It’s Saturday night in San Antonio and Chulita Vinyl Club is spinning wax. Flanked by DJ’s Miklas and Xolotl, amidst assorted Chicano signifiers including a portrait of Selena and neon Con Safos, Claudia Saenz blasts her signature brown-eyed soul. As DJ Tear Drop, Saenz is the founder of the burgeoning collective, which the Edinburg native describes as a movement.
“I created this because I knew there were girl collectors, vinyl collectors out there,” says Saenz. “It creates a space for women that want to DJ. Especially for women of color, women overall that collect vinyl. It needed to happen.”
Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, music was a regular fixture in the Saenz home, often accompanying meals and daily chores. Corridos were usually the soundtrack for outdoor unwinding sessions, with Tejano and Conjunto fueling the dance floor at weddings and quinceñeras. When the family briefly relocated to Houston, Saenz’s devotion to Selena was ignited after attending a couple of her concerts.
After graduating from high school, Saenz attended college in San Antonio, before returning to the Valley to earn her bachelor’s degree. She currently resides in Austin where the idea for Chulita Vinyl Club sprung forth. Frustrated by the lack of female representation at shows, Saenz adopted the Tear Drop moniker from her favorite music label and started spinning vinyl from her personal collection.
“In Austin vinyl is a big thing,” says Saenz. “I wasn’t a very avid collector until recently, but I was a collector before I started DJing. It just came about because I have vinyl and a friend of mine was already DJing. I just thought why not?”
Chulita Vinyl Club currently has 14 active members sprinkled throughout South Texas, in Austin, San Marcos, San Antonio, and the Valley. Outside the Lone Star State there are members in California, and the club has drawn interest from young women in Brazil and Italy. Included in their ranks is Girl in a Coma and Fea drummer Phanie Diaz who spins riot grrrl and punk records as DJ Phanie D.
“Our collections are very personal,” says Saenz. “We spend a lot of time and effort, a lot of money too, to collect. So when we perform, when we DJ, it’s very special to each one of us individually because we took the time to play this record for you. We hope it really hits someone in the heart, whether they love it because it’s a good beat to dance to or they heard it on their car ride to church with their Grandpa.”
Back in San Anto, DJ Sucia Q has the dance floor moving with an array of cumbias, a rousing complement to Tear Drop’s Chicano oldies. The contrast in tones imbues the set with energy that brings the records alive, lifting the crowd above pops and scratches. The quartet of DJ’s and their sprawling vinyl command the cozy stage as young tatted raza dance the weekend away.
“I didn’t start this as a movement,” admits Saenz, “But it became a movement because there was resistance with it and we didn’t know our place in the DJ world since we’re an all genre club.”
“I’ve gotten a lot of resistance, but I’ve also gotten so much support,” Saenz continues. “Above anything, support for the club, especially from women just wanting to know more about it and be a part of it because they’re vinyl collectors themselves. It just creates that space for women, and that’s why I feel it’s a movement.”
For additional information on joining Chulita Vinyl Club contact DJ Tear Drop at Facebook.com/chulitavinylclub.