Indy Music: Gerardo Ruiz-Tovar
You can hear the the sound of Gerardo’s fingers sliding up and down the Ukulele as he sits down with me for the interview. He is nervous, and strums it every once in a while. Gerardo Ruiz-Tovar is a musician residing in Indianapolis, Indiana, and plays drums in two bands, Trip N Balls and Indianapolis Forever. Both bands sound very different from each other, but it’s always about the music says Gerardo, “We never get paid to play, we do it for the music.” That’s why you always see them play at local shows around the town of Indianapolis.
Gerardo came to the U.S. at the age of 14. After some tough economic times in his hometown of Tala, Jalisco, Mexico, his family decided to move north. They owned a stationary store, and business was not as strong as previous years. Because of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Mexico and the U.S now share a strong economic tie; 89% of Mexico’s exports are sent to the U.S.. In this export based economy, it is difficult for businesses that rely on local cash flow. Most of the money is being handled by multi-national corporations, whose money flows without taxation in and out of Mexico. The close ties to the U.S. also means that if U.S. economy is a bind, so is the Mexican economy. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. economy went into a recession and brought Mexico’s down right with it. It was a mixture of economic and social pressures that forced Gerardo’s family to move to the U.S.
After the first strange feeling went away, Gerardo began to focus on music. During his freshman year in high school he signed up to play the drums. It was during his Sophomore year in high school where he was invited to join his first band, Inexperienced Professionals. “(A friend) was like ‘yeah, we are gonna be in a Battle of the Bands, you should come over and jam.’ So I said sure, and I happened to be better than the other drummer.” From there on, he has been in different bands with his friends, the most recent ones being Trip N Balls and Indianapolis Forever, the latter which went on a four day tour across the Midwest.
Besides being a musician, Gerardo does work regarding the D.R.E.A.M. Act, a piece of legislation the would allow undocumented students to go to college or the military and receive a pathway to legalization after meeting certain requirements, such as graduating from college, been living in the U.S. for 5 years or longer and have good moral character, amongst others. He said he became really interested after he attended a conference with some members of the Indianapolis-based Latino Youth Collective, which seeks to promote youth voice through collective action.
The D.R.E.A.M. Act came five votes short last December, when it was first passed in the House, but failed in the Senate. Fear of right-wing, Tea Party backlash worried some conservative Democrats and decided to vote against the bill. It is estimated that over 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year in the U.S.
Gerardo’s work with the Latino Youth Collective involves being part of the Campecine Youth Academy (CYA), a six-week program that hires youth to do Participatory Action Research (PAR) to solve issues in their community. Through this program, videos that touch on topics such as domestic violence, queer issues and immigration have all been discussed. He also helps write and record songs for the soundtrack of videos that are done in CYA.
Gerardo performed “El Caudal” during the podcast.
Listen to Gerardo,