Monday, October 29, 2007

From Lunada to Days of the Dead

Scene and heard, and I mean that in the most laudatory way... La Cita Bar was transformed last Wednesday into a virtually unpretensious Latino hipster getaway for the appearance of Nacotheque. DJ Marcelo Cunning, working out of New York along with his punk fairy princess and partner Amylu Meneses on a movable feast that can only be described as pyramid of sound, spins the absolutely, without a doubt, coolest alternative, Spanish-language dance music that draws from every corner and every era of música latina for a groove like you've never heard anywhere before. But if that weren't enough, draught Tecate was three dollars a pint. Heads up to cantinero Joe, who was particularly pleasant in Buddy Holly glasses and non-attitude approachablity.

If you missed the Lunada: An Evening of Erotic Poetry & Performance at IMIX Bookstore under the Hunter's Full Moon on Oct. 26th, you missed out. Lo que se perdieron. And not just because I read a selection of previously unheard poems. I had the honor and privilege of sharing a stage with poets/writers Peter J. Harris, Reina Prado, Consuelo Flores, Estrella del Valle, Victor Carrillo as well as venerable playwright, performer, stand up comedian Monica Palacios, who headlined a steamy series of performances under the largest full moon of the year. Reina Prado and Gloria Enedina Álvarez--one of the three best Xicana poets I alluded to before--concocted the idea for the show. Afterwards, we managed to make our way to Columbo's around the corner for Italian comida deluxe and live Latin jazz. Eagle Rock rocks, I'm realizing.

Also had the incredible opportunity to hear Carlos Guitarlos at the Ave. 50 Studios tardeada and art auction the next day. Scores of artist donated work for "An Afternoon of Visual Delights" and a smorgasbord of Chow Hound worthy eats. Carlos is a veteran of the proto LA bar band, Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs and a survivor who could launch a second career as a deft, coy and riveting master of satire and innuendo. His blues fret work channels Robert Johnson as easily as it registers compositional genius on his own material. Bring him back to liven any gathering up and set it on fire with nearly six decades of the hard boozin', blues-in and brawlin' life gathered up into songs that rip and soar and crest in a melodic howl from the gray-bearded ghost on the Stratocaster. Kudos to Ave. 50 Director Kathy Gallegos and artist Poli Marichal who curated the art. Let's hope they raised chingos of feria... the museum-caliber and architectural stand-out home of Judge Ricardo and Maria Teresa Muñoz way up in the South Pasadena hills was a fitting site for the fandango. Sweetest digs with a view this side of El Sereno I've seen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sierra en Llamas

I can see the fires on either end of the Los Angeles River Basin from the window of my westward bound flight. As we begin a descent, I see San Bernardino flames first then peer out through the window across the aisle and see Malibu's red orange glow below in the nightime darkness. It is disturbing and a sharp dose of reality after a week on Miami Beach for the Florida Media Market's Global Conference 2007, where I discovered a previously unknown affinity for all things dominicano, broke bread with independent producers and directors and writers and documentarians from Italy, all across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Colombia, Cuba and beyond while schmoozing in subconsciously Caribbean-inflected filmspeak. Spent the final day of down time in the ocean and on a Collins Ave. bus in search of lunch. Fortune was on my side. Aside from having connected the previous day with Daniel Herrera of La Razza Films , I was rewarded with a seven buck lunch special at Varanda's Brazil Cafe, an east coast equivalent of our own down-home El Sereno bound Taste of Brazil.

Daniel is a cat from El Paso living in Cape Coral and working on a doc about Immokalee, an alligator alley town on the west coast of Florida where the loosely Catholic Church affiliated Centro Guadalupe shelters, feeds and bathes immigrants in search of work and dignity. Dan's working with Miami-bred cineasta Georg Koszulinski, and they restore the meaning of subversive cine with an edge and an educated bite. Download the trailer and do yourself a favor. The conditions in which our (shhhssshh, we won't tell) "guest" worker are forced to live is enough to make you fume.

