A Spanglish, upbeat version of the iconic song "Georgia On My Mind" aims to get that state's Latino residents moving to vote in the highly anticipated Senate runoff elections.
The East Los Angeles band Las Cafeteras has turned its cumbia rhythms, trap and Mexican "gritos" and infused the hit made famous by Ray Charles with the airy, high notes of an accordion, and the clop, clop and scraping percussion of Latin instruments like the clave and the guiro.
The blending of cultures — Ray Charles' version with Las Cafeteras' remake — is meant to represent the solidarity of Black and brown voters in backing Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who are challenging GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively.
The song also reflects the joint efforts of two progressive groups, the New Georgia Project and Poder Latinx, to turn out young Black and Latino voters, Yadira Sanchez, Poder Latinx co-executive director, said.
Early voting has started in the tight races and runs through Dec. 31. The runoff elections, which will determine if Republicans or Democrats control the U.S. Senate, are Jan. 5.
The Latino electorate in Georgia is relatively young; many are U.S.-born children of immigrants. Latinos are about 380,000 out of the 7.5 million eligible voters in Georgia overall, according to the Pew Research Center. The high-stakes elections have brought several Latino groups to the state to partner with established local groups who have worked for years to mobilize Latinos.
Las Cafeteras have become a staple in the repertoire of protest music among young Latinos.
In its version of the song, the chorus "Georgia, Georgia, Georgia on my mind" is sung in English as band members cruise down the road through a dusty landscape in a classic red Mustang.
Band member Henry Flores, hitchhiking his way to Georgia, bounces in the back seat as he calls out Latino voters in Spanish, with a touch of slang.
"Let's go my people; let's go enjoy ourselves. Let's go my "raza" (Latinos), because we are going to win, because Georgia's going to win, because Georgia's going to dance," he sings in Spanish, which is sprinkled in parts of the song.
Flores punctuates the lyrics with a grito, that throaty cry heard in Mexican music.
The band is from California, but it symbolizes the fact that the outcome of the runoffs will affect Latinos everywhere, Sanchez said. Las Cafeteras has supported progressive candidates in the past, including appearing at rallies for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during the 2020 presidential primary.