Hans Meyer, immigration attorney by day and Wild Lives frontman by night.
Hans Meyer, immigration attorney by day and Wild Lives frontman by night.
Kyle Harris

Rock Out for Immigrant Rights at Territorio Liberado

“Why the fear, compañeros?” asks Latin ska band Roka Hueka in the bilingual song “Hasta el Tope.”

Loosely translated, the upbeat song declares, “We are the workers that construct entire cities. We are the workers that harvest the food that feeds the people. We clean, sweat — penny for penny, forgotten and exploited. Why the fear, compañeros?”

Roka Hueka is one of ten bands playing the second edition of Territorio Liberado, a September 15 fundraiser for immigrant-advocacy nonprofits.

The show opens with the Salt Lake City-based Spanish rock band La Calavera and will conclude with an explosion of dance-inducing experimental electronica from Church Fire.

In between, the stage will boast an eclectic mix of punk, ska, hip-hop and cumbia acts, including soulful singer Raquel Garcia, bold garage psychedelic outfit Vic N’ the Narwhals, hip-hop trio Roots, Rice & Beans, the Chicano funk artists in Los Mocochetes, the punkers in Wild Lives, traditional Colombian cumbia band Los Reyes del Huepa and instrumental rock group Altas.

“Speaking from my perspective, music is like the universal language,” says Roka Hueka and Wild Lives drummer Blake Pendergrass, who’s organizing the event. “We take this universal-language position as musicians and so [convey] the right of freedom of movement, of human beings and particularly this issue — which became acute over the summer — of separating families and putting kids in cages.

“The musicians are donating their time, their talent,” Pendergrass adds. Even Goosetown Tavern and the beer sponsor are waiving their usual cuts, so that 100 percent of the event’s proceeds will go to two nonprofit organizations that provide shelter for displaced immigrants: Casa de Paz and Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition.

Over the past six years, Casa de Paz has housed 1,407 immigrants from 22 different countries. In two weeks over the summer, the organization raised $45,000 to bail out thirteen parents who were separated from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border. The organization also covered flights and calling cards to help parents locate their children.

Casa de Paz founder Sarah Jackson plans to use donations from the concert to cover basic operating expenses — rent, power, water, Internet and phones — to ensure the doors stay open for whoever needs them.

“Family separation on the border has been happening for decades, but I am grateful for it hitting the news in the way that it did this summer, because millions of people were up in arms about it,” Jackson says. “People who didn’t care about it before or didn’t know about it, now they know about it and want to do something, and for that I’m thankful.”

Blake Pendergrass, fifth from the left, is the drummer for Roka Hueka.
Blake Pendergrass, fifth from the left, is the drummer for Roka Hueka.
Anthony Camera

Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition was founded in 2013 as a joint effort of twelve faith-based communities. On its website, the MDSC declares that it is “prepared to provide sanctuary to an immigrant and their family, providing them with a means to continue to resist their deportation while hosted in a safe space for their body and spirit.”

According to Hans Meyer, who is both an attorney specializing in immigration law and the flamboyant lead singer for Wild Lives, the Sanctuary Coalition represents the very embodiment of territorio liberado, or “free territory,” for which the concert is named.

“The Sanctuary Coalition has worked for years to build connections between faith communities and immigrant communities in order to protect families and keep families together, so you’ve got really strong local examples of organizing and involvement...particularly in the Trump administration [era],” says Meyer, who proudly describes Denver as a sanctuary city.

“The idea of sanctuary goes back hundreds if not thousands of years, and it’s meant to protect people from unjust power, and that’s exactly what we have here,” he continues. “‘Sanctuary’ is a good word. ‘Sanctuary’ is a word that reflects values of people and the values of dignity and the values of protection and keeping people together.”

If being dubbed a sanctuary city makes Denver a target, Meyer says, then “call it whatever you want. But the idea is that we’re going to stand up to the Trump administration. Of course that makes us a target; we should be proud to be a target of the Trump administration.”

For Jackson, though, the most important part of Territorio Liberado isn’t the message as much as the way that music can fuel movements.

“I know that so many of these events that activists go to are very heavy on your heart and on your soul, and they can wear on you,” she says. “I think it’s so important and critical to have places to go where we can have fun with each other — to sing, to dance, and to rejoice that we are alive.

“The other cool thing about this concert is that people will come in just for the music, and then they’ll have the opportunity to be informed about something that maybe they didn’t know before,” Jackson adds. “I would encourage whoever is attending the show to invite a friend who may have a little difference in their opinions regarding immigrants, because I think this may be an opportunity to make a personal connection with someone who has been impacted.”

Territorio Liberado, 2 p.m. Saturday, September 15, Goosetown Tavern, 3242 East Colfax Avenue, $10.

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