By Nohemi Rosales
If you wanna know what’s badass, Latinx, queer, feminist, bilingual, and punk in the Chicago music scene, look no further than Cabrona Band.
Having roots in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala, Cabrona’s members are here to make their presence known in a male-dominated, white-washed music industry.
Their music style has been described as punkish; it’s similar to Spanish rock but with punk elements. They also aren’t afraid to stray and throw some folk, jazz, classical, and latin styles in there.
It all started when Jax ‘Loca Malcriada’ Ovalle and Becca ‘Basura’ Perez met in high school when they were teens.
“We had actually started a band with one of our friends, who was a dude, and we were like ‘he is so bossy, we just need to start an all-girl band.’ That was our dream for years,” Becca explained.
When Jax went to college at Northwestern, she met Fatima ‘Fatale’ Gomez while playing Mariachi there.
“Long story short, the men there were just like sexist assholes,” Fatima says. “We both ended up leaving at different times. Jax had the idea to finally start the band. At first we talked about me joining the band, but we weren’t really sure how a violin was going to fit in. We finally started rehearsing in October of 2014.”
Drummer, Javier ‘La Virgen’ Lom, didn’t join the band until August of 2015. He and Jax had met in high school, where they played in the marching band together. But it wasn’t until they matched on Tinder that they started bonding over music. Originally Javier got involved with Cabrona as their tech guy, troubleshooting any and all technical issues, but when their original drummer moved out of the country, they brought in Javier.
During their show at Bottom Lounge in early June, the band played for what was described as a “small, but mighty” audience with a lot of energy.
They had played previously all over the city, including at Fed Up Fest in 2015. Jax reflected on the Bottom Lounge show, saying, “Fed Up Fest was like playing to a crowd of fresh ears and at that point our band was pretty much only playing to fresh ears. But at this point, it was mainly only fans in front of us. So we when we were like ‘hey, we’re Cabrona’ we got like a huge cheer, instead of being like ‘hey, we’re Cabrona’ and hearing crickets.”
Originally called Chemical X, an ode to the beloved Powerpuff Girls, they eventually changed their name to Cabrona to more closely represent their roots.
“There was a lot of weird metal bands called Chemical X. One day my mom was tucking me in and I said something rude to her so she said ‘aye Cabrona’ and I was like ‘WOAH. That’s it, that’s the name’,” Jax explains.
The word cabrona, for anyone who speaks Spanish, has a lot of meaning. In English, it means bitch, but the band’s Facebook page offers a definition with deeper significance.
“Bitch: Describes assertive, intelligent, independent, self-confident woman who knows what she wants and struggling to get it without excuses or concessions. Women who challenge and not pleased with obvious answers but always finds the correct answer. Forming relationships and close ties not by necessity but by choice and, consequently, seeks to achieve a better life for herself and those around her.”
For all members, being a Cabrona is something unique, but it also binds them together.
For Fatima, being a Cabrona means having her own persona that she can embody on stage. “I am a classical violinist and a Mariachi violinist,” she says. “Both of those genres and traditions are very rigid in terms of their gender roles, so to me, this is a space where I don’t have to fit into a box.”
Javier says that as someone who identifies as male, the meaning is a little different. “It’s about completely subverting my identity when I’m with the band. When I’m onstage, I just think of myself as being me — not a straight cis-male. Calling myself a Cabrona has changed how I think of myself a lot.”
Similarly to Fatima’s reality, Jax also experienced sexism from the Mariachi group they were in, as well as other male-dominated music spaces. For her, being a Cabrona means to be bossy and to take control “It’s kind of like when the Riot Grrrls were writing the word ‘slut’ on their bodies. If you’re going to call me that I’m going to reclaim that word,” she says.
Their place in Chicago’s music scene has always garnered positive feedback. Being Latinx or queer are identities that are difficult to carry in society, especially when you’re both. There was one instance during one of their shows at the Mutiny, a Chicago dive club, in which they felt discriminated. They had just played “Jigsaw,” a song dedicated to the undocumented Latinxs in this country, when a white man in the audience started making disrespectful jokes.
“But that’s why we do what we do. Though at the same time, it was really infuriating,” Jax says.
“Jigsaw” isn’t the only song that Cabrona uses to talk about real world issues happening in marginalized communities. Javier’s favorite song is “Celia,” which is a cover of Celia Cruz’s “La Vida Es Un Carnaval,” just a little bit more punk in style.
For Becca and Jax, the song “Queen” is the one they’ve enjoyed working on the most. Written by Jax after quitting Mariachi, it was written as a ‘fuck you’ to machistas. It starts off with Jax singing in a very sweet, girly voice and then it grows in intensity. The song ends with a saying Jax’s mom used to tell her if someone was bullying her: “el valiente llega hasta donde el cobarde deja,” meaning, the valiant one will only get as far as the coward allows.
Though they’ve all found healing through making music, their songs are not just for them. Having been told that their music has been therapeutic for their listeners, Cabrona wants to ensure that the feeling remains. As first generation Latinxs, they want to represent others who are underrepresented.
“I don’t get to see many Latinx people on stage with guitars singing about machismo and that’s incredibly important,” Jax says. Javier states that he wants their songs to, “put fuckbois on blast.” Can I get a “hell yeah,”?
Their music, more than anything, is about reaching out to marginalized people and making them feel empowered. It’s about allowing people similar to them to vibe with them and feel good about themselves in a world that is constantly trying to make us feel bad for being queer, or brown, or different in any way. It’s about loving ourselves and saying ‘fuck off’ to those who don’t agree.
Follow Cabrona on social media and get in touch with your inner Cabrona: