lived a life of struggle and hardship. My mom always worked all kinds of jobs. She was shuffling and hustling. She moved my sister and me to San Antonio so we could have a better life, and when I was in high school, she got the best job she had ever had, as a teacher’s assistant in a Special Ed. classroom at Leon Springs Elementary. We just passed by it the other day on the way to Enchanted Rock and I told the kids, “Look! There’s Kiki’s school!”

 

She was a teacher’s aide for 5 years, and I remember how hard she worked, like physical labor, lifting kids in and out of wheelchairs all day. She hurt her back very badly there, I remember dropping her off at the ER when I was a teen…but at some point she was like, I’m going to go to school. She started at SAC and continued in the Bilingual Ed. program at UTSA. She was like, I need my own classroom. I love the fact that she and I started college the same year when I was 18 and she was 35!

 

So she went through school, sometimes on the bus, while raising my little sister and made it through and became a 4th grade bilingual teacher. So yeah, another non-traditional trajectory but still with the goal of being an educator. And then, there’s me.

 

INTERVIEWER

Would you ever go back to teaching or subbing full time?

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

I would go back to subbing if they paid enough. I loved subbing, it required a lot of thought and creativity. Teaching full time would depend on a lot of factors, but now that my kids are both in school for the first time ever, I have time to think about what I am going to do with my weekdays. I feel like these pandemic-era experiences I have had organizing workshops, publishing zines, and presenting academic lectures at different places like public libraries and universities has taught me that this is how I want to teach now, you know?

 

INTERVIEWER

I could totally see you doing consistent workshops and lectures like you have been doing.

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

I would love that. My dream is to travel and teach, perform, and present. I have taught online for the Chicago Public Library and recorded radio shows for stations in New York and Marfa, but I would love for my work to take me to places like the Southwest, Pacific coast, Mexico City. That’s the dream.

 

I had a realization during the pandemic that everything that is mine…is already mine, like everything that is meant for me already is. Yes, I have to keep working hard, yes, I have to have good intentions, and always be putting energy towards it but like, if I do that, then everything that is supposed to be will be. I used to think that my dreams had to be on par with what we are taught in capitalism, that ownership is the goal. But as a working artist I see now that even accolades like publications and press are not the only stepping stones that equate success.

 

I had a house, the first home I’d ever lived in that was not an apartment or a trailer, you know what I mean? And lost it. Now it’s been flipped and the area is super trendy and I couldn’t afford to rent it even if I wanted to. But San Antonio is my home. I don’t need to own it.

 

INTERVIEWER

I know you do a lot of commissioned playlists,  you just did one for Hibiscus Tacos. What is your process like when you’re curating a Spotify playlist or guest-DJ spots like Radio Row on WFMU and Mi Tesoro Hour on Marfa Public Radio? Do you have any traditions or rituals while you’re curating the playlist or setlist?

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

So, I have been a music freak desde chiquita. I was asking my mom to buy me cassette tapes like Thriller when I was in kindergarten. Coming from the 80s mixtape-era of FM radio and then getting into CDs when I was a teenager, I went from the Walkman to the DiscMan. And then there was that halcyon era of downloading music and burning mix CDs in the early 2000s. Ah, Audiogalaxy was where you could access anything and everything! You would leave your computer on overnight and let all the files come in and then you curated a 90 minute mix and burned it!

 

When the iPod came, it was like oh my god I can carry 5,234 songs in my pocket? I would take my white iPod Classic on road trips, so I remember that exact number because it’s still just so unfathomable to me that I could hold that many songs in my pocket.

 

I have iPod memories like walking down the street in Vancouver, Canada listening to Lila Downs on headphones while I was on the way to see her perform at an old wooden ballroom. Listening to Sigur Rós inside a tent in a temperate rainforest in Olympic National Park, all mossy and ancient while the rain misted our mossy tree bed. Hearing “Let’s Pretend It’s Summer” by the Brian Jonestown Massacre while walking through Golden Gate Park on a bone chilling, foggy summer day and really understanding that song in a way I could not in blazing hot San Anto.

 

Bonnie and Willie, taken by Cristina Ordoñez

 

Hit fast forward to now, and it’s Spotify, where almost every recorded song known to humanity is inside your phone! I said almost, so no one @ me. I have many Tejano recordings on vinyl that have not made the digital leap! During early quarantine, when I felt like DJ-ing was obsolete, one of my first gigs was a commission to curate a playlist for the playwright jo reyes boitel who wrote an operetta and trusted me to make a playlist for her which opened my mind to the possibilities of sharing music in a pandemic.

