For cumbia-funk big band Bombasta’s frontman Roberto Livar, heaven would be a concert that gets a whole community dancing to socially conscious songs with an irresistible backbeat.

The community activist and self-professed atheist might just have achieved his vision of the afterlife with a newly released music video for “Barrio Unido,” a fiercely uplifting protest song penned in the wake of the May 2022 Uvalde school shooting tragedy.

Hate, pain and turmoil in the world can debilitate, but can also be a call to come together and realize the power of community, Livar said during an interview at Jaime’s Place, the location where the video was filmed last July.

“If we can bring folks together for one night, for one set, let it all kind of melt off their shoulders so they can reconnect with each other in physical space together, that’s heaven,” he said.

A vivid backdrop

Some melting was literal during the hours the video was made, “on a hot summer night” in July, as an announcement to media describes.

The 10-member band gathered family, friends and neighborhood denizens in the open-air yard of Jaime’s Place, having repositioned the corner stage to a more central location so all facets of the surrounding neighborhood would appear in the video. 

The colorful outdoor bar creates a vivid backdrop for the resplendent costumery of Aztec group Kalpulli Ayolopaktzin, who provided blessings before, during and after the band performed.

Local personalities spotted dancing in the video include judges and activists, along with theater artist Marisela Barrera and actor Jesse Borrego. The actor’s brother, San Antonio College film studies program coordinator James Borrego, served as director of photography for the video and engaged a group of his students to help with production.

Several neighborhood murals were used as backdrops, including the Barrio Dreams mural by Ernesto Hernandez just around the corner from Jaime’s Place.

‘Puro San Anto’

Livar enlisted friends in several car clubs to multiply what he called the “puro San Anto” cultural aspect of the video, showing off a glowing lowrider from High Rollerz, a Viejitos vintage wagon and the luxuriantly outfitted bicycles of Brown Impressions.

Also present in the video is a mural depiction of one of Livar’s poetic heroes, Raúl R. Salinas, a Chicano activist and poet who was born in San Antonio and came to prominence in Austin.  

Echoing Salinas’ calls of resistance, the Spanglish lyrics of “Barrio Unido” urge people of marginalized and targeted communities to take to the streets, “fists in the air, dale un grito!” The song’s purpose is to demonstrate that no amount of hatred or violence can divide a community that understands the importance of unity.

“Sometimes we gotta wake people up, we always got to remind them that there’s more to us than we’ve been told, there’s more to us than we’ve been conditioned to think about ourselves, and to empower each other, first starting in our community, but to ripple out beyond that,” Livar implored.

The video will be shown during a public celebration at Jaime’s Place on Sept. 20, following an 8 p.m. live performance by Bombasta. In tandem with the viewing party, the “Barrio Unido” single will be made available on all streaming platforms.

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...