Sunday, December 5, 2010

La Gran Calavera Modista

Once again, Trópico de Nopal’s Reyes Rodríguez raised the bar on himself with an extravagant yet still elegantly simple “Ofrendas 2010” Calavera Fashion Show & Walking Altars exhibition. Now in it’s ninth year, the annual Dia de Los Muertos couture and ambulatory altar spectacular has become a signature Day of the Dead art event and easily ranks among the most interesting and enjoyable exhibitions mounted in a city that has elevated the annual Muertos celebration to a city-wide festival on the order of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro.

Complimenting a visceral, and emotionally moving altar installation organized inside the Trópico de Nopal Gallery and Artspace by Marialice Jacob, the Calavera fashion show brings together a score of artists for an evening of cutting-edge fashion, design and visual art that unfolds along a custom runway created to enhance the semblances to a haute couture seasonal debut. The individual fashion designs—as often elaborated as conceptual or performance art pieces as they are staged in runway promenade—are dedicated to family members, well known artists, personalities or and close friends no longer among the living. In the case of Abel Alejandre’s "Gallo Giro," a stunning rooster suit built with a spring action spine and neck to which a human sized rooster head was affixed, the dance moves with which Alejandre showcased his creation, complete with a bobbing cockscomb and feet that were entirely realistic down to the spikes and spurs. My tocayo is a gifted draughtsman whose almost photorealistic large scale graphite drawings have now given way to silkscreens and monoprints produced at Self Help Graphics and three dimensional work such as the delightful gallo macho who brought a smile to everyone’s face with a Mexican funky chicken dance to the sound of an obscure south of the border band called, guess what… Los Funky!

Conversely, Poli Marichal, whose puppet entries have stolen the show in previous years, went one step further this time by becoming her own harlequin marionette in a touching mime play paying tribute to a fallen family member. As the white-faced, child-like cross between a court jester and a sad, motherless orphan, Marichal came onto the stage to a mournful tune. In one hand, she carried a bird-cage with a metallic, heart-shaped balloon bearing a photo recuerdo. In the other, she carried a wistful butterfly net. When the balloon was un-caged and released into the night sky, Marichal waved goodbye. Around me, more than one pair of eyes in the sell-out, standing room only crowd was damp with sadness. The knot in my own throat was a palpable weight as all of us watched the helium balloon float slowly and forlornly away.

Moving 180 degrees away from the folklórico skirts hand sewn by his own mother and printed with his ornately intricate designs in gold last year, printmaker Daniel González entered a monumental calavera puppet complete with moving parts and a glowing electric light source in the center of each dark eye socket hollow. To help you imagine the scale of his creation, it is enough to say that it took three men to move the giant skeleton across the runway and work all the hinged, superhuman sized limbs, uh… er… bones.

New to the fashion show as an individual artist, Elena Esparza has, of course, assisted in the creation and exhibition of pieces by members of her family for several years now. This year, she joined the fray with a live tableaux populated by humanoid symbols of earth and a treasured garden. In this instance, it would be safe to assume that the garden represented is Proyecto Jardin, a project with which Esparza has been associated since its inception. Attired as trees, bee hives and flowers, the denizens of Esparza’s earth were a call to environmental action and a gorgeous romp through Esparza’s eclectic chromatic and textural palette. Cloaked in her lush, vibrant designs, the models in Esparza’s piece were regal in their symbolic roles as elements in the natural world we must protect. While Esparza is heir to the traditional healing arts as a child of Ofelia Esparza, an accomplished artist and altarista, Esparza’s first fashion foray marks the beginning of her ascent as an artist with a conscience who embodies, perhaps by blood, a sense for the majesty of our ancestry and the the earth as our mother.

CiCi Segura, as evidenced by her entry this year, is an heir to David Alfaro Siqueiros. Her walking altar in tribute to the famed Mexican muralist, currently the subject of retrospectives, mural restoration efforts and discussion throughout the LA art environs, was a fitting addition to the dialogue on the master’s legacy. Particularly original was the three-dimensional fabric banner cape bearing stuffed cloth bas-relief replicas of well known Siqueiros paintings. It was at once a witty remark on all the Siqueiros hype and a visually striking exercise that once again pegged Segura as a risk taker and a visionary pioneer who responds to contemporary art currents and still somehow manages to make them her own. Segura’s original designs and her bold use of color and texture on textile were in keeping with her distinctive and always witty artistic explorations.

