In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Angelica Garcia is looking to the ancestral guidance of ranchera music. Caitlyn Krone/Courtesy of the artist
Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that’s helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.
The past few days I’ve experienced a flux of emotions. On one hand, I’m grateful to have time in the morning to sit and drink coffee; on the other hand I feel the chaos outside and I’m flinching every time I hear someone cough in the alley. I feel like the way that I confront chaos is by facing it, though. I can’t push aside everything I feel unless I truly want to feel the entire weight of everything at a later, unexpected date.
Since a lot of things are floating in the air — income, tours, bills — I’ve decided to use this time to absorb the most emotive music I can personally think of: ranchera music. In the past, I’ve found myself in a bathtub at the end of the night with Chavela Vargas playing in the background. The experience of sitting in the water and hearing her voice reverberate off the tiles felt similar to letting out a healthy cry.
So much of the classic ranchera music comes from a generation of writers who dealt with crisis regularly. They lived through episodes of famine or the anxiety of waiting for a loved one to return home from war. On top of it all, the world was so much less connected than it is now — sometimes the news of a change of fate arriving in a small letter. This is why I feel ranchera music is so on the nose. It says absolutely everything it needs to say because people weren’t always sure of their future. This could be seen as a grim outlook, but personally I am in awe knowing that ancestors took uncertainty and hardship and turned it into something so genuine that beautifully articulates the landscape of the human experience. I’m especially thinking of them now. Whether I pick up my guitar or my paintbrush, I think of them when I don’t know how to feel.
These old songs are guidance and sanctuary to me. I’m challenging myself now to have that same directness with anything I create during this time. Life is precious and chaotic. I am most at peace when I look it in the eyes for what it is.