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When Sisters Folk Festival staff chose the theme for My Own Two Hands, their intention was to be inclusive and invite everyone in Sisters Country to join them for the festivities. “We All Belong” has inspired contributing artists like poster artist Carly Garzon Vargas to create art that reflects that message. The choice of Las Cafeteras to headline the free concert Friday night, May 10, at The Belfry is a way to continue the celebration and intention for inclusion.

Las Cafeteras bandmates are an impressive group with diverse musical expertise and a myriad of academic achievements. The band is comprised of young people raised in Los Angeles by parents who were immigrants. They have over 15 years of collective experience in education, organizing, curriculum development, social work, movement-building, health and wellness, musical performance and theatre. Las Cafeteras offers workshops, trainings, and residencies to engage a variety of audiences.  

Booking a band like Las Cafeteras proved challenging for Creative Director Brad Tisdel; but he kept trying and finally, Las Cafeteras will travel to Sisters from their home base in Los Angeles.

“We saw them two-and-half years ago at Folk Alliance International,” said Tisdel.

He and the Festival talent committee loved the band and tried to book them for last year’s Folk Festival and then again for this year, but it didn’t work out.

“I believe they represent the theme of ‘We All Belong’ through their social-justice work, both in and out of school environments. Choosing them is a great way to engage our Latino and Hispanic community and represent the breadth of the theme’s intention of belonging,” said Tisdel.

Before they take the stage Friday night, Las Cafeteras will teach two workshops in the Sisters schools. The first will be at Sisters High School and will be a music-focused performance where the band will present their music through a storytelling lens and share their unique relationship to the music they write and produce. This will include a short video, questions to the audience, as well as sharing their story coming from an immigrant community with low resources in Los Angeles. “The band will share many varied cultural influences that help shape and create an even stronger music and band identity,” explained Tisdel.

The second workshop will be at Sisters Middle School. The band plans to share their music, traditional instruments, and how they are a mix of many cultures.

“Las Cafeteras believes songs have a message and can tell a story that shows how our perceived differences actually make us more similar. Through their teaching they’ll show how music can help everyone feel that they belong,” added Tisdel. A question-and-answer session will be provided for students at the end of the workshop. 

According to Tisdel, that kind of focus reflects the long-held social advocacy role folk music has held in society. “Their music speaks to the immigrant experience of living in America while trying to be fully embraced. At this time, it’s important for people to be outspoken about inclusion for everyone, so everyone feels like they belong regardless of gender, race or anything else that has kept them apart.”

SFF has reached out to the Hispanic Coalition with a personal invitation to come celebrate music that will be sung in both Spanish and English. District Community Liaison Suriana Iverson will translate information about My Own Two Hands activities into Spanish.

The band’s emphasis — to build bridges instead of walls — informs their music and their outreach activities. Having performed and taught across the country including the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., Las Cafeteras is opening doors to relationships that can flourish through the shared love of music and art.

“We would like to share their culture and heritage with all community members so that people from all backgrounds are celebrated and fully embraced in our community and beyond. Celebrating community that’s authentic where human beings can share an experience, that’s what it’s all about,” said Tisdel.

“As an organization celebrating culture, we want to bring diverse music and people to our community and celebrate their unique backgrounds and heritage,” said Tisdel, “We’re doing that more and more with the festival as well.”

To learn more about My Own Two Hands visit www.sistersfolkfestival.org/my-own-two-hands/. To learn more about Las Cafeteras visit their website at

www.lascafeteras.com.