Wednesday, November 5, 2008
A new dawn rolls down over the hilltops here in El Sereno. Despite a slight haze, I bask in the residual euphoria from an election victory that signals an end to the monstrous greed and warlust that drove those foul Machiavellians to greater and greater heights of hubris and a false sense of invincible superiority gleaned from so many decades of late nite prowls along the marble-floored halls of our nation's capital. It was a supreme joy to hear our friend Roberto Lovato, a writer and essayist who covers politics from a sharp vantage (read his take on how to take on the Homeland Security militarization of immigration issue and ICE raids, please!) on KPFK radio with Amy Goodman as Roberto Leni and I searched for an address in Silver Lake where a group of us had a greed to gather for the election coverage. We missed the concession but arrived in time to hear the victory speech. The world was suddenly new. We danced and celebrated with musica troopical, enchilada and tequila. Ric Salinas, one third of Culture Clash, was ever the gracious host. Since, I 'd voted early and drove a borrowed vehicle to pick up the first issue of Brooklyn & Boyle all the way down in Gardena, I had a double reason to be uncontrollably joyful. Yes it is finally here. The long promised revista/periodico... Along with the coolest rock star President-elect in this country's history, we have a new mag. And the winds of sea change and rebirth that were clearly marked by the slew of ceremonies and celebrations in honor of Dia de los Muertos I was privileged enough to witness in the week or more leading up to this historic moment.
It began with the Secretos y Cartas del Los Muertos show at Ave. 50 where Barbara Carrasco curated a show of which included collaborations between writers and visual artists. For this, Ofelia Esparza created a small but poignant nicho while Harry Gamboa, a writer and a visual artist, created piece using a rain slicker that evoked the finest moments of ASCO and LA punk as political fashion. Over at Cactus Gallery in Eagle Rock, Sandra Mastrianni and her crew showed smaller works that were part of an exhibition called "Skullz." Film Xica Leticia Castañeda spearheaded the community altar there, her first. ChimMaya was also part of the mix with a superlative show the following day that featured a much larger altar by Ofelia Esparza and some of LA's hottest Latino artists, too many to name here, unfortunately. The ensuing week was highlighted by an Obama Te Ama fundraiser I helped promote at Hecho en Mexico here in El Sereno held immediately after a lively and inspiring encounter with teatreros and filmmakers at a Director's Guild of America event held to honor Luís Valdez, an activist, filmmaker and playwright who needs no introduction.
Day of the Dead the following week unfolded with all the promise and beauty of a sunrise over East LA and the San Gabriel Valley. A Thursday night visit to Trópico de Nopal Gallery & Art Space, where artist and visionary Reyes Rodriguez hosts his annual Ofrendas extravaganza (complete with a Calavera Fashion & Walking Altar show) for the altar viewing was moving in a way that communicated some of what my mother has been trying to tell me since she passed onward in April. It's about moving forward while honoring all of our relations. Ofelia Esparza's tribute to a renowned native woman from this region was just as powerful as the one created by her neice Juana Flores. Saturday at Hollywood Forever Cemetery was much more carnavalesque. Three bandstands, music and long food/beverage lines were a bit daunting but the festive atmosphere carried Leni and I well into the wee hours as we traded jokes with Lalo López who sold out of his Viva Obama posters (pictured above). During all the madness, I managed to sneak away to see the altares at Self Help Graphics, where I added a tabacco prayer to my mother as part of interactive the Mujeres de Maíz altar. Maritza Alvarez and Felicia Montes and Claudia Mercado and all of the firme guerreras were on the blessed side of a world crying out for justice and peace, for healing and an end to ICE immigration raids as well as an end to borders that separate native people. I was transported and empowered. Rigo Maldonado and Alma López created an altar which was at once a diaphanuos mobile and an reminder of how we make family outside of blook kin. It also celebrated 35 years of the Self Help Día de los Muertos tradition.
Of course, the picture and they cycle of destiny would not have been complete without a final DDLM fix at Self Help Graphics on Sunday, the following day, the actual day upon which the celebration is acknowledged. At 4:40 p.m., Self Help was already crowded. Moving through the parking lot in a face painted by a talented young woman named Brenda Gonzalez (who had a friend drive her to my El Sereno redoubt for the make-up session), I parked myself upstairs and painted faces for the better part of three hours. It was honestly and literally a blast... exhausting, but well beyond rewarding. The support for Self Help was more than evident. The important cultural work begun by Self Help over three decades ago will continue, even if it does not occur in the same physical building. This much I know... ahí nos vemos. Viva Obama!