Ann Arbor Folk Festival performer Gina Chavez is the patron saint in English and Spanish

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You can call a lot of things Latin Grammy nominee 2020 Gina Chavez: Queer. Catholic. Bilingual. A singer. Songwriter. Pop rock artist. Defender of social justice.

She is also very much in love.

All you have to do is watch the video for his song “Heaven Knows”, which includes footage from his marriage to his wife Jodi Ganado. The love between the two is clear.

But “Heaven Knows” is not your everyday love song. “It was the song that for me really talks about the struggle to be homosexual and Catholic”, Chavez, which occurs as part of the 45th Ann Arbor Folk Festival on Friday, Jan. 28, Pride Source said.

Chavez and Ganado, who have been together for 16 years, met at the University of Texas at the Austin Catholic Center.

Chavez describes his college car as “super Catholic.” “We’re both still practicing Catholics,” she said. “Our whole relationship has been because of and in the church.”

Of course, the Catholic Church is not known to champion LGBTQ + people and causes. The Church’s position caused the couple considerable pain early in their relationship. “When we first kissed I remember feeling like the world was going to end. As Catholics we were going to be struck by the lighting,” Chavez recalls. “And then what this is. is the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. “

Instead of being struck down, they were lifted up by their love, even though it took a considerable amount of time.

“We were lied to,” Chavez remembers thinking. “When I was like ‘WTF God?’ Like, this is the most God I have ever felt. ”She recalls that it was an experience“ in life that you feel like there is something greater ”.

And yet, Chavez remembers “trying to pray to my own homosexual and stop him.”

This approach did not work.

“I think it probably took about six years in our relationship to say, ‘Oh, that’s really beautiful; maybe we should stop waiting for God to end it and realize that God has blessed us. It was from this awareness that the seed of “Heaven Knows” was planted.

Chavez says it’s “definitely a love song for my wife, but also a song that says Heaven knows exactly how I feel, Heaven knows exactly what kind of gorgeous love we have, and that even thanks to heaven we can have this love. “

The song is about ‘growing up in a world that says you can’t be both. [queer and Catholic] then reconciling the fact that, yes, you can. Just because the world isn’t creative enough to have enough space doesn’t mean God isn’t, ”says Chavez. “What does it mean to love my faith and love Christ and social justice and love my wife? They are parts of the same thing and they are not opposites, opposites or opposites. “

Chavez describes Ganado as his hero. “My wife is amazing,” she says. “Not only does she have a smile that continues to inspire me to write music and wake me up in the morning and be turned on with life, but she really is the kind of person who has shown me what it is like. to love and love at all levels. “

Chavez jokes that the wedding footage was a way to trick Ganado into appearing in a video. Chavez describes Ganado, a public school teacher and high school varsity basketball coach, as more of a backstage person when it comes to Chavez’s show life. Ganado is however Chavez’s manager.

The couple also run a nonprofit called Niñas Arriba, a university fund for young women in El Salvador. They created the fund after living in Soyapango on a mission trip where they taught English at a private Catholic school for girls.

“It was such an amazing experience,” Chavez says, and it didn’t feel right to just “walk away” after eight months. They had met so many young women who wanted to go to college but didn’t have the opportunity, both because of the money “but also because of being in a society that didn’t value it. education of young women ”.

Niñas Arriba has four graduates and a current cohort of four women. Chavez thanks her fans, who she says are the main supporters of the fund.

Photo: Renée Dominguez

And, yes, Chavez has a song about that too. The song, titled “Siete-D,” dedicated to the young women she taught, won the grand prize in the Latin category of the 2014 John Lennon Songwriting Competition.

In the spirit of supporting social causes with his music, Chavez’s most recent release is a Boy Sim dance remix of his song “She Persisted”. The video features “RuPaul’s Drag Race” royalty, Rock M. Sakura, Cynthia Lee Fontaine and Kylie Sonique Love. It also marks the debut of GinaTonic Lee Fontaine.

“One of the reasons I wanted to make the video was to honor the drag community as a way to say thank you,” said Chavez, acknowledging their contribution to advancing LGBTQ + rights in some of the early days of the movement.

Chavez originally wrote the song about Republican Senator Mitch McConnell silence by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. Chavez then performed it on the steps of the State Capitol during the Austin Women’s March in front of a crowd of 50,000.

Her goal in writing the song was to create a new kind of protest song that could be sung on Capitol Hill, in a church, in a club and now on the dance floor. “I want this to be a fabulous, scintillating gay remix,” she said. She wants people listening to her to think, “I’m on the dance floor and I’m living my best life.”

It could certainly be argued that Chavez is living his best life. Acclaimed and award-winning musician. A successful association. A marriage of love. And this upcoming performance in Ann Arbor. She says she can’t wait to get back to Michigan, even though the last time she played in Ann Arbor there was a winter storm that cut power to her Airbnb. Texan for a long time, she was not used to this kind of cold.

Fortunately, as she says in her song “La Que Manda”, she is “a fuego abrasador”.

She sings: “Solía ​​compararme con otros. Solía ​​temer las consecuencias. Solía ​​no creer en mi misma. Ahora, be a fuego abrasador. (“I compared myself to others. I feared the consequences. I didn’t believe in myself. Now I’m a burning fire.”)

And Heaven, without a doubt, knows it.


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