Chicago artist sings ‘America La Hermosa’ for protest doc

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Sandra Antongiorgi sings "America La Hermosa" at Noisefloor Studios

Sandra Antongiorgi sings “America La Hermosa” at Noisefloor Studios

“It really kind of makes sense about where we are today
… we are a nation
of immigrants …
we need to be the standard
bearers of fairness”

Sandra Antongiorgi


 

Sandra Antongiorgi’s new single, America La Hermosa, will play when the credits roll at the end of F*** Your Hair, One City Films’ 2018 documentary about Chicago-based microbrewery 5 Rabbit Cervecería. Recorded at Chicago’s Noisefloor, the song is a Spanish version of America The Beautiful.

Antongiorgi, a Chicago-based musician and visual artist, translated the original 1893 verse by Wellesley College English professor Katharine Lee Bates specifically for the film.

“It’s a song that I love, but it’s kind of like old English,” she explains. “When you interpret lyrics like that, you may have a sentence that’s short in English and really long in Spanish.”

The music video for the song features a montage of murals painted on walls and buildings in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Antongiorgi, who collaborated with other artists to complete several of them, appears within the backdrop of traffic and pedestrians who help make the area one of the Windy City’s most thriving and diverse locales.

 
AMERICA LA HERMOSA | SANDRA ANTONGIORGI

 

F*** Your Hair is a documentary about how 5 Rabbit Cervecería changed one of its signature brews from “Trump’s Golden Ale” to “Chinga Tu Pelo” in 2015. The decision was prompted by then-candidate Trump’s disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants during a campaign speech.

The former brand, “Trump’s Golden Ale,” was sold to bars, restaurants, and the Trump Hotel itself. “Chinga Tu Pelo” is a protest beer with a name that translates to “f— your hair.”

“We wanted a classic American song to capstone the film,” says F*** Your Hair producer Nick Jenkins. “The lyrics begin right after (5 Rabbit partner) Andres Araya finishes reflecting on this movement that he helped create.”

Noting that, “the beauty of this country is its diversity,” he continues, “we kept coming back to America the Beautiful.”

One City Films: Nick Jenkins, Teddy Wachholz, and Jason Polevoi
One City Films: Nick Jenkins, Teddy Wachholz, and Jason Polevoi

Jenkins and Antongiorgi were introduced by Matt Rico, Production Manager at the Evanston live music hall, Space. When he pitched the idea to her, Antongiorgi was already familiar with Chinga Tu Pelo.

“I remember reading about the beer and thinking, ‘oh that’s cool and it’s smart,’” she recalls.

As a native Puerto Rican who moved with her family to Chicago when she was young, Antongiorgi also remembered Trump’s severely unflattering and categorically untruthful remarks about Mexican immigrants that got the whole thing started.

“They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” said the future President of the United States.

“When I heard those comments, I felt angry,” she says. “I was hurt.”

When she saw a nearly completed version of the film, she was pleased.

“The way it was edited and directed, they built on the personalities of the owners,” she says. “It has this humor to it, but you still see the gravity of the situation.”

Antongiorgi originally memorized America The Beautiful when she was a Chicago grade school student. At the time, the song struck her as, “a really sweet composition.”

Her passion for the song remained high while she translated the lyrics, but her take on it grew more nuanced. Ultimately, she concluded that America The Beautiful “really kind of makes sense about where we are today.”

“When I got to verse three or four, it talks about the cities that America was building despite the human tears,” she continues. “I thought about the Native Americans. It was like: hey this is our land now. Despite all the wars and how it was acquired, God Bless America.”

Devin Delaney recording "America La Hermosa"
Devin Delaney recording “America La Hermosa”

For the music, Noisefloor composer Devin Delaney created a track that mirrored the frustration caused by the notorious Executive-level disrespect while commemorating “5 Rabbit’s entrepreneurship” and laying a foundation “for Sandra to vent all of that intense emotion.”

“It needed to feel like a protest and celebration all at the same time,” he explains. “To me, we’re collectively pissed off because we love this country and hate what Trumpism is doing to it.”

Collaborating with Antongiorgi and guitarist Manuel Sanchez, he pulled from garage rock, punk, protest songs and Latinx rock to create a track that goes from sweet to rowdy in a little over two minutes.

Antongiorgi brings the closing refrain to an emotional crescendo.

“When I was singing, ‘America! America!’ I was thinking, ‘wake up, we can do better, we are a nation of immigrants,’” she recalls. “We need to be the standard bearers of fairness.”

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