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Monja: A ‘religious’ rock experience

Annabella Mireles
Monja is a band from Ciudad Juárez composed of five members; Raul “Gato” Ramirez (lead guitar), Aáron “Animal” Alonso (vocal), Eduardo “Lalo” Betancourt (bass), Omar Avila (lead guitar) and Luis “Chino” Ortega (drums).

El Paso is a big city that is rich in its artistic and musical culture. While there are many household name performers that come to play here, the real treasure can be found in the Sun City’s local music scene. Whether you are looking for relaxing tunes or wanting to rock out, there are dozens of bands within the borderland that meet and easily exceed these expectations. 

Monja is a band from Ciudad Juárez composed of five members; Raul “Gato” Ramirez (lead guitar), Aáron “Animal” Alonso (vocal), Eduardo “Lalo” Betancourt (bass), Omar Avila (lead guitar) and Luis “Chino” Ortega (drums), who are helping grow the local music scene with their high energetic rock shows. 

“We’ve been playing together live for about a year now, but creating music and rehearsing since about August 2021,” Alonso said. 

Although they only started rehearsing and making music together a few years ago, some members of the band are technically veterans in the local music scene. Alonso even mentioned that he has known Ramirez and Ortega since he was around 18, when they were all growing up within that culture in their own bands.  

Betancourt also testified to this sentiment. He noted that he must have been playing for around 20 years, with his introduction to music being that of Nirvana’s ‘90s grunge. 

“I (started) playing since I was young, since I was a teenager, and I haven’t stopped since then,” Betancourt said.  

While each member contributes to the music in different ways, they have each agreed on the sound they would like to have. But with high energy rock music also comes some high energy performance aspects. These ideas were brought forward by Alonso, who considers himself more of an actor than a musician. 

“Because I came in with the whole theatrical element of the band, ‘Ok, how about we dress up and we put on some skirts? Monja.’ ‘Ok, yeah I think that’s a good idea.’ ‘What if I paint my face white, what if I do this and that?’ ‘What if we have this slight choreography sometimes with certain parts of the songs?’” Alonso said. 

The band’s music making process is also a team effort, it involves building upon each member’s musical layers. They might start with a guitar riff, then drums, then bass and finally top it off with vocals to produce a song.  

“I think all of us mix very well because it’s very high energy and all of us have something powerful to contribute,” Alonso said. “In my case it’s the whole performance aspect and these guys it’s just their powerful riffs.” 

Monja is based in Ciudad Juárez, but they have played in Texas cities like El Paso and Austin. The crowds might be different for each venue, but the members deeply appreciate the support and fun they find at each show.  

“I think my favorite places are those small ones, not as big,” Alonso said. “I mean Lowbrow isn’t that huge but to me I like more personal encounters.” 

He also mentioned how the crowd and opportunities in El Paso have really contributed to their journey in the music industry. 

“So, Mona Bar of Modern Art opened up their doors to us when we started playing, and that opened up a whole world of opportunities in El Paso,” Alonso said. “El Paso has also treated us very nice. I think out of all the cities, we’re from Juárez, but I think the city that has shown us the most love and support has been El Paso.”

The band is already taking their work to the next level through this exposure and their performances at different businesses. 

“We are already recording our first album, so this is the next step, we hope on touring,” Betancourt said. “Touring would be great!” 

Alonso shares this dream and finds that despite liking to set smaller goals to work up to a big one, he would love for the band to play all over the world. He thinks that their current goals will be achieved through performing now and making money to put them on track for these achievements.  

That is how they earned the funds necessary for recording. According to Alonso, their show at the Lowbrow Palace “Battle of the Bands” helped trampoline these efforts. For now, though, Monja is having fun and learning through the recording process. 

“Everything that involves music is fun to me,” Betancourt said. “I love recording, I love being on tour, I love to hang out with these guys, so everything is very fun. I love the whole process about music.” 

That said, the band does want to clarify where they were born and based.  

“We’ve gotten a lot of opportunities in El Paso, but I think it’s pretty important to single out that we are a band from Juárez,” Alonso said. 

Alonso has been out of the artistic borderland community for many years and is reintegrating but wants to get the whole community together. He hopes that more shows come to El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, as well as more opportunities centralized in places like Chihuahua.  

“I think there is a gap or a hole or I don’t know how to express it, where we need more support from our local scene to rebuild the local scene after the pandemic hit,” Alonso said. 

However, he still thoroughly appreciates any support they garner and just enjoys how the band is as a group. 

“I think for me it’s the mixture, the synergy of the energy,” Alonso said. “So I think it’s like a hurricane. It’s a hurricane of emotion and energy that we all bring out.” 

For those who would like to support Monja, you can find out more about any upcoming shows or music news through their Instagram @monja_mx.  

Meagan Garcia is the arts & culture editor and may be reached at [email protected].   

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About the Contributors
Meagan Elizabeth Garcia, Arts & Culture Editor
Meagan Elizabeth García is the arts and culture for The Prospector. She is a senior, majoring in mechanical engineering at UTEP. She is also the vice-president for the Creative Writing Society with hopes of continuing a writing career while also working for NASA as an engineer.
Annabella Mireles, Photo Editor
Annabella Mireles is a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in digital media production and minoring in film. She is the photo editor at the Prospector newspaper and Minero magazine as well as owning her own photography business. She plans on pursuing photography full time.
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Monja: A ‘religious’ rock experience