Taken directly from current headlines, the tongue-in-cheek piece by Carolyn Castaño was a direct reference to the recent news that a former Mexican beauty pageant queen had been arrested alongside her narco-kingpin boyfriend. Castaño makes her statement by depicting the narco as a fat cat “patron” who can buy love from and status through a romance with a popular beauty contest winner.

Robert Quijada took popular lore around Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers and created a meaningful and fearlessly innovative sculpture using flat metal bands decorated with mosaic tile to evoke the towers built by the Italian bricklayer using left over materials so many years ago. Made to be worn as a mini-replica of Rodia’s opus magnum on the shoulders, the piece ranked easily among the best of the presentation from a technical and visual perspective. Of all the fashion tributes, Quijada’s was the only one based on a public art piece that is so entirely indicative of Los Angeles. Stretching another into the air , Quijada’s walking altar was poetic in its evocation of a monument born in the nearly miraculous dream of an Italian bricklayer, monument so structurally sound it has remained standing for well over half a century.

The round up would be remiss if there was no mention of the collaboration between Rocio Ponce and Joe Bravo. A flamenco dancer and musician (frontwoman for La Bestia), Ponce pounced triumphantly upon the runway in a piece by Bravo, who has often worked with models who bring their own talents and strengths to the process. The Coatlicue piece he did with poet and performer Arianna Gouveia two years ago was a case in point. Bravo is a gifted painter who turned giant tortillas into canvases that have brought him world-wide acclaim, but as his work is brought to life on the calavera fashion stage, the dimensional aspects of his art are refined. The skeletal hand transformed into a flamenco dancer comb worn in Ponce’s slicked back hair was riveting.

Through it all, Reyes Rodriguez spins a soundtrack punctuated with rhythm and style, segues into music selected expressly for each piece and transitional overdub. Lalo Alcaraz, a notoriously acerbic comic commentator who co-founded the satirical comedy troupe Chicano Secret Service before becoming a nationally syndicated political cartoonist, is a go-to MC who brings humor and razor wit to his role as a host in the commentator box. More than a fashion show, the event brings together a community of artists who are given free reign to create with out the constraints of a gallery and the stationary nature of the traditional altar. Reyes has uncorked an avalanche of sight and sound that explores the limits of what Día de Los Muertos has come to represent for Latino artists who are allowed to venture forth with explorations that both reinvent the Day of the Dead traditions and breathe new life into them at the same time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Tao of Funkahuatl

One part tantric medicine man, one part Boyle Heights barrio advocate, one part broken-hearted love poet, one part rock star lover boy, one part visionary producer and one part life-long political and social activist, Rubén Guevara would squirm if he heard himself referred to this way. He might roll his eyes and say “come on, now, that’s too many parts.”

For Guevara, whose alter ego as Funkahuatl—the Aztec God of Funk—resurfaces on vinyl here with a definitive musical masterwork entitled The Tao of Funkahuatl, life and its lessons are to be savored as tantalizing experiences that reveal the paths to divinity. The sacred, as expressed in his first new album in over 30 years, is sexual, sensual, loving and tender. It is platonic and political. It is deeply rooted in community.

His new disc distills a lifetime of lovemaking and learning, of memory and mysticism. Backed by an arsenal of musical giants as legendary as Guevara himself, Funkahuatl once again jumps and turns with the fever pitch and whispers of trance-like storytelling.

The Tao is a come hither and dance with me, a shake rattle and roll from your hips clarion. For Guevara, the spirit of Funkahuatl redeems and purifies each of us with a soul throttling release that is captured here on a record that comes dressed in stunning sleeve art by John Valadez and a calligraphic package designed by Joel “Rage One” García.

With the collector’s record, an album complete with a fine art, limited edition lithograph printed by Francesco X. Siqueiros at El Nopal Press, Guevara restores vinyl to its original luster. And while the presentation is positively mouthwatering, it is finally the music and the voice that take shape and flight on the eight compositions that lace themselves together as The Tao of Funkahuatl which define the core of Guevara’s latest offering at the altar of joy, love and triumph.

