Tecate, Baja California born Mexican singer Carla Patricia Morrison Flores, better known professionally as Carla Morrison, proved this past Thursday when she performed at the Observatory in Santa Ana that when it comes to a person's creative identity two ethnicities are better than one. Although she sang songs mostly in Spanish that melded her unique Mexican-American family history into this music, she freely acknowledges in an accent free English that a great deal of her creativity has its roots in the music of Patsy Cline and Brits like Morrissey and Radiohead.
Because her band got held up on some technicality at immigration, the audience at the Observatory was treated to a solo and intimate mix of Morrison's music, her views on life, and how specifically a woman's appearance has often been used to value them as something less than who they really are. With a predominant audience of chicanos who quietly sang along lip-syncing every song she sang, it was clear that this message was not lost on them.
Morrison clearly expresses with her music a vibrant and new Mexican-American identity -- whether documented or undocumented -- that refuses to choose between what it finds valuable and worth preserving in either culture, while taking it to the next step by synthesizing in her music what was at the Observator a fresh new expression for both American and Mexican music.
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But more than this, Morrison is singing an anthem for a young new majority of bi-cultural Spanish and English speaking youth who at the very least see two as better than one, when it comes to developing their own potential by using all of what makes them up. Being bilingual not only allows you to understand what another person is saying, but it also gives you a window into how they subjectively and idiomatic view life.
And more specifically, Morrison in her music and in her English and Spanish talks with the audience delved into the role of women in both cultures and often the equally degrading treatment that they have had to suffer in the past. Her message of empowerment made it clear that those days of exploitation of women are gone. Clearly her audience both male and female concurred with her conclusion expressed both in music and word, that it is far more important what a woman thinks about herself than what others think of her, was unanimously supported by those present.
It is hard to separate the music of the 1960s from the opposition it expressed to the Vietnam War and endemic racism in America that regrettably remains still alive and well in institutions like our schools at LAUSD and elsewhere throughout the state and country, where Chicanos, African Americans, and the poor are still being devalued and allowed to underachieve to even a greater extent than was taking place in 1968, when the school walkouts took place in East Los Angeles and elsewhere.
Morrison's message is that this will no longer be tolerated and on leaving the concert one realized that Ya Basta was about to receive a whole new substantive interpretation in both Spanish and English that those in power can only choose to continue to ignore at their own peril.