Astrid Hadad’s musical tour through Mexico in downtown L.A.
When performance artist Astrid Hadad takes the stage at downtown’s Million Dollar Theater on Sunday, she may be impersonating an Aztec princess. Or perhaps La Malinche, the Indian lover of the conqueror Hernán Cortés and a symbol of Mexico’s shotgun-marriage ethnic mixing.
Or maybe Hadad will be sporting the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe as she sashays through a musical tour of her tumultuous homeland, spiking traditional tunes like “La Llorona,” “La Bamba” and “La Cucaracha” with pointed new lyrics alluding to the corruption of Mexico’s political elites and to drug-related murders in Ciudad Juárez.
For the 5-foot, fiftysomething daughter of Lebanese-Mexican merchants, satire and criticism are the flip sides of patriotism. Her willingness to point out and poke fun at Mexico’s shortcomings is the fun house-mirror reflection of her deep affection for its tierra misteriosa (mysterious land), as her new CD is titled. Her effusive personality, disarming humor and elaborate costumes take the sting out of Hadad’s commentaries, permitting Mexicans and foreign audiences alike to laugh through their painful self-recognitions.
“I do all this so that young people will know that they have a marvelous country, a country with a very rich culture, with so many things that we need to defend,” Hadad said, speaking in Spanish by phone from her Mexico City home. “We can’t leave it all in the hands of the politicians. I think it’s the people, the civil society, that has to intervene in order for things to change.”
Hadad’s new CD and stage act were partly inspired by recent celebrations of the bicentennial of Mexico’s 19th century War of Independence from Spain, and the centenary anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. While most Mexican politicians toasted those events with predictable pomp and circumstance, Hadad said, few spoke about their country’s enduring problems, “about the exploitation, or about the corruption, or about so many things that never change.”
At the Million Dollar, Hadad will be accompanied by a four-piece live band and will share the evening’s program with vocalist Rubén Albarrán of the Mexican alt-rock band Café Tacuba, who’s embarked on a solo touring show, “Hoppo: Erotic Rhythms.” Both artists also are scheduled to perform Saturday as part of the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Then Hadad will head back to Mexico, where new challenges, and new material, perpetually await.
“I think that when there’s a crisis, artists and creative people want to express themselves and to say things,” she said. “It’s also a manner in which to contribute in order to make things better, no?”
Photo: Mexican singer and actress Astrid Hadad performs her work 'Tierra Misteriosa' at the Teatro Ciudad in Mexico City, Mexico, September 3, 2011. Credit: Sashenka Gutierrez