It is no accident that he is joined by sidemen collectively known as the Eastside Luvers, among them: Steve Alaniz (tenor sax); John Avila (bass); Ramón Banda (drums) and Bob Robles (guitar). With the Luvers, Guevara bridges spoken word, funk, rhythm and blues. He scatters words, poetry, chord progressions, harmonies, brass, wind, fretwork, bass lines and percussion across the auditory spectrum in a steady torrent as if seeding the clouds with invitations to sacred gathering of song on LA’s Eastside.

Catch the upcoming issue of Brooklyn & Boyle for the complete review by Abel Salas

Saturday, October 9, 2010

SpinCity Terrace y Environs

Back with more than just poems and long, adulatory postings that come too few and far between. It's been an eventful season. What else can be said? Corazón del Pueblo is thriving. The "Un Floricanto Adelanto" at Corazón was a milestone gathering of 40+ poets and a sense of community that was not exactly matched at the equally stirring USC reprisal of the original 1973 Festival Flor y Canto. Meeting Festival coordinator and photographer extraordinaire Em Sedano, hosting the spirited Pocha Catalana, traveling to San Pancho to read at the Mission Cultural Center 40th Anniversary Celebration in honor of the Bay Area's El Tecolote newspaper on Aug. 29th were nothing short of breathtaking. We can probably dispense with the obligatory recap, but reconnecting with poet/artist mentors from 25 years ago was just the shot in the arm this pobre vato loco needed. Can't say enough about the renewed sense of purpose, the writerly compromiso...

And the ride hasn't stopped. It's taking me to Cal Sate Monterey Bay to read poetry in protest of SB 1070 in a former U.S. military base on October 28th. Will try to find a ride to Big Sur and Carmel while I'm there. Taking the train to Salinas. At Corazón, Teatro Urbano has extended the run of The Silver Dollar, a gut-wrenching play about the death of periodista Rubén Salazar. They perform the historic drama every Saturday in October at 8:30 pm.

The move to City Terrace brings me closer to Corazón and the work we're doing as part of a firme collective. Still in the middle of a do-or-die Dia de Los Muertos issue of Brooklyn & Boyle but it will come. The 1st St. corridor is hopping like mad. The Metropolitan Bar is open for business. I've had the glorious opportunity to meet the 70-something Doña Teodora Sanchez, proprietor of the tintoreria up the block. More on her later. The Boyle Heights Farmers Market is a Friday staple. Un Solo Sol Kitchen is serving healthy Mexican-Salvadorean fusion, ie. pupusas made with spinach or mushroom or squash as well as asian salads and chick pea guisos. Sorry if you're unfamiliar with "guiso." Just try to think of it as a Mexican stir-stew-fry in a pan and not a wok. 'Nuff said. We'll skip the litany of ultra-cool happenings you can't miss but must perforce mention the Latino Book Festival at Cal State LA today and tomorrow. Thank you Eddie Olmos. I'll drop in tomorrow for a panel on "Latino Diaspora," a discussion among Latino exiles from Latin America living in the U.S. as a result of the civil wars and political persecution by U.S. supported dictatorships that were installed in many countries to protect U.S. business interests and the landed local elite in often violent opposition to labor and indigenous rights activist movements. Which has nothing to do with the "Batalla de la Loncheras" at the Cornfields and the Mole cook-off at Placita Olvera tomorrow, two separate events I hope to hit before settling in at the Cal State LA Book Festival...

Por ahora, we'll just have to table

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Poema Puro

Es ser escogido
nacido en el gemido
generado por
el suspiro
como una
frágil y
Es amanecer
bajo un colibri
vestido de
sobre la
cama a
ha llegado
la mujer
con piel
de nuez
como una
emisaria de
las nubes
alegres y
es tocar la
luna con mis
dedos y manos
es pronunciar
su nombre
en mil y una
y sentir
la pureza
del poema
escrito en
cada paso
en cada
abrir y
cerrar de
sus ojos negros
en cada
gota de
agua que
como conejo
suelto y silvestre
de mi boca
al verte a
mi lado

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Concierto Sin Fronteras y Beyond...