Filmmakers and distributors as well as panelists and executives pow-wowed and partied for several days at the Alexander Hotel. It was an insulated bubble and made my discovery of the hell-spawn fires that now rage across the Southern California landscape all the more shocking and awesome. Of course, we're all waiting with our breath in check for Bushie to make his photo op appearance and declare a national emergency. Yeah, right. More money for war and none for heat in poverty stricken homes and then they want to console those whose homes have been engulfed and destroyed by flames run rampant amidst the raging Santa Ana winds? No creo yo, chuy... to use the expression of incredulity handed to me once not so long ago on the Brownsville-Matamoros border where I took up residence in the late '90s as an Austin exile, mexilidado, mojado al reves.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Days Between Stations

So I'm on the red eye to Miami and couldn't leave my palm tree lined neighborhood--which no longer squawks with the morning parrot armadas in full color regalia since temperatures have descended--without a return to the final throes of a weekend I'm still thrumming over. And since I broached the subject of Dia de Los Muertos at the close of an earlier entry, it's approriate to point out that last Sunday was similarly filled with art forays and extremely delightful company. After a tasty feijoada at Taste of Brazil, conveniently next door to Antigua and now finally serving beer and wine, a friend and I then dropped in on the second Day of the Dead exhibition of the weekend at ChimMaya on Beverly Blvd. just east of Atlantic. That part of unincorporated LA county is now actually considering cityhood. Imagine, the "City of East LA."

So there I was with the annual arts holiday-holyday still a week out, even. Goes to show how seriously we take Dia de Los Muertos on this side of town. The exhibition at ChimMaya, a full-on gallery and hand crafts store in the heart of the Garfield High School neighborhood, brought everybody together and included an altar by Ofelia Esparza, madrina to just about every mural painter and silk screen printer who ever stepped foot inside Self-Help Graphics. Props to Leo Limon, painter, printmaker and muralist for his art and his patient friendship. His work is here up top and the print here is a portrait in a linocut print. Not sure who it's by but I guess I could troll around on the net and find it. Dig the linocut print portrait of Leo by Artemo Rodriguez of La Mano Press on the left. They were created for an exhibition of prints based on Cheech Marin's collection of Chicano art.

Followed up the ChimMaya visit with a stop at Self-Help Graphics for the closing of the a print show featuring work by master printer Poli Marichal, poet and artist Don Newton, Judith Duran, Emelda Gutierrez, Kay Brown and Victor Rojas, among others. Titled H2O, the exhibition was a love letter to clean water and the issued around the liquid gold that have plagued Los Angeles for two generations and now threaten the world. Eco-warriors and barrio angels are not mutually exclusive categories and the two twin up well in a show that needed more attention. Politics and poetry conceived a tribute to Yemaya, the Afro-cuban orisha and goddess of water in a show that takes printmaking into to new territory. Los de Abajo, as the printmaking collective is called, delivered a stridently beautiful prayer in honor of a planet that is mostly water, inhabited by human, whose bodies are also mostly water. Oye!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday Blues

Damp and dreary here en las lomas de El Sereno. Still coasting on the estrogen fix at WITHIN. The urban mujeres delivered in spades. Sirens, the all girl punk band from East LA, capped the show which included MCs, DJ, artesanas, flowmasters and fashion designers. There had to be about 500 people there. Timoi, who curated the show, should be rightfully proud. Next up at Crash Mansion is a graffiti show. I'll be out for the week and won't be able to catch it. Props as well to Sandy Rodríguez who hung high heels and dress up kicks for men and women from the ceiling as part of her altar installation to James Brown at Ave. 50. Of course the evening would not have been complete without the daring and delightful burlesque show at the M Bar next door to El Floridita and Vine and Fountain in Hollywood. Friends gathered to take in the "Trick or Tease" show and celebrate a dual birthday for poet-sister Reina Prado and artist Raul Balthazar. Ms. Prado is helping put together a "Lunada" in celebration that will feature erotic poetry and performance on Oct. 26th. I look forward to the privilege of sharing a particularly succulent poem or two.

