Meet Chulita Vinyl Club, a record-spinning collective of mujeres who are gaining a foothold in the “boys-only” DJ scene.
Founder Claudia Saenz was just out of college when she created Chulita Vinyl Club in 2013.
Saenz was living on her own while working her first big job and, like many post-grads, was trying to make ends meet. “I didn’t have enough money for internet,” said Saenz, “so I started to grow my collection of vinyl as a form of entertainment.”
With the help of personal friends and growing social media connections, CVC was expanded.
CVC currently has 50 members spread throughout seven chapters: Austin, San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley, Los Angeles, Santa Ana and San Diego.
A passion for music is necessary, but previous DJ experience is not. Many of CVC’s members enter the collective without experience, but are taught how to mix and transition by their fellow chulitas.
Each member brings their own style and choice of genre to the sets — from soul and punk to reggae and corridos. “[Chulita Vinyl Club] is all about empowerment for vinyl-loving girls,” said Saenz.
Representation in the DJing community continues to be a priority of Chulita Vinyl Club. Saenz explains: “If you don’t see yourself up there, you don’t think you could do it.”
“We need to step up and show that we’re here and that we’ve always been here,” says Xochi Solis, 35, a member of CVC’s Austin chapter. She sees CVC’s existence as an opportunity of cultural connection and storytelling. “As I become more and more engaged with my CVC chapter and the others nationally, I believe we are truly arriving on the scene as accomplished DJs in a male-dominated field, but that we are also nurturing and developing a safe space for each individual mujer to tell their own personal narratives through the culture of sound.”
They also get to showcase musicians whose work didn’t make it past the digital age.
“Digging for records in Texas is amazing because as a Tejana, I discover all these Texas recording labels [that are] telling history that you can’t find readily,” says Solis. “Here were entrepreneurial Mexican-Americans that started their own labels to present the music of Tejano and other artists abandoned by the major labels. This is my history as a Tejana and how wonderful that I can go out to the pulga or thrift store and buy it for only a few dollars. I get to save it from obliteration, but not only that, I get to share it through my DJ sets with mis Chulitas. We get to tell the stories that the music and vinyl covers tell and keep the culture present.”
CVC has seen an influx of messages since the presidential election, from women who are drawn to CVC’s “resistance through existence” stance.
Since the election, many of the club’s weekly Soundcloud mixes have been dedicated to the process of healing through music. Yoselin Martinez Xonthé, 20, a member of CVC’s Bay Area chapter, joined CVC to cope with depression and social anxiety. “I told myself that surrounding myself with people that loved music as much as I did would maybe help, and it did. Not only did it help a lot with my social anxiety but being able to look forward to events and seeing the chulitas was so life changing,” Xonthé said. “Only thing is that my wallet has gotten skinnier because I keep buying records,” she jokes.
CVC stays focused on creating spaces where people of color can dance, sing, cry and heal in an especially tense social and political time.
“From crammed and raucous car rides to a gig to chisme over crate digging, I am blessed to be part of this community. We are a bright, clever, and curious crew and while we all have our own personal look or sound, we come together as comadres to share our space openly without aggression and genuinely care for one another as we grow and learn as DJs,” Solis said. “We get excited when one of us shines in the spotlight, or in our case the dim glow of the ones and twos.”
Be sure to follow Chulita Vinyl Club for updates on future events.