Songs in the Key of SWU, a playlist for the Southwest Workers Union, came very quickly after that. Their director, Diana Lopez, paid me to make a healing, medicinal mix for the SWU community. Luckily, I was in the practice of making mixtapes, burning CDs, and making digital playlists, so it felt like a natural jump for me. Yet…with a gazillion songs at your fingertips, how do you start?

 

I love keywords. For “She Wears Bells,” off the top of my head, I searched the word bell, and of course started building with a live version of “Bells For Her” by Tori Amos and “Bells Ring” by Mazzy Star which helped me set the tone. Then I searched more vocabulary from the play:  Coyolxauhqui, mirror, moon. I added songs with titles including those words, and of course in searched in Spanish too: espejo, luna, campana. I really love how dark and sparkly that mix is and I listen to it every now and then when I need to set a certain mood..

 

Songs in the Key of SWU Cover Art by Kayla Matta

For Songs in the Key of SWU, the theme of creative resistance was much vaster. We’re in a pandemic, and an intense social justice movement, and a climate crisis, what can I do? Diana saw me as a DJ who could make a mix to soothe and inspire people. I get kind of emotional thinking about it. That was one of the first art commissions too. Kayla Matta’s cover art (pictured here) for the mix is one of my favorites because it captures that energy of creative resistance a lot of us were feeling.

 

I included songs about resistance that felt empowering and anthemic. I started with the songs that have that effect on me and built it up and took suggestions from the community to make this massive six-hour playlist. In between sets, I included spoken recordings of activists and poets like Angela Davis, Cherrie Moraga, and Arundhati Roy, which is one of those unplanned, creative sparks that I am still so proud of. We need to hear all the voices we can, you know? Now I think I’ve been commissioned for at least ten playlists, including video backyard DJ sets for institutions like Ruby City. I worked on one for Esperanza Peace and Justice Center’s yearly Peace Market that is 16 hours long!

 

INTERVIEWER

That’s amazing. That’s a lot of time to fill up.

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

It is! But today I had a brainstorm. I’ve been a vendor and patron of the Peace Market for years, so I thought about how the live entertainment they have onstage every year usually flows. Well, early in the morning, it’s usually acoustic and soft, boleros and the classics, and then it starts building up towards the afternoon with more contemporary Tex/Mex/Latinx artists, and then the mariachis come on and then at the end of the day, the grand finale is conjunto, it’s always conjunto. So that’s how I found the structure of such an immense playlist because I wanted it to mimic that flow, you know?

 

INTERVIEWER

I’m sure that structure helps a lot and gives you an outline for what you want to put on there.

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

Oh yeah. Playlists have form. And it’s crazy to me that it wasn’t until the Creative Writing MFA program that I finally understood what form really, really meant. It took me going through that program for form to be something I was truly cognizant of. Like you can’t have a cup of tea without the cup. That was probably the best part of the program for me, learning that. And that’s where you and I met too!

 

INTERVIEWER

I had heard about you before I met you. I always heard your name around. It was so cool knowing that a badass writer from San Anto was in the program and writing things that I wanted to read about. Do you identify a writer? And if so, when did you first start identifying yourself as a writer?

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

I don’t think I ever once introduced myself like, Hi, I’m a writer. The first poem I ever wrote, revised, and recited was for my great-grandma’s funeral. I was 13 and the poem poured out of me without any thinking on my part. I was just grieving her on paper and wanting to let it be known how much she meant to me.

 

The first Chicana literary book I owned was a used copy of Sandra Cisneros’s Woman Hollering Creek, which remains the only book I ever shoplifted. I saw Cisneros on the spine, calculated the cost and how much money I had, and quickly slipped in my bag.

 

In high school, I took a creative writing class, and we made a zine, and I was always writing poems and reading them to my friends. That was my thing. I would go to readings at different places, but I was so shy and I never had that urge to get onstage and read my poems aloud.

 

Then in college, same thing. I was writing a lot and getting praise and encouragement from a very strict, very Southern lady poet, my English professor, Dr. Jo LeCoeur. She really thought highly of my work, and I wonder what would have happened had I listened to her more and just switched gears then because by the time I was teaching, it was clear that my first husband was the writer in the relationship.

 

I met Rich at ¡Puro Slam!, he was a “Slam champ” and hosted readings at Ruta Maya when it was downtown. He wrote for The Current and my work was something we didn’t really talk about. It made me think, oh I must not be very good. I never read at any readings, even though the great Chicano poet Trinidad Sanchez Jr. did try to encourage me. He would always ask me, “When are you going to read Bonnie?” He was really sweet to me and I think of him on the rare occasion I read my work in public.