Mariachi crooner and native Zacatecano Antonio Aguilar, one of the very few latinos with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, passed away in June of this year. Aguilar spent time in LA at the beginning of his career, sleeping at Placita Olvera before he could afford rent and get settled in. He eventually returned to Mexico and became the icon popularly known as "El Charro de México." Printmaker and artist Daniel González is helping his aunt Theresa, of Teresita's restaurant in East LA, with a project to establish a permanent memorial and life-sized sculpture of Aguilar at a location still to be determined. According to Daniel, she is taking up a collection of used keys and hopes to have enough of them eventually to melt down for the statue. Look for a key donation bucket at Teresita's, a family-run establishment since 1983. I actually began going there years ago at the recommendation of LA Times reporter Robert López. It's a good excuse to go back and close enough to Self-Help Graphics, which, if you haven't realized it by now, is Día de Los Muertos central in the city of angels. More on Day of the Dead when we come back.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dia de la Raza or Die, Columbus, Die?

The internal dialogues bristle and pop with even more kinetic energy this time of year as the growing legion of Chicano, Mexica and Red Road activists make friends with technology and begin using spoken word, the internet and recovery of ancestral knowledge to discuss and define a post-Chicano movement that is much more clearly articulated as an indigenous wave that counters colonial and Western hegemony. Sorry if that seems sort of dense. What it boils down to is a barrage of music, art and ceremony in celebration of all that was before, what Los Poetas de Norte and many others, including playwright, filmmaker and founder of Teatro Campesino Luis Valdez have often referred to as a return to Anahuac. It's about erasing artificially imposed borders between nations in North America from Canada to El Salvador and Honduras, all turf that was part of a greater trading and cultural region that the Spanish, the French and the British just couldn't keep their hands off of. So eager to get some, they divided Anahuac into separate nation states in order to make the partition and re-distribution seem orderly and inevitable.

I wouldn't, under normal circumstances, be so willing to offer a Dia de la Raza round up, but for sheer magnitude, this weekend belongs to the artists and cultural warriors, DJs, bands and artisans who don't celebrate Columbus Day, but instead gather to celebrate something bigger, older and equally inevitable. And if you saw Aymara elder and the first ever indigenous president of Bolivia Evo Morales on Jon Stewart, you'll understand why the descendents of the original inhabitants of Anahuac and its rightful heirs have a right to be cheeky and in your face this week. We are not liberal, left-leaning commie pinkos, just humble gente trying to teach the world that excess is killing the planet, that violence and war are natural symptoms of opression and suppression in the wake of excessive industry, excessive wealth, excessive consumption that leaves so many of our kids on the street, undereducated, in gangs and on a suicide mission that breaks my heart every day. That ends the diatribe (for now, hazme el pinche favor!).

Eventos recomendandos hoy: Peace & Dignity Journeys 08 Benefit Concert at Proyecto Jardín (Boyle and Bridge), noon to 8 p.m. in support of runners who will run for six months beginning in Alaska to meet runners from Southern indigenous communities in Panama;. Within: The Urban Woman Experience, at Crash Mansion, 1024 S. Grand Ave., 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. featuring DJs, artists, artisans, designers, performers and more!; A Funk and R & B fueled Dia de Los Muertos tribute to James Brown at Ave. 50 Studios, 131 N. Ave. 50 (Highland Park), 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Mañana: Insurgent Verses at the Knitting Factory, 7026 Hollywood Blvd., 8 p.m., featuring Rubén Guevara, 2Mex, El Vuh, Cihuatl-Ce, Quese IMC, Tolteca and Los Poetas del Norte.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tragedy and Majesty

Tonight, LALIFF presents Fuera del Cielo, a new film by Javier Patrón, a recent addition to the crew comprising Mexico's emblematic holy trinity of cinema: Cuarón, del Toro and Iñárritu. Actorazo Demián Bichir stars as Marlboro and the film follows his 6 a.m. release from prison for 24 hours while he reunites with his younger brother Cucú. Ostensibly about orphans and life on the grittiest, most hopeless streets of Mexico City, the film, from what I've read, purports to reflect some sad truths facing those at every socio-economic level in the nation of my forebears. Juxtapose this with former president Vicente Fox's new memoir, Revolution of Hope and you begin to see why I might be curious. Ironically, the film screens on a night when the Festival fetes the Lucha Libre tradition and screens an old Santo film while throwing a party on the roof of the parking structure behind the ArcLight Theater complex. Think I'll skip the good, clean, campy fun with Santo and see the Patrón film while hoping it doesn't drag me down into a morose stupor. And in any event, I'm sure the Lucha Libre party scheduled immediatley after the Santo film screening might be in order as an antidote if another tragedy in the wake of Babel and Amores Perros gets too burdensome. For the record, I saw Babel on Valentine's Day with an ex-girlfriend I was still yearning for. Not a good idea in spite of the smuggled in wine, homemade Greek salad and tuna.

