Denver’s music scene, very like the remainder of the world, has been more and more receptive to Latin music and artists over the last decade. On a worldwide scale, artists like Dangerous Bunny and J Balvin are main the cost in popularizing Latin music in America and Europe. On a smaller scale, there are native Latin artists which can be contributing to the tradition in essential methods. Lolita — a rising star in Denver’s Latin music scene — is one such artist. Her deep love for poetry, self-awareness and social justice synthesize in her music, and makes her a drive to reckon with.

Rising up in Denver’s 5 Factors neighborhood, Lolita — whose actual title is Lolita Mendoza Castañeda — was uncovered to music at a younger age. A few of her earliest reminiscences are of sunrises accompanied by a Mexican-morning soundtrack curated by her father, who would play his favourite Mexican tunes on his guitar each morning. These moments are expensive to Castañeda, who remembers being impressed by the Mexican folks music that formed her father, which he shared along with her all through her childhood.

At a younger age, her love of music was outweighed by her ardour for poetry, which has been an important a part of her life for so long as she will bear in mind. In her teen years, she started transitioning from poetry to songwriting. She defined, “In highschool, I began to ditch a category to put in writing poetry. Ultimately, that type of began turning into rapping. I began utilizing beats and it grew to become this songwriting factor.”

Though she initially deliberate to go to varsity to review artistic writing, her instinct took over when she sat right down to formally declare her main at CU Denver.

“As a result of the poetry was so essential to me, after I graduated [high school], I went with my mentor to attempt to get into faculty at CU Denver. We went to the admin workplace they usually requested me what I wished to main in. To my shock and her shock, I simply stated ‘music.’ It simply type of got here out and we each checked out one another like, ‘that simply occurred.’ It was nice, and I simply went with the movement of it. I used to be like, this occurred for a motive.”

Whereas pursuing a music enterprise diploma at CU Denver, she crossed paths with Owen Trujillo — a songwriter initially from Zacatecas, Mexico, with a pure inclination for rapping. Trujillo, a founding member of the Denver-based Latin hip-hop group 2MX2, was impressed with Castañeda’s songwriting talents, and the 2 shaped a friendship rooted in musical collaboration and mutual admiration that finally led to Castañeda becoming a member of 2MX2, who she nonetheless performs with in the present day.

In 2015, The Flobots — a Colorado-based band greatest recognized for his or her smash single, “Handlebars” — invited 2MX2 and Castañeda to carry out and lead workshops for marginalized communities within the Colorado public faculty system. Castañeda remembers this expertise fondly, though, at occasions, she struggled to just accept her new position as a musical mentor for the youth. Recalling that point in her profession, she defined:

“I used to be nonetheless in a really susceptible place with my artwork. I didn’t consider in myself but. So being on that tour with such superb teams, 2MX2 and The Flobots, I used to be similar to, wow, how did this occur? How can I shine amongst so many shiny issues and glossy individuals to the purpose the place I might put glitter on my face, to actually shine. However I like that as a result of it was a part of my journey. To maneuver by means of that house and to comprehend finally that every one I might do is be myself. And in being myself, I’m already profitable as a result of there’s no one who’s me and there’s no one who’s you.”

As a Latina girl dwelling in America, being assured in herself hasn’t all the time been simple. Rising up, she remembers being shamed for talking Spanish round her friends. Though American society has largely advanced to be extra accepting of different cultures, Latin-American youth typically nonetheless battle to really feel accepted amongst their friends. Fortunately, music has a particular capacity to bridge that cultural hole.

The sound of music is common. Every observe conveys emotion and empathy. That’s the fantastic thing about music: you don’t have to grasp the lyrics to grasp the message. Throughout one in every of her visits to a Colorado public faculty throughout her tour with the Flobots and 2MX2, she skilled music’s connective tissue first hand.

“There have been occasions the place the music would actually deliver the entire room collectively. There was one second on that tour the place we have been sitting in a circle and I used to be doing my greatest to attempt to join with these individuals. I used to be like, you understand what, let me consider a music that introduced me some connection after I was younger, and I simply began singing, ‘this little gentle of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,’ and everyone joined in. I had goosebumps. It was such a easy second but all of us might get collectively and sing the lyrics to that.”

Moments like this gave Castañeda confidence that she was on the proper path and helped her overcome the imposter syndrome she’d struggled with throughout the starting of her musical profession. 

That tour was seven years in the past. Since then, she’s constructed fairly a status amongst Denver’s Latin music group, receiving reward from native Latin-indie band The Mañanas and opening for iconic Denver bands like iZCALLi and Los Mocochetes. Sadly, she doesn’t all the time get the popularity she deserves as individuals typically confuse her for a girlfriend of the band as an alternative of an artist.

It is a widespread downside within the music trade — casting female artists apart in favor of praising their masculine counterparts on stage, typically fully neglecting the main inventive contributions of feminine singers, bass gamers and songwriters.

Moreover, Castañeda feels the stress to stay as much as the status Latin ladies have in North America — sturdy and ever-present.

“In our tradition, the Latina ladies have all the time been seen as very sturdy, like they’ll deal with loads. Rising up, lots of us have been advised ‘you’re sturdy, you’re the girl right here. You are able to do all of this. You’ll be able to deal with all of this. Why? As a result of your mother did it and your grandma did it and we’ve all carried out it.’ So we hear this and folks simply assume this about Latina ladies. Yeah, they’re very sturdy. They will deal with it. They will prepare dinner, they’ll clear, they’ll go work, they’ll come again and do the identical factor and handle you and handle themselves. However generally we overlook that the self-care half is tremendous essential too.”

Just lately, Lolita has been paying particular consideration to her personal self-care necessities, which is obvious on her most up-to-date single “Sober With out Your Love,” a catchy dance-pop reggaeton document that sees Lolita confronting her feelings a few fading relationship. After placing up a entrance for her lover’s sake, she lastly determined to air out her emotions and finish the romance that was not wholesome for her.

“Heartbreak is hard and I believe lots of us undergo it and generally we undergo it alone. We don’t speak about it out loud. We simply cope with it in our personal manner. Generally it’s so painful that we don’t essentially cope with it. We simply permit time to occur. For me, ‘Sober With out Your Love’ was like revisiting these locations and the heartbreaks that I’ve gone by means of and the wonder that got here out of these experiences.”

Though Lolita isn’t any stranger to like songs and heartbreak, “Sober With out Your Love” is a slight deviation from the politically-charged music she has launched through the years, primarily “Todo Mi Gente” and 2MX2’s “Piraña,” two Spanish anthems that talk on gun violence and police brutality.

On the finish of the day, Castañeda is greater than a Latina musician. She’s greater than the political music she makes, greater than the heartbreaks she’s skilled and greater than the sturdy girl society expects her to be. Sure, she is all of these issues. However she can be a human being, who, similar to everybody else, experiences highs and lows, occasional emotions of doubt and the euphoric highs of affection in all varieties — self-love, romantic love and love for her group.

All pictures by Jason Carncross