 

All that adds up to the fact that I would never say, hi, I’m Bonnie, I’m a writer because a) all of that ancient history and b) to me, writing is sacred. To say that you’re a writer, you’re saying something very sacred and until very recently I never felt like I had the right to say it or the need to say it.

 

It didn’t help being the queen of imposter syndrome at the MFA, thinking back, you know how hard it was, it’s like the people in the program ate, breathed, slept poems and wore  Poetry magazine sweatshirts and I didn’t. I had babies waiting for me 40 miles away in San Anto I had to get home to. Luckily, I registered for an Autobiography/Memoir class when some other class fell through, and Dr. Debra Monroe’s class awakened me to the thought that maybe I wasn’t quite feeling it in the poetry classes because I was, actually…an essayist.

 

That, I can say. I can proclaim it: hi, I’m Bonnie, I’m an essayist.

 

INTERVIEWER

Yeah, that makes sense. It narrows it down. Sometimes I feel like people over identify with it. The label can consume you. In your essay, “The Ana Files,” you write about not only friendship but also the soundtrack that encompasses that. You and Ana’s bonding over grunge music and the shows that you both loved together. How does alternative music fit in with your identity as a Tejana? Is that something you were conscious of at the time?

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

Honestly, I feel so fortunate to have been a teen in the 90s. I am convinced I was in the right place at the right time. The Alternative movement saved me. I went to a very affluent high school, when I look back, I see how I was given a sort of elite education in Honors and AP classes. Academically, I deserved to be there, but those kids had access to resources completely off-limits to me. I read so many great books, learned how to write a 20-page research paper and present on Moby Dick for an entire hour! There was this notoriously tough teacher, Dr. Carlota Cárdenas de Dwyer, whose work I later found in some early Chicana journals at the Latino Collection and Resource Center, so I found out only recently that she was an early trailblazing Chicana scholar! How she ended up teaching 11th grade AP English at my high school, I’ll never know. We only read the Western cannon, mostly dead male white writers. Dr. Dwyer made me fall in love with Prufrock for God’s sake! Later, I wrote my own version, How the Sábado Gigante Dancers Changed, which was one of my first publications ever in the MALCS journal.

 

The teachers were tough, but I also had to hold my own in those groups of rich, mostly white kids we called Preps. Prep, as in they were being prepared for life, while the poor kids were being prepped for an entirely different outcome, I suppose. So, I really feel like the grunge/alternative movement helped me have confidence in the kind of knowledge, experience, and coolness you cannot buy.

Bonnie and her high school friends, including Ana

 

My homegirls and I were into hair metal as kids, which is a whole other thing if you’re a girl. What is the girl’s place in the hair metal world? You’re just a groupie or whatever. I remember one night my best friend Ana and I were watching Headbanger’s Ball like we did every Saturday, and they premiered the Nirvana video and I swear, it was like a man had landed on the moon. “Smells like Teen Spirit” tore off any blinders we had. The movement and message of that era was so freeing. Like it was okay to be yourself, you know? The zeitgeist shifted and all we had to do was accept ourselves. We were free.

 

 

INTERVIEWER

That sounds magical. Especially during high school when you’re forming your identity.

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

Yeah, and the live music shows were a bonus because sometimes the bands would come to San Antonio. Mostly we’d have to go to Austin for shows but sometimes, magically, the bands would come here and we’d get to see these very important bands at small, intimate venues. Like, what is that doing to your synapses as a teen, you know?

 

INTERVIEWER

Has there been any moment or experience you’ve had with music since then that has kind of shaped your identity?

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

Bonnie and Azeneth at Saluté, taken by Kelly Reid Walls

 

Not until I started going to Salutè International Bar, the place where I’d see Steve Jordan and other Conjunto artists play in this magical, jewel box bar on the historic N. St. Mary’s Strip. But Steve especially, he really blew my mind. I see him as the epitome of hip. To be able to witness him perform in the flesh, often, and up close, and then go back and dive into his catalog after he passed, that really opened my mind and I know for certain that Saluté, KEDA radio, and many San Anto mentors and muses along the way most definitely inspired my Tejana cultural rebirth.

 

 

 

INTERVIEWER

Did you start going to Saluté after you moved back here from Portland?

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

I actually started going the year before I moved to Oregon, and for various reasons, I was like, I don’t wanna move now! That’s when I was like, wow, ok, San Antonio is really badass. I didn’t see it before; I didn’t appreciate what I had. There’s so much beauty here, and the city is so abundant with love and magic. I shook off that idea that San Antonio is uncool, because Steve Jordan and Azeneth Domínguez and Manny Castillo are here, and I’m here too! You are here. Here is you.

 

This era really elevated my outlook and my self-esteem too. If the grunge movement was like, we’re cool because we’re different then that whole scene and the constellation of San Anto bars and conjunto/cumbia/Tejano shows just took me to the next level. Like, you don’t have to be from Seattle or L.A. for your stories to be worth telling and preserving.

 

INTERVIEWER

That’s so beautiful. It’s so important to come to that realization, I had similar experiences growing up here hating it or thinking there was somewhere else that was cooler. For me, it was the cultural revelation of, oh there’s all these things I am reading about and a lot of them happened in San Antonio or have connections to here. We’re just not taught it.

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

Yeah, it’s on purpose. They keep people in the dark about their magic and culture so they can convince otherwise and control them.

 

INTERVIEWER

You use the label Tejana. I just want to hear your thoughts on the Tejana label. Like why Tejana and not Latina or Chicana.

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

Yeah, I feel like Tejana is the best placeholder I have right now to tell where I’m from and who I am. I truly believe in my heart of hearts, where you’re from or where you bloom is an intrinsic part of who you are. You are part of that land. So Tejana is the best way I have to say where I am from.

 

But if I am traveling and someone asks me, what are you or whatever, they might not understand, so I say I’m Mexican-American. If they’re a little more aware, then I’ll say I’m Chicana. But for something like a publication like yours, people are going to understand what Tejana means and since Texas is where my mothers and grandmothers are from, I can be specific with my identity and feel secure with that word.

Sometimes there’s backlash for what term you use because the language itself was taken from us. For some, it was taken twice! Native languages, Español, and English. Of course, we have a hard time with words. Latino or Latinx are also temporary placeholders to me. I know sometimes people get inflamed about it or whatever and I don’t particularly love those labels either, but we don’t have anything else right now. But, I am proud to claim Tejana. 

 

INTERVIEWER

So for the playlist we commissioned from you, it has four sections. What was your process of playlist-making like?

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

 

Bonnie and Carlos, taken by Sarah Castillo

 

At first I had to wrap my head around the assignment and the title itself. I remember the first time someone from outside, an academic, referred to me and my husband Carlos as San Antonio hipsters and I sort of recoiled. I had just come from living three years in Portland, so I had my own ideas of what a hipster was from that crash course in Hipsterville.

 

When I moved home, I heard the word chipster, and I never identified with that label either. So when I got that assignment, to make a playlist for El Chipster Issue, I had to grapple with the realization that you know what, actually this term applies to you because I am part of a collective body of thought, or generation, that is both Chicana and hip.

 

So then I had to think about, what is hip? What does that even mean? Once I defined what it means to be hip, I realized that it has to do with seeking knowledge and knowing you want to know more and thinking outside the box, so…how does that relate to being to Chicana? Then it all came together for me. The stereotypical hipster is like, there’s the old joke, I learned a lot of these jokes in Portland, how many hipsters does it take to change a lightbulb?

 

INTERVIEWER

How many?

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

(disgusted) What, you don’t know? (laughs)

 

INTERVIEWER

(laughs) I haven’t heard that one!

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

Girl, I have a lot of those. So I think the stereotype of hipsters is like, they are hoarders of knowledge. Like I know this band, I read this book, I know this thrift store, but I’m not going to tell you about it. To me, a Chicana hipster, is the opposite: like yes, bring on all the knowledge and art but then there is, for me, there is also this intense urge to share it, not hoard it. To educate, share the wealth, because our people have been historically deprived of our knowledge, our language, our culture.

 

Our parents were literally spanked for speaking Spanish in South Texas schools, and ridiculed for bringing tacos to lunch. Now there’s Taco Tuesday. We keep on having to push our knowledge forward in order to survive.  A Chicana hipster is intrinsically trying to push knowledge out there to help preserve it.

 

Bar America Jukebox, taken by Sohayla L. Hendrix

I view the Chicanx jukebox I created as an educational tool. To make the playlist within the one-hour parameter was hard, because we all know that I could go on for 16 hours if need be! So, going back to the idea of form, I knew I had to break it up into chunks of songs, or as we DJs say, sets. Then I had to think about Chicano artists and define what being a Chicano musician meant to me.

 

I narrowed it down to Mexican-Americans artists who sang in English and were able to break into the American pop music mainstream. So, artists like Ritchie Valens, ? and the Mysterians, Linda Ronstandt, and Santana were obvious choices. That was always such a huge thing for me as a student and fan of American pop music, seeing those Spanish surnames because we so rarely got to see ourselves in the various movements and moments.