For wit and intelligence, check out a blog written by Laura Martinez, a chilanga in New York whose site, Mi Blog Es Tu Blog, was recently posted by Advertising Age. Her essay on how the zippiness of advertising aimed at Latinos outpaces and outstrips the television programming it sandwiches should be the subject of some serious discussion. It's why we brave the Hollywood traffic on a Thursday night for the Latino film festival. Who the hell wants to be more impressed with the comercials on Spanish language television while sitting through some of the worst programming on any grid? Gracias, Laura. At least someone has the chutzpah to tell it like it is. And don't get her started on Ugly Betty.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Miercolicos (Hump Day Hi-jinx)

Confessional pena: I registered as media at the Congreso Latino and never even went by to pick up the badge. I did, however, make the Sunday night dinner at the downtown Sheraton and heard U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (Newark, NJ) stump for Hillary Clinton. Antonio González stoked the crowd, thinned somewhat by the opening night red carpet pachanga hald as part of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival launch at the ArcLight Theater in Hollywood, as best he could. Antonio, an earstwhile childhood friend of LA's golden boy mayor, delivered a treatise on the strategy of joining evangélicos and environmentalists, a brilliant way to engage immigrants and tree huggers politically with a constructive, what can we do together to save God's earth agenda. Pretty amazing, and heady stuff.
Missing the always interesting Latino film festival opening night festivities are we now? Sorry Mr. Olmos and Marlene, but sometimes ya' just need to be reminded, just need to hang where raza is still more interested in resolutions and action committees composed of delegates who traveled to Los Angeles from across the country to participate in a downtown discussion that was actually even protested by Minutemen.

California State Senate Majority leader Gloria Romero spoke spiritedly on behalf of Barak Obama. Chicanos with an ounce of self-repect and any semblance of molecular memory vis-a-vis the movimiento and what it stood for would do well to quit frontin' and get behind the man who opposed the debacle in Iraq from the get go. Working within constraints, you have to applaud the gente behind the Congreso Latino for opening up a forum for serious dicussion of immigration and the changing complexion of the nation. Gloria Romero gives East LA a good name.

Unfortunately, I missed out on most of the townhall-style discourse, but from the little that I saw, it obviously reflects a shift, an honest-to-goodness political shift. The fact that there were Minutemen a hundred deep outside the Macy's downtown is ample evidence that Chicano-Latino agendas led and driven by emerging and increasingly successful political operatives from our side of the river are resonating across the board.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Weekend Recap

What can you say about SoundEye? Held at Taper Hall on the USC campus, it was intimidating insofar as the gathering of poets had to compete with a Trojan game, so parking was beastly. Enough discussion about hermetic insularity vs. accessibility and transference. The reading, held in a small conference room/library filled with faculty work (T.C. Boyle's titles seemed to predominate along the section of shelving where I sat to get my SoundEye fill), was intense and aloof at the same time. I won't even shy away from saying flatly that some of poetry was breathtaking. Alfred Arteaga, recently out of the hospital, read from a book that came of a sojourn in Ireland in addition to work from Cantos and Fred Moten, author of In the Break: the Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition, revealed essences of a poet-philopsher who takes the work of writing seriously.

Equally urbane and riveting, Marisela Norte invited the boys, her male contemporaries in LA artes y letras, to read some of her work while she delivered a piece penned by each of them as an introduction. Sesshu Foster, Rubén Martínez and Michael C. Ford did her justice and the words blistered with innate fire and devotion. I bear witness, even if the residue of the late night before left me a might wee bit on the sedate side. One the three best Chicana poets in the country, Norte stalks the city on Metro buses and reveals the real LA in every line etched neatly along the pages of her notepads and composition books. Coincidentally, La Palabra featured a counterpart from across the cultural divide the following day. Steve Abee, in a vein similar to Norte, mines material from the street forward. His style is perhaps less subtle and distinguised by construction as muscular, run-on, free form prose, but the work converges on the same tender perspective. Ultimately, it is a take that doesn't skew the inherent ironies of life absorbed from a rolling perch ambling along the city's surface like blood cells in a body culled from a rainbow of angels.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

