Sarah La Morena, black singer of Mexican regional music at SoCal, collects fans but also racist backlashes online

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Before clicking on the Instagram video, the view intrigued the most. Sarah Palafox, a black woman, held an iPhone in front of mariachis. When users turned on the volume, they heard a woman singing a heart-wrenching rendition of “Que Me Vas A Dar” by Jenni Rivera in perfect Mexican Zacatecas Spanish. Instagram users said the short clip made them cry. Others asked for more.

But most asked: who was this woman with a voice like the late Tejano Selena star? And what is its history?

Palafox, an African-American woman raised by a family of Mexican immigrants, has generated excitement online with her versions of regional Mexican music.

Born in Southern California but raised in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, Palafox, 23, who goes by the stage name Sarah La Morena, sparked emotions following a series of viral social media videos . the music video of Palafox singing with mariachis generated half a million views on Instagram and another 200,000 on Twitter. Other videos of her singing banda – another form of regional music from the southwest coast of Mexico – have also been shared thousands of times. (She’s working on an album.)

However, as Palafox caressed a frenzy with her voice, she was also the target of a racist backlash online because of her love of Mexican music. A few black social media users accuse him of being ashamed of his blackness. Some Latino users hurl racist slurs and accuse him of appropriation. The insults are in English and Spanish.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Palafox said the contempt is similar to what she faced after her family returned to Southern California when she was in college. This led to bouts of depression and a suicide attempt in 2018, she said.

“Just knowing how I was raised, what I was born into and what I grew up in, I mean, I have the best of both worlds,” said Palafox, who wears a tattoo. Selena.

On social media, Palafox shared her story of being born into a drug addict and being placed in a foster care system after authorities removed her from her biological mother, an African-American woman. A devout Christian family in Mexico offered to take her in, but soon fell in love with her. They officially adopted her and moved to Zacatecas, where Palafox learned to milk cows and care for horses.

When the family returned to the United States, the kids at school didn’t know what to think of Palafox, a black girl who spoke no English and considered herself Mexican. Palafox, who started singing in church, dabbled in music, especially music from his parents’ homeland. “This kind of music brings back a lot of memories to me,” said Palafox, of Moreno Valley, Calif.

Today, as a mother of two and recently signed artist to California-based Silent Giant Entertainment, Palafox focuses on positive responses to her music as the United States faces racial judgment over police shootings. and systemic racism.

For years, a few African American artists have tried singing in Spanish to reach out to Latino fans in the United States and abroad. For example, Nat King Cole recorded three Spanish-language studio albums in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His album Cole Español used orchestral music recorded in Havana and he added his voice from California, but it was clear that Spanish was not his mother tongue.

Other black artists, like Beyoncé, recorded Spanish versions of their popular hits at the time. His “Irrplaceable” from 2006 entitled “Irreemplazable” is sung entirely in Spanish. Michael Jackson also recorded a Spanish version of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” called “Todo Mi Amor Eres Tú”.

But rarely has a black artist embraced and authentically captured Mexican regional music like Palafox, according to Alexandro Jose, professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at California State University, Fullerton.

“She takes authenticity to a whole new level. Not only is her Spanish better than most Latinos, but she identifies with a village in Zacatecas. She’s Mexican and that music is hers, ”Gradilla said.

Gradilla said she faces a backlash from some because her music represents “black-brown love” and highlights how the Mexican-American and African-American communities have lived together for decades. “And if you focus on the love between blacks and browns, it destroys our view of race in the United States,” Gradilla said. “That’s why his music makes some of us cry.”

Palafox said she had more musical projects but declined to give details. She would only say that the music will be different and that she doesn’t listen to the critics who tell her she shouldn’t be singing regional Mexican music.

“I’ve been told you can’t wear braids, you can’t wear your afro and go on stage and sing Mexican music,” Palafox said. “And for me, I say to myself, why not? “

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