On a Father's Day jog around Evergreen Cemetery, the brilliant sound of mariachis serenading beloved jefitos near their final resting grounds floats over the retaining wall as I run along the eastern perimeter. To my left, the smells and colors of El Mercadito bear witness to the touching and tender rites taking place. To my right, David Kipen, a friend who stands slightly more than six-feet tall, can actually jump high enough to see the musicians in their burnished regalia. I am satisfied with his report that, yes, they are indeed real músicos. Kipen is a right fine cuate with a literary bent and an undeniable love for books and words. He has installed himself in the storefront across the street from Corazón del Pueblo and plans to open a small lending library and used book shop called Libros Schmibros there. In light of the fact that libraries across the land are being closed due to budget cuts (while the war machine continues to grow fat from our tax dollars), it is no small feat. Kipen was formerly the director of literary programs at the NEA in Washington DC but was recently downsized and thus encouraged to make his way back to LA. Before the DC gig, he was the book editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.

I won't harp on the whole gentrification vs. gente-fication brou-ha-ha anymore because I'm sure my friend Kevin Roderick at LAObserved and many others are done with my soap box rants on Eastside vs. hipsterville Eastside aspirations. Kipen comes recommended by Luís Rodríguez and has known one of my personal mentors--Francisco X. Alarcón--for many years. I for one, was impressed so much by his palabra credentials and his sensitivity to the neighborhood that gave birth to Brooklyn & Boyle, I mistakenly added about 10 years to his real age, a gaff for which I hope to be forgiven someday.

Anybüeys, here we are... learning how best to work and love and struggle in a collective manner that is supportive and encouraging. Kipen gives shout outs to Corazón del Pueblo and Brooklyn & Boyle in a story describing his humble bookstop project this week in Publisher's Weekly. Elsewhere, since we're making an effort here to be a bit more timely, play catch up and further procrastinate on the production of yet another vaunted print edition of Brooklyn & Boyle, it was a beautiful weekend for the 1.8 Million Dreamers fundraiser at Self Help Graphics, which featured performances by La Santa Cecilia and Conjunto Nueva Ola, a rollicking, cumbia-on-high-octane band of black patent leather Mexican Lucha Libre mask-wearing lords, who seem to have taken their fashion cues directly from the Sergio Arau playbook and simply substituted the guacarock thrust with the sonidero and cumbia vibe that has become all the rage among LA's Chicano and Latino cognoscenti since Very Be Careful followed Ozomatli onto the dance floor with the infectious, danceable ritmos del caribe. I had a brief glimpse of Nueva Ola's steaming set at Eastside Love on Friday night and got the low-down from Gabriel Jiménez, a musician himself and a stalwart Plaza de la Raza staffer.

And if that weren't enough, it's safe to say that the success of the SHG fundraiser for the movement to support college bound immigrant students was replicated at Tierra de la Culebra park in Highland Park at the Farce of July (now over a decade old) commemoration presented by Xican@ Records & Film and hosted by Felicia "La Fe" Montes and Olmeca. It was a solidly beautiful Sunday, and I was happy to bask in the late afternoon sun listening to live tunes with little brother Yaxkin Chumacero AKA MC Yoshi, who will be featuring at the Corazón del Pueblo July 14th "Flowers of Fire" open mic. And if you can muster up enough love to support the work CdP is doing, please come down to our "Concierto Sin Fronteras" for a look at el maestro Hugo Martinez Teocatl's amazing mural work and some of the best xicano music, hip-hop and poetry you'll ever witness in LA, including the above mentioned Olmeca, whose latest project, La Contra Cultura, demonstrates both a lyrical and political maturity coupled with a production polish that explains the wide interest in his music both in and outside of the U.S. and as far away as places like Ecuador, where he recently attended a north-south native people's gathering.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mother's Day in Mexico City

It´s Mother´s Day at home in the States right now. Although it isn't officially Día de la Madres here in México until tomorrow, I can still hear "Las Mañanitas" being amplified from within a church or a home nearby. The lively, cumbia-inflected band delivering the music slips suddenly and unexpectedly into Santana's "Samba Pa' Ti." The volcanic rock from which many of the streets and retaining walls in Coyoacan--the long-time artist's enclave where a group of us from LA are staying--are built, seem to bounce the sound about even more. Coming to quickly in spite of very little sleep, I realize it should really come as no surprise that a band in the middle of Mexico City would serenade mothers with the traditional birthday song and follow it with a signature song by Carlitos.