The whirlwind art and music and magazine and poetry and community activism tour takes an extended run this weekend. Teatro CHUSMA's Cervantino send-off was barely the beginning. Followed that with an action painting demonstration by Fernando Barragan at the Salon Belleza which was highlighted by an inadvertent encounter with long-time teatreras Mónica Sánchez and Tonantzin Esparza, and then a stop in at Union Station for the Tu Ciudad mag Hip, Hot Now issue release and celebration to fete Daniel Hernandez, Alexis Rivera and Sandra de la Loza, among others. San Gabriel Valley girl Linda Chavaria and her gal pals were surprised to hear me make references to Sangra and Lomas, old-school clikas they've left behind in their sem-suburban climb. New York's emerging electronica sound-luxe stars Pachamassive stole the show with a song called "Don't Let Go (No Te Vayas)" that underscored how there really is nothing quite like a party in one of the LA's architectural marvels.

A brief layover thereafter amidst the Congreso Latino late-night lobby bar loitering resulted in a first-time ever meeting with poeta nicaraguense Roberto Vargas, a OG, Floricanto-founding scribe who has run with maestro Raul Salinas, owner of Resistenica Books in Austin, for as long as I've been alive. Hearing him read impromptu was moving. Throat got all knotted up. Then over to Sabor Lounge to catch a last set by Mezklah, where guitarrista Greg Hernández took us all to another planet. Stay tuned for more on SoundEye West wrap up and a phenomenal reading of Marisela Norte's work by Rubén Martínez, Sesshu Foster and Michael C. Ford. Que suertudo me siento.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Latino Congreso

Kicking off with a media breakfast today, the Southwest Voter Registration Project's William C. Velásquez Institute sponsored Latino Congreso brings Latino activists and organizers to LA this weekend for plenary sessions, workshops on enfranchisement and climate change as well as environmental issues elaborated through the prism of immigration and urban issues that Latinos confront in the U.S. The list of participants is too long to list here, but it all transpires at the downtown LA Sheraton and it's definitely worth a second look. Personally it pleases me to see that the Congreso coincides with an opening at Salon Belleza at the Wilshire Grand that features new work by Fernando Barragan, a badass painter who runs with filmmaker and documentarian Ernesto Quintero, an OG in the El Sereno artistic renaissance who's working on a film about Academia Semillas del Pueblo, a charter school in my neighborhood that teaches Nahuatl, danza azteca, Mandarin and Spanish as part of a curriculum that makes right wing talk show radio hosts fume. La reconquista is real, no matter how many apologists want to feign a distance, speak in halting, barely coherent Spanish and dismiss the paisas because "they don't like pochos, anyway." No excuse. You, of all people, need to make an effort, force yourselves to speak, at the very least, the language of your immediate forebears, no matter how assimilated or "adjusted" you believe yourself to be. Otherwise, be prepared to be left behind and get recruited by the asshole minutemen who can't fathom a nation overrun by poblanos and oaxaqueños and purepeche and otomi. Get comfortable with an end to your "guerito" or class privilege if you've used lana and intelectualismo to buy your way out of comparisons and links to the chuntaros and tarudos, because the world can't turn without them. Sure, we can go to the private, invitation-only Ciudad Magazine party at Union Station, but on my way home, I'll stop at El Tarasco, a cantina that Echo Park and Silver Lake hipsters haven't yet discovered, where I can meet blue collar immigrant fathers who once auditioned for Amalia Hernández' Ballet Folklorico in Mexico City and can still recite poems by Guillermo Aguirre y Fierro, a poet who penned the unforgettable "El Brindis del Bohemio" in the early 1900s.

This doesn't preclude, however, a couple of out-and-about literary recommendations around town this weekend. I'll make a concerted effort, myself, to attend a reading at Tropico de Nopal as part of Mariela Norte's Sociedad Anonima exhibition that includes Rubén Martinez, Sesshu Foster and Michael C. Ford on Saturday at 8 p.m. On Sunday, Ave. 5o hosts the monthly La Palabra reading led by Echospace poets Don Newton and Laura Longoria and featuring poet, essayist and local literaloco Steve Abee, who rails against MySpace on a MySpace page and makes complete sense to the Pixies soundtrack classic "Where is My Mind."

