Discoteca Batalla is a tribute to my mother and the little record shop she ran in the 60’s and 70’s. It was a spot for Spanish speaking immigrants to gather, exchange news from home, buy the latest Spanish language hits, or maybe just drink coffee and listen to Javier Solis or Carlos Gardel with my mom, Barbara. Whether they asked for it or not, our customers could expect to receive an abundance of sage advice from Barbara on matters of love, finance, immigration, psychology, child rearing, dental hygiene, appliance repair, and anything else on which she held strong opinions…which effectively left nothing out.
Mom also hand wrote letters home for the working men and women separated for years at a time from their families.
The shop made them feel like they were home for a second. Farmworkers, restaurant workers, people who cleaned other people’s houses and watched other people’s children all came. By the time I was 10, mom entrusted me to run the shop while she made buying trips downtown. Alone in the shop, listening to some of the greatest singers of all time, I began to dream of becoming a singer
Discoteca Batalla closed its doors over 30 years ago. A shop like ours was is difficult to envision today, in part due to digital downloads and Amazon. And while it may be true that we are what we eat, the things we choose to sing about probably say much more about us. Songs are our stories; who we are, the roads we’ve chosen and the people and dreams we’ve followed, or sometimes left behind.
As the U.S. becomes ever more polarized, the importance of sharing one another’s stories is more critical than ever. Barbara Batalla was an immigrant. She left Buenos Aires alone, as a teen-ager, without speaking English to begin a new life in Los Angeles, where she worked her ass off every day of her life.
This woman had more courage than anyone I know.