Another Tuesday night, another Production Night Session — The Phoenix’s new live-stream series featuring Chicago artists performing and answering questions from reporters.
The Phoenix’s audio editor Luis Mejía was the featured artist of the Cinco de Mayo edition of Production Night Sessions, a fitting feature as he is an international student at Loyola from Mexico.
“Ultramar,” Mejía’s first song, was an original written entirely in Spanish. He said the song was about moving away from home and hoping to return, an experience he was familiar with being an international student.
“You have to find home wherever you go,” the junior at Loyola said. “Home cannot be your hometown, your native country, it has to be wherever you are surrounded with the people you love and those that love you.”
This week’s performance landed on Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that is often mistaken as Mexico’s day of independence.
Mejía clarified that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, which is Sept. 16, but is rather the celebration of a victory against the French in the late nineteenth century. He said it is not widely celebrated in Mexico, but rather just in the city of Puebla — where the battle was won.
His second song, “Walls of Glass,” is about Emperor Maximilian of Hapsburg — the Austrian monarch who was put in charge of Mexico after the war between France and Mexico. The emperor is also the object of Mejía’s historical obsession.
Mejía showed the audience a collection of books about the emperor and postcards with Maximilian featured on them. He even pulled a picture of Maximilian out of his wallet, stating that he always carries a picture of him.
While on the topic of cultural traditions, Mejía discussed his attempt at a beer fast. In early April, he documented a week-long beer fast he tried in an effort to mimic the thirteenth century traditions of Franciscan friars.
The religious men would consume only beer and water for a month, though he only attempted to do this for a week. While the tradition is hundreds of years old, he said the brewery that created their beer still produces the drink today and can be easily found.
“They actually sell it, it is a very popular brewery brand,” Mejía said. “That brewery that made the monk’s beer actually still makes beer to this day. A quick Google can find the closest recipe for what they had.”
Mejía’s third song, “Kingdom in the Center of the Moon,” was mostly in English but incorporated words from the Aztec language Nahuatl, which is commonly spoken in much of Latin America. He explained the title is a reference to the origin of Mexico’s name, which was derived from several Nahuatl words.
His relationship with music in other languages does not just end where he stops writing — he also has a radio show on Loyola’s radio station, WLUW, where he features modern Mexican artists.
“I think it’s important for people to recognize there’s more than what we have around us,” Mejía said. “Whether that be Mexican, European, Latin American [music]. … There’s a lot [of ways] that listening to this music can be beneficial to our own growth and development.”
He concluded the performance with a cover of Agustin Lara’s “Veracruz,” and interrupted the song to remind the viewers of what they could focus on to stay positive during the pandemic.
“These are dark times and we have to be excited for all the small things,” Mejía said. “Regardless if it’s the people we have around us or what we are doing that day. Remember your home, remember where you’re from, and be a little happier.”