The plan woud be to make a mad morning run to the South Central Farm tianguis to support sustainable agriculture and neighborhood autonomy then head to Highland Park at 2 p.m. for La Palabra. Get off the computer and do something. Mix it up and contribute, por fa? Stick around after the reading for a closing reception in honor of "Appetite," a show of impressively muscular charcoal drawings by Reyes Rodgriguez, founder/owner of Tropico de Nopal. The drawing here to the right is called "Lust," and it's the last chance to see the work which is introduced by text from Sesshu Foster, a firme wordslinger whose Atomik Aztex has got heads spinning from City Terrace to Boston.

Mystery Hang Up

Teatro CHUSMA and a housefull of well-wishers restored my faith in community with a resounding and emphatic nod to the antecedents of Chicano movement politics and neighborhood love. Quinto Sol, an East LA outfit that fuses cumbia and reggae while remaining true to the spirit of our roots and early education at the hands of those who embraced Chicanismo, played a paired down set that could verily redefine "unplugged." An art auction with work from Zach de la Rocha, Leo Limon, gift baskets from tienda Teocintli and IMIX Bookstore and a host of artists who donated work to help CHUSMA make it's way to México for the Cervantino inspired several fierce bidding contests. The CHUSMA sketches and still guerrilla-style, in your face theatre were the culmination of a barrio happening that included a hyper-soul liberation set from Olmeca and a high throttle turn from Mystery Hang Up, an all-girl Orange County punk band that could have walked right out of an Hernandez brothers Love and Rockets comic book. I noticed (kind of hard not to) the sisters, one of whom calls herself Cat and leads on a low-slung electric guitar behind the lead vocals mic while her carnala Lux does double-time duty on the drums in the audience at the Girl in a Coma show a week ago and was psyched to see them take the small Eastside Cafe impromtu stage with vengeance. More when we solve the riddle of the 80s Chacha-meets- Chola Mystery Hang Up gang from Orange County. Oooooyyyyy!!! These gurrrls could thrash El Chopo and have enough verve left over to kick in your teeth in with high heeled tacones and glam-glitter fringe leather jackets tossed laconically over their shoulders.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Poetry Massive

File under "found" or, at the very least, a pleasant discovery: La Barca Restaurant on Vermont just south of I-10 near USC. Had a burrito de chile verde for under five bucks. No nonsense eclecticisim with an all-walks-of-life crowd that never quit. I have no idea how the spot could have eluded me for so long. Bet your bottom dollar, I'm going back to work my way through the menu. Anyone for dutch treat? Met fellow Echospace Poetry Collective compa' Roberto Leni, a chileno who grew up in the Bay Area as a protege of Dr. Jose Cuellar, AKA Dr. Loco of the Rockin' Jalapeños and Dr. David Lloyd, Irish poet and playwright who teaches English at the univerity for dinner in the unassuming, homespun, folk-art accented restaurant that, in my humble estimation, ranks 4-stars for quality and quantity. Lloyd has organized SoundEye West, a poetry conference that brings California-based writers together with a pair of illustrious bards from Ireland. Beginning Friday afternoon, a slew of panels and readings will feature Chicano poet and scholar Alfred Arteaga and UC Riverside poet Gabriela Juaregui, a Mexico City native and Freewaves boardmember as well as SoundEye founder Trevor Joyce and Fergal Gaynor, both straight-outta-Cork of late. Saba Syed Razvi, Jen Hofer, Christine Wertheim and Fred Moten, among many others, flesh out a program that focuses on "Poetry Between Languages." Joyce co-founded New Writer's Press in Dublin in 1967 when he was but a mere 19. And with SoundEye West, Lloyd hopes to undescore the international reach of poetic action that emphasizes radical democracy and "counter-cooptation." I've recently had the opportunity to discuss Arteaga's work with poet and spiritual madrina Gloria Alvarez, so I'm looking forward to the encuentro, which culminates Saturday night with a poetry pachanga in Lloyd's Silverlake backyard.