I am part of a writer group that includes: Roberto Leni, a Chilean emigré raised in San Francisco; Polina Vasliev, a polyglot Russian-born, U.S., Argentina and Brazil trained linguist; current KPCC radio reporter Adolfo Guzmán López, who also happens to be a founding member of the Taco Shop Poets, the performance poetry troupe that burst out of San Diego onto the national poetry scene over a decade ago; and me, honorary nephew and self-appointed heir to self-described cockroach poet raúlrsalinas and a proud member of the Corazón del Pueblo: Arts, Education & Action Collective based in Eastside LA's Boyle Heights neighborhood. Three years ago, I would have called my mother to describe the journey that has taken me from LA to Toluca, one hour north of here for a poetry reading in a 100-year-old building and former brewery that has since been transformed into a stylish museum dedicated to science and industry. The reading is part of an exchange dubbed the Encuentro de Escritores México - Los Angeles, and we represent the Los Angeles contingent. The exchange has also taken us to a very formal reading complete with a grand piano and a musical interlude that included a poem by Federico García Lorca set to music on a polished stage in the Aula Magna ¨José Vasconcelos¨ auditorium at CENART, the Centro Nacional de las Artes as well as a pulquería on Avenida Insurgentes in the historically picturesque community of Colonia Roma.

Sadly, the phone call is no longer possible. For the second year in a row, I am unable to make that Día de Las Madres llamada because our madrecita has already passed on. And my instant melancholy at hearing the music from outside this morning pulls me from a guest room bed on the second floor of a nicely appointed studio and office structure in the small yard behind the bright orange home where our host, photographer and poet Kary Cerda, lives with her 18-year-old son, Altair. The impulse to reach for my mother and wish her a happy Mother's Day beats within me with disquieting regularity.

I want to call even though, I'm still exhausted from a late night at El Pericazo, a Colonia Roma bar where I'd gone to hear a turntablist known as DJ Apocaliptzin and run inadvertently into a young woman named Amaranta who has just returned to the Mexican capital from LA. It was astonishing to learn that, while in LA, she had attended several Mujeres de Maiz events including the all-woman poetry celebration at Corazón. I would have called my mom with breathless excitement, explained to her how warm and receptive everyone has been, how happy I am to be alive and in el ombligo de la luna once again. I would have told my jefita how much I loved her. The fiercely beautiful hummingbird woman who bore me would have not forgotten--before saying goodbye--to tell me how proud she was and to come home safely. The thought occurs to me then that my four sisters are also all fiercely beautiful, hummingbird warrior women, who--though small figured and fine boned like their mother Juliana--are formidable thinkers, artists, activists, organizers, healers, homemakers and mothers in their own right. A kind word or praise from any one of them is always simply an extension of the empowering love I was given by a mother who gave everything while asking for nothing in return. I know undoubtedly that I would have intoned the words to Las Mañanitas and described our group's final reading the day before at El Chopo, the rocanrolero swap meet near Tlatelolco, the site of the 1968 student massacre. I would have shared how six of us, a gang including two young poets from Mexico, had gathered at three mics and broken out in a style reminiscent of the Taco Shop Poets with two poets on each of three microphones, repeating words for an echo effect and layering phrases from our own individual poems, launching them across the street-level stage for a couple hundred hard core punks, goths, metalheads, emos and straight up old-school roqueros in a symphony of sound.

I would not have failed to recount how just before we were invited to the Tianguis Cultural del Chopo stage, we were all mesmerized by the gripping, visceral power of a dance performance troupe called Butoh Chilango whose members had chalked a square on the dark street surface in the center of the audience. With their faces contorted under nylon stocking masks, some lay prone on the ground as others drew crime-scene outlines around their bodies and scrawled words inside the residual shape. "SB 1070" wrote one. Dancers also traced outlines of sneakered feet among the onlookers. I would have said how, at one point, I was handed a lipstick and been given a subtle cue to make a dancer's stocking masked face and head my canvas. I would have gone on about how others in the audience were given chalk sticks to do with whatever they wished. How one pale, thin dancer wore an open passport around his neck, covers facing outward as he stabbed at it with colored chalk. In the center of the square, a long, circular rubber loop like giant rubberband made from thin tubing about six feet in length was unfurled from within a large round birdcage. The dancers had twisted and wrapped themselves around each other using the taut bonds to rope and tie their own limbs, struggling all the while as if for life and air. Would I have recounted how my throat welled up and my stomach knotted because I thought immediately of families separated by deportation and draconian immigration laws creating orphans whose dreams of education are ignored and belittled by a broken U.S. immigration policy? Of the arrest and detention of those least able to speak up for themselves? I'm absolutely certain I would have. My mother would have understood.

