A simple strawberry became the symbol of migrant life in La Santa Cecilia’s “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
In August, the Grammy-winning band released a video that illustrates the connection between the Beatles’ classic and the thousands of migrant workers that harvest strawberries and other food products in the United States.
For years the Los Angeles-based band would treat audiences to their rendition of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” but it wasn’t until 2009 that the song took on a whole new meaning.
“One day we started leaving L.A. to play in Bakersfield and we saw the fruit fields and the strawberry fields and listening to the song on my iPod I thought, man, it connected,” said lead singer Marisol Hernándezduring an interview at the Grammy Museum. "Seeing all these migrant workers, working for hours strawberry fields forever and it was just like, ‘woah!,’ when you just connect a lyric.”
La Santa Cecilia (Marisol Hernández, José Pepe Carlos, Alejandro Bendaña, Miguel Ramírez) recently sat down with The Huffington Post to talk about finally being able to record the cover and the importance of humanizing those most affected by immigration policy.
The Huffington Post: “Strawberry Fields Forever” is a song you guys have been performing for a very long time and on tour you would tell fans about this special connection you saw in its lyrics. What prompted you to make a video for it now?
Marisol Hernández: The thing was that we never even thought that we could record this song because getting the rights to even cover this song and record and put it on an album, I guess is super expensive. So, it’s not like we thought one day we’ll be able to put this cover on an album. We just thought we’re just going to forever play this song [on tour] and just talk about it.
And when we were recording something new, our producer Sebastian [who] was a huge Beatles fan was like ‘I think we’re going to be able to, changuitos (fingers crossed), put this song on the album so let’s record it. And the recording we did it in English, we had to do the song in English, I don’t know why but we couldn’t record it the way we play it. We play it in Spanglish. We do the chorus in Spanish and the lyrics in English. We recorded the song not sure if we we’re going to be able to get the rights to put it on the album but we did, thank god. And so we’re like man well let’s make a video. Let’s turn this song into that connection that we felt on the road.
Sebastian knew this company in Puerto Rico...
Miguel Ramírez: Producciones Cabeza de Puerto Rico. We sat down with them, well we couldn’t sit down with them...
Marisol: But we had a conference call and then we sent them like snippets of things that we like visually and we kind of just told them "this is how we feel about the song, we feel it connects to this, if you guys could help us tell the story of Strawberry Fields."
And it was Sebastian’s idea for us take the strawberries and go backwards, like where the strawberry comes from. We were like how can we connect it to that, visually, because we can talk about it but when you see it live it’s like "oh ok I get it!"
HP: And conversation’s about your food’s journey from the fields to the table is one that springs up every year in our community, especially when it comes to Thanksgiving. People talk about not only giving thanks for the food that you have but also realizing where that food comes from and who makes it all possible.
Miguel: Yea, it’s just an important thing for us to be able to talk about. Just kind of maintain awareness of the importance of what we contribute to this country, the importance of our culture, the traditions and how we’re treated and what we’re here to do. We’re here to work and we’re here to contribute in a positive way to this country and we want people to know that.
HP: You guys have always been vocal about immigration and the issues that affect immigrants. How do you guys perceive what’s going on with immigration reform right now?
Miguel: I think it’s becoming very clear that people will always put politics before life. Right now, they’re stalling and they’re waiting for the November voting to kind of see where they’re going to sit politically with this and if you took action right now obviously it would affect a lot of things [on a political level]... We made the video for “El Hielo” and [“Strawberry Fields”] because we want to humanize this whole topic of immigration. It’s always this whole political thing about what’s going on in Washington but we want to make sure people understand we’re talking about people, human beings that are working, human beings that have families that are trying to do something positive for their families here. We just want to make sure that that never leaves people’s minds.
HP: Why do you think the political process ends up dehumanizing immigrants?
Miguel: If you can dehumanize somebody, you can make them into a statistic and it doesn’t matter what you do to their family or to them. You can criminalize them, you can deport a thousand people a day and it doesn’t matter. They’re just statistics, they’re not human.
We want to make sure people understand we’re talking about human beings, we are those human beings. That’s where we come from, those are the people who brought us to this country. Luckily we’ve had the opportunity to do something with our lives and we just want to show that. We’re not politicians, we don’t have the answer to every political question facing immigration we don’t. [laughs] We can’t stay that informed but we still try to have the right songs.
We just want to make sure people understand we’re talking about human beings, we’re talking about families. And just like every other ethnic group in this country that emigrated here and created a culture here in the United States -- Italian-Americans, Asian-Americans… -- we just want to make sure Latino-Americans and Mexican-Americans have the same opportunity and that people don’t forget it.