It’s been almost six months since President Trump ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Congress is still not much closer to working out the legislation desperately needed for this nation’s Dreamers. Meanwhile, families are being torn apart and even people like me (who came here as a kid and are now American citizens) fear being deported. But the fight isn’t over, as more celebrities like Miguel and many others support Dreamers and stand up for DACA recipients. Now NYC-based singer/songwriter Karina Daza is adding her own voice to the mix after penning “Espíritu de León (Spirit of a Lion),” what she hopes will be the Dreamer’s anthem.
“It’s a song of empowerment; a rally cry for social justice and a reminder of hope, which we seem to need now more than ever,” she told HipLatina. The song, which premiered live on Univision and has a video on YouTube, is being released on Spotify today. “I am passionate about spreading hope and also awareness of what these immigrants go through, which I do by fostering empathy through my music,” she said. In honor of the song’s release, Karina spoke with HipLatina about the inspiration behind her music, her father’s immigration story, and her hope for Dreamers everywhere.
HipLatina: When did you first get the idea to write “Espíritu de León (Spirit of a Lion)”?
Karina Daza: “The seeds of this “Dreamers’ anthem” were planted after I attended the Women’s March last year. I had some mixed feelings about it — at first I felt good, especially when I heard an overwhelmingly white sea of women chanting a pro-immigration chant. But after reading up on intersectional feminism and engaging in conversations with women of color, I started to realize that many of the women who were at the March are absent at Black Lives Matter or immigration rights marches, and this began to light a fire in me. As a Latina [and] product of immigrants, I feel disconnected from these women (and many Americans) because of my personal ties with the immigration experience. I found that the best way to combat these feelings of helplessness is to encourage solidarity, and the best way I know how to do that is through music.
The song just wrote itself in minutes, as if it had been sitting inside me — words, melody, and all. As I was writing, I transitioned from English lyrics to Spanish ones. It just felt right, and more authentic — as if I was talking to my own family members.”
HL: Tell us about your own experience with immigration.
KD: “As I wrote, I thought of my Ecuadorian cousins, who had to leave the U.S. after high school, even though all they wanted to do was go to engineering school here and build a better life. Writing this felt like I was talking to them… Or to my dad, if I could travel back in time. Back when my dad was in school in New York, he, his siblings, and their pregnant mother had to return to Colombia because their visa expired. His parents were in the process of applying for residency and, because his younger siblings were born in the states, they were able to come back — but not for over 2 years.”
HL: How do you hope Dreamers will react to this song?
KD: “I want Dreamers to know that the Dream is not gone, that they are not alone, and that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. The song is an anthem for turning pain into power. It’s a song about empowerment, and a rally cry for social justice. It’s also a message to the rest of the world: Immigrants are some of the hardest-working and most courageous people I know because they are willing to do whatever it takes to better their lives. We should admire them — not persecute them — for it. That’s how I know that if anyone can win this fight, they can. Because they are willing to work twice as hard as anyone else just for right to keep working hard.”
Although Karina admits that she has “received more negative feedback on this song” than on any of her previous work, she believes that it is because this is a politically charged song and she is glad that it is “starting a conversation” between those who disagree with the Dream Act and those who support it. “The majority of people I encounter really do support its message,” she said.
Currently, Karina is recording her debut EP. Her album will be a mix of English and Spanish-language songs that center around love, heartbreak, and finding inner strength, and will be released this summer. Meanwhile, “Espíritu de León (Spirit of a Lion)” is now available from Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Music and you can find Karina on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.