On Mother's Day en el Distrito Federal, I would have liked to tell mamá that her granddaughter Alma Ixchel in Austin, the child of two amazing and powerful women who invited me to participate in their dream some thirteen years ago as a donor, has written and performed her own autobiographical monologue for Grrrl Action, a program created by the award-winning avante-garde theatre ensemble Rude Mechanicals. I would have had to say to her as well that Los Angeles también is full of incredibly amazing activista, artista and artesana mothers who are single-handedly teaching their sons to be more gentle and more kind and more complete. How East LA in particular is brimming with sisters who try to understand and live balanced, healthy lives, showing all of us by example that ancestral sadness does not have to drive us to the kind of self-destructive behaviors that she struggled to keep me from, at times with little success. I would have talked to her about the work at home in LA with Corazón del Pueblo, a space that has become a true community arts headquarters. I would have told her how beautiful and transcendent the Mujeres de Maiz poetry reading at Corazón del Pueblo had been during the month of March and how proud it has made me to represent that kind of energy and commitment to community outside of Califas and outside of the U.S. in our spiritual homeland. I would have reminded her about our pilgrimage to Chalma together sixteen years ago alongside my younger sister Patricia for a danza azteca ceremony that would alter all of our lives forever.

Can you imagine? I would have asked her. A modern, practical, even if a little bit evangélica, Tex-Mex grandmother with no real connection to our indígena past beyond her own long-lost grandmother who was rumored to be a curandera, traveling with my sister and her baby Ultima, a child named for the curandera in a book by Rodolfo Anaya. My mother hanging with concheros, riding peseras and participating in velaciones because two of her youngest were all about reconnecting with la tradición and her wayward son Abel so thrilled at the time to be running around with D.F.-bred roqueros in New York, Austin and here, in center of the moon, connected to her, to the raíces and to all creation.

Back again more than a decade después, I would have to say how it feels more than familiar, how one block off the Avenida Miguel Angel de Quevedo, surrounded by sounds and smells that caress my senses, I know she is not far. I feel her, hear her encouraging me to write more, to read more, to create more, to forgive more, to love more. I want to let her know that the Eastside of LA is becoming, for me, a satellite, a kind of D.F Norte. More than all of this, however, more than the chronicle of a poet's plight, I want to tell her that now, at 44, in a world so different and yet still so much like the one she knew, I miss her more than ever. I miss her because she really could imagine. And she could always make what she imagined real.

Monday, March 1, 2010

¡Mujeres de Juarez y Mujeres de Maíz Presentes!

Although the venue has changed, the Mujeres de Maíz throw down beginning this Sunday, March 7th is moving forward full tilt. In honor of International Women's Day and in alliance with the series of month-long events to raise awareness and help healing happen in our communities here and across the border under the banner of "A Prayer for Juárez," the firme sisters and compañeras and guerrilleras in the struggle for peace and justice bring "13 Baktun: Return of the Wisdom of the Elders." The event marks the 13th year since the birth of the Mujeres de Maiz movimiento. Filmmaker Maritza Alvarez informed me several months back that the MdM collective was actually begun in Boyle Heights, so it is only fitting that the 13th anniversary is celebrated on tierra sagrada, ground zero for Chican@ and Latin@ culture in LA. The 13th letter of the alphabet is "M," so I feel perfectly justified saying that in year 13, and forevermore the letter "M" will commemorate, for me, three very important terms that begin with "M," Mujer, Madre and Maíz. A whole slate of programs, performaces, pláticas, panels, women's self-defense workshops and more will be held at several venues on the East Side in honor of Wombyn's Herstory Month. The kick-off alone features an afternoon of free performances at the Mariachi Plaza Metro stop. Las Ramonas, In Lak Ech and Raquel Salinas are all part of the bill. Sunday will also feature an art exhibition at Primera Taza a half a block east of the Metro stop performance program. The evening portion of the Sunday launch moves to Salones Casa Grande on César Chávez (Brooklyn Ave.), a historic ballroom on the second floor just east of Mott St. La Santa Cecilia will perform with Afro-Peruvian cantautora Susana Baca, alone worth the price of admission. Mujer Mercado will be occupy the Salón before hand from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Hope to see you there. Please visit for specific dates, times and locations. We're particularly proud that the MdM have chosen Corazón del Pueblo for a MdM Core Members/Co-founders panel discussion on March 14th and for an MdM Poetry Night on Wednesday, March 18th.

