Daniela Andrade: Reclaiming Identity Through Music

“Blue and white colors burn / Right through my eyes” are the lyrics of Canadian Hondureña Daniela Andrade’s single “Gallo Pinto” from her EP Tamale that poetically, and with pride, invoke the colors of the flag of her motherland and roots that tie her to her Latin American identity.

Artwork from “Gallo Pinto” cover

Andrade first began her musical career singing gospel songs as a child at her church, and later on, joined the virtual sphere of musical creation the same way many musical colleagues of her generation have — by singing music covers on YouTube. At 28 years of age, Daniela Andrade has been named a “Latin Artist On The Rise” by renowned music platforms such as Billboard and recognized as a “Dreamy DIY Songstress” by a popular Latinx-centered media stream known as Remezcla. Andrade’s nouveau-style of music — which is more recently being categorized as the genre of Latinx-Indie — is setting her apart from other up-and-coming artists as her singles reach the ears of tens of millions of people on Spotify, including mine.

Despite the dreamlike quality of her music, Andrade’s life journey has been far from picturesque. The disidentification or “outsider within” feeling of growing up Latin American in Canada had repercussions on Andrade’s own identity — an identity that she did not come to solidify until she got older. Being the youngest of four siblings who immigrated from Honduras, Andrade was the only child of her immigrant parents to be born on North American soil. With this first-generation experience in mind, Andrade learned to navigate life in a community comprised of various immigrants, but with very few Latinx people.

“I was always the only Latina at school,” she tells Remezcla through a phone call from Montreal. “So for me, there was a total rejection of culture when I was growing up.” The lack of proximity to others with cultures like her own caused Andrade to shy away from embracing the cultural ties with her Central American country, which inevitably cultivated a disconnect between the identities she experienced at home and the ones she chose to express to the rest of the world.

Image courtesy of the artist

Being a first-generation Latina myself, who is also a child of Central American immigrants, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a highly-populated Latinx community in the United States. Although Andrade and I did not grow in similarly inhabited communities, I still find myself relating to the lyrics that transcend Andrade’s individual experiences. I believe that beyond the personal experiences Andrade writes about, the reason why so many relate to her music is because many children of immigrants, more specifically, Latin American children of immigrants, undergo the same aforementioned process of disidentification between themselves and their communities — being, but never belonging. This awareness of liminality, or in other words, of occupying two spaces at once, is even more emphasized by the gender roles that surround children of immigrants; not only within the social roles that exist in North American countries but also those that exist in our Latin American motherlands.

Within this understanding of dual-living and dual-experiencing, we find ourselves and our identities, as children of immigrants, in the ways that we want to find and express them. And I think that Andrade has certainly found her own way to bring a voice to her experiences. That being said, listening to Daniela Andrade’s songs is like listening to the voices of a sisterhood that has yet to meet one another. For Latin American women in North America, our experiences are often silent, muddled, or rather, left abandoned by the noise that drowns us out. Womanhood for Latin American women is not at all a universal existence, yet Andrade captures some of the anomalies that travel throughout all las mujeres de Latinoamérica — food, love, and music.

For Andrade, the songs she composes like “Carta Para María,” “Tamale,” and, of course, “Gallo Pinto,” are all about the reclamation of an identity that was masked in a community that did not have the ability to see it for all the brilliance it already was. Now, Daniela Andrade’s music is authentically, and unapologetically, hers; containing references to her experience as a Latin American woman in Canada. Her EP Tamale and her most recent single “K.L.F.G.” suggests a newfound Andrade, and one that is empowered by the cultural stories of her family, her community, and most importantly, herself.

Artwork from “K.L.F.G.” cover

The song “Gallo Pinto,” specifically, marks in Andrade a cultural shift in the reckoning of her identity alignment and solidarity with the Latinx immigrant experience in North America. Alongside the cinematically directed music video for “Gallo Pinto,” by her Oscar-nominated partner Jérémy Comte, Andrade voices the immigrant narrative for audiences, while simultaneously pulling at the strings of empathy inside all of those who watch. This narrative of immigration is especially personal to her as she portrays on film the reality of her parents’ and older siblings’ immigration story from Honduras to Canada prior to her birth. In an interview with Remezcla, Andrade states, “I think the conversation being had online [about immigration] is not had from a point of view of trying to understand what people are even going through… I really wanted the video to portray the humanity behind their decision.” And beyond humanity, Andrade portrays truth.

Image shot from the “Gallo Pinto” music video

With black-and-white shots of the three children in Central America who loom ubiquitously like ghosts around the brightly colored shots of their parents on North American lands, Andrade and her partner Comte illustrate the duality of the raw existence of many Latin American immigrant families. That is, as they struggle between the visions of providing for their families in North America, they simultaneously must endure the reality of being thousands of miles alienated from the very ones that are the source of their strength.

Andrade sings through my headphones…

“This one’s for my mami, this one’s for my dad
Gave up everything to give me

What they couldn’t have
This one’s for dreamers
Working through their past
You are not defined by all the things that you don’t have
And we gonn’ make it out fine, yeah”

…and I have to say, that with artists like Daniela Andrade, I believe without a doubt that we will, in fact, make it out just fine.

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Check out Daniela Andrade on Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, and on her personal website.

Featured Images from @danielaandrade’s Instagram and @danielasings’ Twitter.