Identity is at the core of a new documentary, “Carlos,” directed by Rudy Valdez and distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. Shot mostly in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Carlos Santana is performing his residency at the House of Blues. Valdez takes us along with Santana as he speaks about his experience in mainstream popular culture over the course of 50 years.
The film alternates between Santana today reflecting on his life and career and the archival footage of him performing at Woodstock and other similar concerts. To summarize this issue of identity, Carlos Santana, said, “I am a multidimensional Mexican surfing the cosmos of the imagination.”
Raúl Pacheco is a guitarist in the dance band, Ozomatli. He had the opportunity to tour with Santana. He and other Latino musicians have been inspired by Santana.
“What I like most about him is that he is very melodic. He plays melodies. And he established an identifiable sound that is instantly recognizable. That is the most difficult thing to do in the pantheon of sound and you hear two notes and you just know it’s Santana. He isn’t overbearing and he’s respectful of his place in the song and when he gets his turn, he makes the most of it. We spent a total of three years with him on the North American tour. I think his universal perspective is real. He is one of those real hippies from the sixties that has a real all encompassing view of the universal guide to better himself as a human and raise ourselves up together. He has worked hard to become a better man. I am happy that I got to have my experience with him,” Pacheco told CALÓ NEWS.
Jorge Emilio Pardo, stage name El León Pardo, with ZZK Records, also can identify with this philosophy of music as a form of enlightenment. Pardo is 35 years old and he was raised in Cartagena, Colombia. He identifies as a humano; colombiano; músico.
“Carlos Santana is very well known in Colombia. I first heard him at the age of 14 when I was passed a VHS cassette of Woodstock. I liked his music very much. I also believe in his vision and philosophy of unity,” Pardo told CALÓ NEWS. “I have experienced that feeling of unity in my musical performances in over a dozen countries. Relative to my chosen instrument, which is la gaita (an indigenous flute), I always felt like I was a type of chamán playing a very metaphysical type of music.”
Santana is one of the few Latinos in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, honored by a president of the United States (Barack Obama) and by the Kennedy Center Honors for his contribution to American culture through the performing arts.
I asked the documentary director Valdez whether or not he thought Santana is an identity guru for the Latina/o community.
“The role that Carlos plays in leadership and identity in the Latina/o experience is the big reason why I am even here telling this story. I grew up in the Midwest in Lansing, Michigan wanting nothing more than a voice. At the end of high school, I knew that I wanted to be a storyteller and when I looked out into the media landscape, I saw all these tropes and stereotypes about what it meant to be a Latino in East LA or a Latino in the Bronx or a Latino in Miami but never a Latino in the Midwest. Never a brown face in 47 of the remaining states and we were expected to be boxed in to those stereotypes,” he said. “This was my actual truth and my mother used to play Carlos Santana in our home. My parents were migrant field workers. When my mom noticed that I had a difficult time finding my path, she said, remember Carlos Santana? He looks like you and he was able to break down those boundaries. They probably told him that he needed to play mariachi music or cumbia music but he decided to go to Woodstock and play the shit out of that guitar and change the face of rock and roll. She told me, ‘You can do it too.’ ”
Valdez also spoke about how Santana influenced him.
“I didn’t know that I could ever be a leader like Carlos Santana but I knew that I wanted to try. We have such a nuanced existence as brown people in the United States. We are all lumped into this thing but we have vastly different experiences. I never told Carlos the story of how he influenced me because I didn’t want to change the dynamic between us but it’s important to see people excel in lanes that are different than the ones that are expected of us,” he said.
Valdez said that we have to celebrate our Latino/a diversity.
“I think we need many leaders and we need to see them be successful in all the different realms. We are a diverse nuanced group of people and we try to grab that huge audience of Latinos and folks try to distill it to the two coasts,” he said. “I tell my agents that I am very grounded in the Midwest and what that means as a storyteller and that gives me a different perspective and that makes me unique. We need to pass that to creatives so they are proud of where they come from.”
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