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.

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