It is a myth that Latinos are not patriotic. I was this Mexican-American kid raised in the border town of Yuma, Arizona…… to believe that the American Dream was attainable for all who were willing to work hard for it.”
David Damian Figueroa is the man behind the scenes…making things happen. Not only in his position as as the Vice President of Communications & Development for the Mexican American Legal and Defense Fund (MALDEF) but as a tireless advocate for human rights, the arts, and as a philanthropic advisor. Amidst all he does Damien Figueroa recently produced (and sang) in America, Our Home, a new collection of American Patriotic songes recorded in Mexican musical styles by the group Rondstadt Generations to express the ongoing pride of the Latino community in the U.S. And just like everything Damien Figueroa does, it’s a hit.
The CD has consistently charted over in the past few weeks. It recently reached the No. 3 in the Latin Folk category and the No. 22 in the Patriotic category on CD Baby, the largest independent music distributor on the web.
“America, Our Home was inspired by the Arizona’s SB 1070 legislation. I wanted to create an “evergreen” project that was positive and productive and would help to counter all of anti-Latino and anti-immigrant rhetoric. I approached Michael J. Ronstadt and his two sons, who have the Tucson based folk group Ronstadt Generations. They were the perfect collaborators,” Damien Figueroa recounted recently.
“It is a myth that Latinos are not patriotic,” he added. “I was this Mexican-American kid raised in the border town of Yuma, Arizona…… to believe that the American Dream was attainable for all who were willing to work hard for it. We pledged allegiance to the flag every morning in class. My dad served in the military. Three of my most valued possessions are his dog tags, his election official pin, and the American flag that draped his coffin.”
Prior to his work with nonprofits like MALDEF and AARPw(here he served as Associate State Director of the Los Angeles County Region from 2002 to 2009), Damien Figueroa worked in music industry. Working alongside music notables like Jose Jose, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony, El Show de Johnny Canales and Boyz 11 Men, Damien Figueroa honed his musical chops. His work at several of the record labels, including Arista Latin, MCA Plygram, BMI Latin, Motown Latin and RMM/Universal was highly regarded.
Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF notes that the release comes during a time when too many pundits and politicians seek to demonize Latinos despite their longstanding loyalty to this country. “This innovative collection musically demonstrates that Latinos are among those who regularly defend our nation from those who would undermine our Constitution and our nation,” said Saenz.
The original arrangements include musical styles such as bolero, cumbia and son jarocho. The songs on America, Our Home, all performed in English, include America the Beautiful, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, Battle Hymn of the Republic, The Star-Spangled Banner and This Land is Your Land.
Collaborating on this project with Damian Figueroa are music performer and arranger Michael J. Ronstadt, the younger brother of famed recording artist Linda Ronstadt, whose Canciones de mi Padre collection of mariachi music became the biggest selling non-English album in recording history. Playing a key role in the arrangements was Francisco Gonzalez, a co-founder of the band Los Lobos, the former musical director of Teatro Campesino, and an internationally known string musician specializing in the Mexican harp.
Figueroa was raised in in the agricultural city of Yuma, Arizona (where civil rights leader Cesar Chavez was born and died). He was part of a high school “show choir” called the Yuma High Choralairs, and traveled with the choir upon invitation for performance at the White House, at the Arizona State Capitol, and at music festivals to perform pop-style interpretations of American patriotic music. Figueroa’s high school singing partner was Mary Lou Fulton, who also joined in developing America, Our Home.
Mr. Figueroa has served as a philanthropic advisor to numerous Latino artists and has specialized in connecting celebrities to non-profit organizations. The organizations that Mr. Figueroa has collaborated with include Familia Unida, Living with MS, AltaMed Health Services, The Dolores Huerta Foundation, The Cesar E. Chavez Foundation, and the United Farm Workers of America. Mr. Figueroa is a former Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles, a former board member of Clinica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero and a former community advisory board member for public television station KCET. He currently serves as an advisor for Shine Global and as a board member for Eva’s Heroes, which is Eva Longoria’s foundation for children faced with developmental challenges.
Here is an insight into the work that Damien Figueroa does at MALDEF in this video from KCET on the occasion of his being selected as a KCET “Local Hero”
— Bel Hernandez, Publisher, Latin Heat Entertainment