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.

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