All of this follows the inaugural Saturday, March 6th opening of three complete Boyle Heights arts district exhibitions dedicated to the women of Juárez and an end to the violence that has claimed the lives of more than 400 young women. Corazón del Pueblo will open an exhibition entitled "Mujeres de Juárez: ¡Siempre Presente! The show includes work by over 21 artists from LA to Texas, among them artists such as Grace Barraza-Vega, José Lozano, Joe Bravo, Anna Alvarado, Lalo Alcaraz, Arturo Urista, Emilia García and Mary Nuñez Delira, just to name a few. Luís J. Rodríguez, Gloria Alvarez, Olivia Chumacero and Felicia Montes will share poetry beginning at 8 p.m. Victoria Delgadillo, who works out of Self-Help Graphics is curating a separate exhibition that will be installed at both Casa 0101 and the Casa 0101 Annex. Please check for a list of the artists and poets participating in the Casa shows. Image above: Juárez, Mary Nuñez Delira, 2010, prisma pencil on paper.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Love Poem for Our Mothers

I want to write a love poem for my mother
and dress it in the sugar frosting flowers
she made with her hands as if by magic
I want to write a love poem for your mother
to say her child is beautiful and strong
in the world as more than just a song
or a stone encrusted silver memory
I want to write a love poem for my mother
to tell her all I did not say before or share
in those quiet moments on the telephone
before she found her way beyond the
hurt that tore so suddenly inside her
I want to write a love poem for your mother
over knitting and crochet like the iridescent
silk tie she once gave me when I went to cry
I want to write a love poem to my mother
with the hummingbird whir she left in
my chest as a permanent reminder to love
and love again

I want to write a love poem to them both
a poem that rings with the bright bells of
a birthday Valentine and a gathering of
artisan and healer women at an Eastside
carnival of love like whispers of kindness
a grateful poem that says in no uncertain way
that without each of them, neither one of us
would have ever known what it was like to
once have loved each other.

Día de los enamorados,
el amor y la amistad

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Como Quisiera

Como quisiera ser como solo una de tus palabras, nacida en tu vientre o en tu rabia o en el anhelo, palabra hecha de carne y sangre y hueso y locamente efímera a la vez. Como deseo traducirla a mis extremos y convertir las puntas de mis dedos en tus sílabas, inyectarme con cada letra de solo una de tus palabras, estar en la cima de todos tus sinapsis cerebrales para luego descender como rocío o la humedad esencial de las zonas erógenos, ser esas vocales suspendidas sobre tu lengua, recargadas en tu boca de canela y mar. Como quisiera sentirme como solo una de tus palabras y subir como tu susurro en mi oido al momento del estremecer.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Flowers on Fire, the New Floricanto