 

That formed the base of my mix, and then of course I couldn’t forget my alternative roots and how when I was teen listening to music, a song like “Vamos” by Pixies was the first time I heard some Spanish words in the Alterna-movement. Vamos a jugar por la playa, like holy shit! Frank Black would always play The White Rabbit too, we saw him two or three times and he’d talk about how much he loved San Anto.

 

I included that Breeders cover of “Regálame Esta Noche” because I think it’s sweet and earnest, and at that time they had a Chicano drummer from Echo Park in the band.

 

And then of course, Juana’s Adicción. The fact that they opened up Ritual De Lo Habitual with a girl speaking Spanish was like, such a cool thing for us. And then we were like, Dave Navarro, his name is Navarro! Oh my god! You know? Those bands had to be part of the “Indie-Alternative-Landia” set. And of course, I included David Garza because he is like this rare unicorn of Tejas músicos who broke through and made it. Is making it. David had to make an appearance.

 

For the “Pasado Xicanx / Futuro Xicanx” set, I have Freddy Fender on there because of course, I needed to have him on there. And then I have the newer voices on there because as a DJ one of my missions is to always play and promote contemporary bands who are coming up now.  I chose Marinero and La Doña, both from California.Their songs address gentrification in such powerful and beautiful ways.

 

I feel like you can’t talk about being Chicano and being hip and not bring up what gentrification is doing to a lot of inner-city neighborhoods that are being whitewashed in the name of progress and development. I have started examining my own role in the evolution of the N. St. Mary’s Strip in San Antonio, and how I moved to Portland in search of what? Más hipness? I really hope I can write that essay someday.

 

And then I ended it with Rosita Fernandez, San Antonio’s First Lady of Song, because her cover of The Beatles’ “Yesterday” made perfect, poignant sense to me. I really like how the project came out. You did such a beautiful job with the jukebox strip layout. I’m so happy I got to part of this issue in this way!

 

INTERVIEWER

Thank you! There’s definitely a tie between hipsterdom and colonization through gentrification and the hoarding of knowledge. I’ve never heard anyone articulate it that way but that’s exactly what that is.

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

Dude, I had never articulated it to myself until I was preparing for our chat like twenty minutes ago! Right now, it all came together for me, like what am I going to say? It dawned on me when I asked myself, why do I cringe at that word yet identify with that word? What is the disconnect? Well, the disconnect is the hoarding versus the sharing. Going back to the first line in my bio, right? I guess I just need to declare it: I don’t care if I heard it first or you heard it first. I don’t care! As long as you are listening now, playing it for others, and you’re pushing it out into the world, I’m happy!

 

INTERVIEWER

Part of that [chipsterism] is tied to both the hipsterdom, the seeking out of knowledge of music, cinema, or whatever. The other part is the communal knowledge, like sharing music with your friends or family. I think that’s where the sweet spot is.

 

 

BONNIE ILZA CISNEROS

Yes, like all of it had to be supported and shared in order for it to get to you! Had I not had so many friends and mentors who shared knowledge and experiences with me, I wouldn’t have half the knowledge I have right now. Like, I’m a DJ who takes requests. After many years, I realized that DJ-ing is a two-way street. Very few requests actually suck, and I can think of very clear examples of times a request sent my DJ set sailing into the coolest, most unexpected direction! I like talking to people who are excited about music. It’s a cool part of the job.

 

 

Even when someone requests a song I don’t know, I’ll jot it down because it’s an opportunity to learn what people love. I’ve learned so much great music that way. I’d say 90% of people who gather the courage to talk to me are cool as shit and I really look at my sets as educational experiences. I’ll never be the type of record collector or DJ who thinks they are the ultimate official on anything. All I know is that I don’t know everything.

 

But I like talking to people. People have taught me such good shit. That’s why these playlists that we’re doing, I feel really blessed because I hope people are learning something from them, hearing something like, oh I’ve never heard that! You know how that one thing speaks to you? If they hear that one thing that moves them and then they go off onto this path of like, oh who’s Marinero, let me go look him up, or whatever, that makes my work so exciting. Sharing is caring, as they say, and I care a lot!

 

DJing at the Martinez Street Women’s Center mural blessing in 2015, taken by Lupito Conjunto

Cloud Cardona

Cloud Cardona is a Co-Editor-in-Chief and Layout Editor of Infrarrealista Review.

Featured image by: Bonnie at the David Blancas Sound of San Anto mural in 2011, taken by Ash DeLeon

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