Getting back to the haps in El Sereno, y sin darme demasiadas cremitas, I'll be reading tonight with East LA spoken word boy-genius and movimiento indigena/community activist Olmeca at the Eastside Cafe on Hungtington Dr. as part of a send-off party for Teatro Chusma, a barrio-based troupe which has been invited to the Cervantino in Guanajuato. Agradecimientos are due Chusmeros Alberto Ibarra, Gustavo Chavez and Marisol L. Torres, the latter also part of In Lak Ech, who have a new spoken word CD. Should point out that the disc, Mujeres con Palabra, was produced by Quetzal's Martha Gonzalez and it makes the perfect anti-Columbus day gift. Available in stores and at Café Cultural Antigua now!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

La Region Mas Transparente

Unsurprisingly, the lecture tonight by Carlos Fuentes at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is sold out. The lecture accompanies an exhibit entitled "The Arts in Latin America: 1492-1820" and appears to be a ratings success based on the number of visitors and the fact that one of Mexico's preeminent writers is playing to a packed house. I may try to crash, and more than a few of us are waiting to hear from a friend on the inside about last minute availability. Fuentes was last in LA for the Zócalo series organized by L.A. Times editorial writer, author and director of the California Fellows Program at the New America Foundation Gregory Rodriguez.

El super cuate Jesse Katz, recently on leave from Los Angeles Magazine to write his own book about fatherhood, baseball, mixed marriage, being an honorary Latino and the power of Los Angeles to transform and transcend all of the above, was assigned the enviable task of introducing Don Carlos. Suggested reading then and now: La Muerte de Artemio Cruz by Fuentes and Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America by Gregory Rodriguez. And next time you drop into the H.M.S. Bounty on Wilshire Blvd. in Koreatown across the street from where the old Ambassador Hotel once stood, look for Gregory in his trademark tortoise shell glasses hunched over a table in deep discussion with like-minded observers who have so much to teach us about ourselves and our place on the golden coast, a place being recast daily by hard-working, shapeshifting mongrels and vagabonds who share dreams and destinies. Como vago perpétuo, I count myself among them.

Dulce Pinzon, an artist from México living in New York "en la Gabacha" says it more clearly and in vivid, living color with a photo series on "real superhoes," in which she subtly posits the fact that the Mexican economy has become dependent on the money sent home by immigrants while the U.S. economy has become dependent on the low-cost labor they provide. She has photographed the unheralded heroes in this paradigm wearing super-hero garb while engaged in the work they do every day in an effort to send support to those they've left behind. In the end, my entire excursion manages to wrap itself neatly in the inevitable circle. Like every good Marvel and DC Comics reader knows, the orphans, (ala Bruce Wayne and Wolverine) and mongrels (Wolverine) and vagabonds (Wolverine again) always grow up to be superheroes, so Pinzon's photo series dovetails perfectly here as we round third base and head home with a copy of Gregory's new book under our utility belt, a titanium belt loaded with gadgets that will give us an edge in our efforts to save the planet.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Mexico Rock

Talk about camp. Al Ritmo del Twist, a film presented by the Latin American Cinemateca of Los Angeles last Sunday at the Johh Anson Ford Amphitheatre was an exercise in the ultimate suspension of disbelief. Really hard to image a 40-something Manuel "Loco" Valdez as a high school student in a rip-off beach blanket party special where the stripped down, apolitical Mexican and utterly derivative, officially sanctioned rock bands from the sixties hold court. The monogamy of Churubusco veterans aping teenagers in a film where every scene is an excuse to feature a drum kit with lettering to announce "Los Rebeldes del Rock" or "Los Teen Tops," amidst a slew of twist dancers and live, human mannequins modeling female swimwear was a tad bit too much to bear. The Teen Tops Spanish-language cover of "Bony Maroni" which translates to "Popotipos" (my girl, the straw) is actually a highlight, and that's not saying much. Unfortunately, I missed the plática with Abraham Laborial, whose Afro-carribean father went from Honduras to Mexico in the first half of the last century as a studio musician and actually appears in the film. Ruben "Funkahuatl" Guevara rounded out the discussion with his own stateside 60s rock history, I'm told. In the company of poet Gloria Alvarez, her daugher Sol and friends Lluvia and Margit, I was delayed by an earth turning turn, community garden commitment at Proyecto Jardin, so you can blame me completely for the slag. I would have liked to be there for the discussion, even if it included more pontificating by everyone's favorite Latinophile, Josh Kun.

