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"I moved to New York in 1999 and immediately was in shock by the fact that I couldn't find good Mexican food," says San Diego native and Pistolera front woman Sandra Velasquez. "How hard is it to make a good taco? That's when I realized how much Mexican people, food, and music were a part of me -- when it wasn't there anymore."

Two years ago, the singing lefty guitarist Velasquez -- with cousin Ani Cordero on drums -- formed Pistolera (Spanish for female gunslinger). The rocking neo-ranchera quartet includes Maria Elena on accordion and (sole male) Inca B. Satz on bass. New York City's top Spanish daily (El Diario) and the New Yorker have noted Pistolera's appearance on the scene. The band's debut album, Siempre Hay Salida, released in November, is currently in the top five of CMJ's Latin Alt Chart.

A dedicated rocker kid, USD High grad Velasquez fondly recalls seeing all-ages shows by Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, and Clikitat Ikatowi. She also played (keyboards, in locals Tripod Mac and the Wife), eventually earning a music degree at Cal Arts. Yet, she says it was her mom (immigration and human rights attorney and law professor Lilia Velasquez) who gave her bearings early on.

"At age 13 my mother put me to work in her law office...helping political asylum applicants fill out paperwork and escorting undocumented workers to the INS building to turn in their forms.... She was always on TV being interviewed for the latest on immigration. She would leave the country once a month to be part of a delegation of people that were investigating or reporting on human rights conditions in other countries...."

This Friday Pistolera performs at SD City College as part of a free day-late International Women's Day celebration.

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