Latin Grammy Nominated and Sin Papeles: The Story of La Santa Cecilia's Pepe Carlos

Not one more!
La Santa Cecilia's music video for its latest single "El Hielo (ICE)" premieres today, but this writer got a sneak peek two weekends ago! With Chris Newman of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) present in Anaheim for an event in celebration of jornalero Jose Ucelo, he took the occasion to screen the video before an audience of activists.

The Los Angeles-based Latin Grammy-nominated Latin Alternative band powerfully illustrated the anxieties of living in fear of deportation in the effort directed by Sleep Dealer's Alex Rivera. By the music video's end, the undocumented cast members featured in it were highlighted, including the band's very own requinto and accordion player Pepe Carlos.

Having known La Santa Cecilia since 2008, Carlos' immigration status was known to me, but it is with the release of the video for a song the Weekly said could make a Know Nothing's heart melt, that the musician has decided to go public.

"Over the past few years we've seen an increase in deportations," he tells me. "It's a way to come out and not be scared anymore."

The fear that grips the real-life protagonists in "El Hielo (ICE)" is something Carlos has experienced first hand. "In one situation, I was pulled over in Lynwood driving without a license around 1 a.m. coming back from a gig with a friend," he recounts. "Our car was searched for an hour. The sheriff deputies treated us as if we were criminals. They handcuffed me and I was taken to jail." Going through such harrowing ordeals helped influence him to take an 'undocumented and unafraid' stance.

As La Santa Cecilia started gaining attention for their superb musicality, the sensitive status of their accordionist and requinto player became an issue of concern. "We drive to Texas, but we take the longer route to avoid the border patrol," Carlos says. "We haven't even played in Arizona for the same reason." The band was always fearful of putting him in a precarious situation.

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