It was more urgent, for me anyway, to see Girl in a Coma, the girl band from San Antonio that has taken both the Chican@ and gringo rock worlds by storm with hurricane proportions. The film was a follow-up that we forced ourselves to sit through. And it was definitely cool to see Jimmy Mendiola, a wordslinger and filmmaker with his compañera and producing partner Faith Radle as well as another Tex-Mex patriot in LA, former Port of Houston Commissioner Azucena Maldonado, who worked the event. If you're interesed, Jimmy blogs about pop culture and all things Chicano and Latino at with a keen sensitivity and an attitude/aptitude that belies his San Antonio rocker roots and elevates him beyond the ken or ordinary pale of blogosphere navel gazers. He also directed a GIAC video that buzzes with a magnetic electricity.

This blog is actually a response and reaction to the Austin-LA-Mexico City triangle that has its genesis in a January, 1994 visit I made to Chiapas for The Austin Chronicle with a stop in Chilangolandia on the way, where I hung once again with Discos Rockotitlan founder Tony Mendez, who I'd met in New York at a 1991 New Music Seminar showcase. Have to say that I had been thoroughly influenced by a Rubén Martínez article on Maldita Vecindad in the LA Weekly and an Ed Morales Village Voice piece on resurgent rock en español with a bite. For me rock and the Zapatista revolution were inextricably intertwined after that ill-advised trip to la selva lacondona, where I was man-handled by soldiers at every roadblock from Mexico City to Juchitán. Maldita, Tijuana No, Los Hombres G and el TRI were my antidote to Eurythmics and baseless British pop that I raved to more often than I care to admit. I dumped The Clash and The Police completely while putting U2 on probation after hearing the rockeros rail against capitalismo and a gringo system imposed by MTV and McDonald's.

But enough with the stripes and who found chilango rock first because the "Mexico! Mexico! Rock! Rock! Rock!" program also drew luminary Angelenos, among them poet Marisela Norte, artist and owner of Tropico de Nopal Gallery Reyes Rodriguez and my cuate and occasional Gold Room sister Sandra de la Loza, a conceptual artist and photographer listed in the current issue of Tu Ciudad Los Angeles magazine as one of the 20 Hip, Hot (and very happening) Now brown people in the City of Angels. Props to printmaker and artist Daniel Gonzalez and Colin Gunkel, another Tex-patriot, for putting together an ambitious and ultimately important cultural program. Of course, it was a far cry from El Chopo, a Mexico City rock-and-roll swap meet where I wound up reading poetry earlier this summer as an opening act for Charlie Montana, a DF rockero who sports a Confederate flag t-shirt and a Jack Daniels bottle tattooed on his arm. Complete with the Lynyrd Skynyrd black leather hat and silver conch-shell hat band over a pair of aviator mirror shades, Montana could very well be the bastard love child of Axl Rose and Ozzy Osbourne.

Try sharing some sappy love poems in antcipation of that! I had to translate some work on the spot while juggling a live interview on the phone with a radio station and trying to save face in front of 600 goth punks and DF chuco skaters in scotch plaid, pierced ad infinitum and eager to hear a Mexico City barrio rocker who plays up the trailer trash persona in bleach blond hair to unexpected éxito. A universe of disconnect, at least for me, can't reconcile campy twist dance films where Annette Funicello and Frankie Valie give way to rode-hard Mexican movie stars on their last legs with the very real and always relevant Tianguis Cultural del Chopo, a squatterville terrain next door to Tlatelolco, the site of a 1968 government-sponsored massacre and a hotbed of resistance that, for the last 25 years, has manifested itself in the bodies, ritmos and ritos of los punks, los rockers, los darketos, los góticos y los hipitecas. Ask me about it sometime. Or better yet, take yourself there. Poet and scholar Reina Prado suggests the Greyhound bus direct to the Tijuana Airport from downtown LA. The flight on Aviacsa is about $280 round trip.

You can never be too cool for school unless you've been there and had at least three Indio beers with a quesadilla de flor de calabasa at Las Costillas de San Luis in Colonia La Roma before diving into a flotilla sized open air market fueled by music and all the rock & roll accessories you ever possibly imagine.