The mercury keeps rising, our summer plans continue vanishing and we’re still missing our live music. But not even the pandemic can keep us from a living room dance party.


Austin- and Texas-based Latino artists have kept the new releases flowing, and now it’s time to crank up the volume. Here are five tracks sure to get us through the dog days of summer.


• "Escándalo" by DJ El Dusty: No one can get a party started like noted producer and DJ El Dusty. The Corpus Christi-based artist also belongs to the Austin-based DJ collective Peligrosa All Stars. For his newly released track "Escándalo," El Dusty samples one of his favorite cumbia classics from Sonora Dinamita’s Disco Fuentes hit "Escándalo" and teams up with Colombian band Monophonicos to give the song new electronic life.


• "La Que Manda" by Gina Chavez: It’s the powerful anthem we all need right now to shed fear and insecurities and pour belief back in ourselves. I’m the one in charge, Chavez says in the song. There are so many things that feel out of our control right now, but Chavez reassures us that we got this and we’re in charge.


• "Cocina de Amor" by the Texicana Mamas: Artists Tish Hinojosa, Stephanie Urbina Jones and Patricia Vonne have teamed up to form a musical supergroup. Their bilingual single "Cocina de Amor (Kitchen of Love)" celebrates the magic that happens in kitchens across the world. It’s an uplifting song that brings back pre-pandemic memories of family parties, backyard gatherings and the food that binds us all.


• "Soy Chingona" by Tiarra Girls: Austinites who have seen the Baltierra sisters grow up on local stages know that these young Latinas have truly stepped into their power. "Our music is mirroring our message, which is being a voice for those who can’t be one for themselves or those who aren’t listened to," lead singer and guitar player Tori Baltierra shares during a Studios at Fisher interview where the trio recorded their latest song. The term chingona now typically describes a badass woman, but that wasn’t always the case. It’s been a word that’s been used against women, too. The Tiarra Girls, like other women before them, are now reclaiming the word for a new generation of Latinas.


• "El Adios" by Superfónicos: When musician and singer Nicolas Sanchez Castro of Superfónicos asked his father to share his motivation for leaving Colombia in the early 1980s, he received an email from him titled "El Adios." "I thought the title perfectly reflected the pain that still lingers for him, almost 40 years after the fact," Sanchez Castro says. The deeply poignant story of leaving the homeland is juxtaposed with the beautifully woven spirit of hope.


Art and tacos back at La Peña gallery


Oh, how we’ve missed the art and tacos at La Peña. With the gradual reopening of the gallery, now we can enjoy both again.


The beloved Austin institution has its popular tacos available for takeout, plus there’s limited seating available. The gallery is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and now has contact-free check out.


Currently on display — both physically and on the gallery’s website virtually — is the moving exhibit "My Spirit Animal" by fourth-graders at Sánchez and Metz elementary schools. Art teachers Anna Swanson and Sarita Miles-Cristal worked with the students and spent time teaching them about each animal before the young artists chose one they felt a connection with to draw.


"I know from being a student artist that getting your work hung in a gallery and having people see it is really exciting and really important for your artistic development," said Sandra Pomeleo-Fowler, the gallery’s project coordinator. "It was pretty disruptive to this particular project when in March students had to transition to remote learning and these students couldn’t see their art hung at La Peña."


But the pandemic created a unique opportunity to launch the gallery’s first virtual exhibit. La Peña also brought the art closer to people’s homes by hanging banners featuring the student artwork outside the school for the neighborhood to enjoy. With the gallery’s reopening, visitors can now also check out the exhibit in person.


Keep an eye out for La Peña’s upcoming virtual and gallery exhibit this summer focused on pieces created during the pandemic and recent social justice events. Along with the artwork, the exhibit will also include video interviews shedding light on what these times mean to the featured artists and how they have coped with everything that’s been thrown their way.


Visit lapena-austin.org to access the virtual exhibit and more information.