Just when you couldn't feel more thrilled about the modern day floricanto at Corazón del Pueblo, the space formerly known as Brooklyn & Boyle and now home to the first-ever Boyle Heights Art, Education & Action Collective, Flores de Fuego comes galloping at you with a third installment that riveted the 100 or so poets, musicians and aficionados gathered for the Wednesday night MICrófino Libre. Maestro raúlrsalinas and world renowned Peruvian poet Cecilia Bustamante must have been peering down in pride. What was especially touching was the presence of high school-aged students from ArtShare LA who delivered spoken word arsenals of consciousness and truth speak like true MVT Def Poetry Jam pros. The experimental piece created by Willy Herron and Sid Medina with additional vocals by Greg Esparza juxtaposed Beatles chord progressions and actual songs with poetry de tu servidor y amigo, yours truly and Brooklyn & Boyle assistant extraordinaire Christy Ramirez, who has grown considerably as a writer and arts maven/up-and-coming curator in the year or so that she came on board as a firme carnala and general all around support system. Audience members asked what we called the ensemble, and I had to shrug my shoulders. We'd only rehearsed once at Will's City Terrace hideaway and even then, inconclusively and incompletely. The Juanita's Restaurant crew, headed up by David and Julio Carrera, dropped in towards the end. From storytellers and blues singers to Kristopher Escajeda on the three-string guitar, from an emotionally taught original delivered with verve and attitude by Angela Flores, who accompanied herself on guitar, the evening unfolded like one of the best peña's or tertulia's you could have imagined. Doña Dora Magaña, a former Salvadorean guerrilla fighter literally stopped the show with her true-to-life story and several poems dedicated to the women in her brigade who gave up their lives fighting for a just world free of oppression and poverty. Really, all of the performances were stellar. Kudos once again to the Boyle Heights Bards, Bus Stop Prophet, Kristy Lovich and John Carlos de Luna, who are coming into their own as the honorary hosts and a major part of spiritual backbone that goes into this bi-monthly expression that has opened a doorway into the psychic healing ward built by poetry and song. Whew! This after a screening and plática to benefit Alex Sanchez and then the very first-ever public showcase for the Garfield High Poetry Club. Thanks to Lisa Cheby for making it happen. People say our young people are politically and socially apathetic but you wouldn't know it based on the kids who came to share. They know what's up and they know what time it is.

So that said, check out the latest issue of Brooklyn & Boyle for more art, community and poetry than usual, more on the reasons behind Corazón del Pueblo and a schedule of upcoming free classes for youth at 2003 East 1st in the heart of the Boyle Heights Arts District. If you can't make one of the many Haiti benefits this Saturday or if you find yourself itchin' to dance late night, stop by a "Corazón del Pueblo Dance Party." You won't be sorry and you'll be helping keep the lights on. Come by the Casa 0101 Annex on Sunday to recover over potluck (tamales y champurrado welcome as per the Candelaria tradition!) It'll be your last chance to see the second annual exhibition dedicated to nuestra señora reina de los angeles... la virgen morena, madre de las américas.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

El Corazón del Pueblo!

Am I not getting something? Será el pueblo tuvo algo que ver? Espero que sí. Or how is it that over 150 people showed up on a Tuesday night to hear the poets? How is it that we had to bring chairs in from elsewhere and still had a standing-room only crowd at the spot? Desde el mero corazón para el pueblo… though Jimmy Mendiola and Oscar Garza might remind me that this phrase comes lifted from a title of a Les Blanc film about conjunto music. And while this may be true, Tex-Mex conjunto doesn’t have the same resonance for the crowd that came for the palabra last Tuesday as it does for the three of us. It was Mexico D.F. meets East Los and luchadores enmascarados with shades of Chile and Colombia and El Salvador for good measure. It was canto a la liberación and barrio autonomy. It was Watts and South Central out in solidarity. It was Richard Montoya and Consuelo Velasco who came to support John Carlos de Luna and Kristy Lovich, who speak love and commitment to the ‘hood and to each other through art and poetry. It was Rubén "Funkahuatl" Guevara puttin' it down as the one true East Side beat hipster who gave shout outs to veteran organizers and activistas who came in from the four directions to support their kids and and in some cases, grandkids. It was the lil’ monsters from 700 Pound Gorilla and it was the chamacas from Gorilla Queenz, who were on their way to San Pancho to open for Africa Bambaataa at a New Year’s Eve show I would have loved to attend. How about that? Da South Bronx was, as such, was none too far away, either. And if I sing the broken-hearted love poem, perhaps one last time too many, I don’t really feel like such a culero anymore. And if the poem is about lost love, la chilanga que se me fue, or if it touched upon missed opportunities or the pain which eventually subsides, we can simply remind ourselves of the words in a poem by one of the beloved Boyle Heights bards, the Bus Stop Prophet, who, in a piece that invokes the "Blueprints of the Heavens," tells us that while life’s lessons can be hard, every hard knock is an opportunity for growth.

Yes, Brooklyn & Boyle as a space has been reborn. El Corazón del Pueblo has emerged in it’s place. The magazine will continue to flourish and grow. The new year is upon us. Make it one you will remember. Make a difference. But remember to dance, to sing, to write, to never be ashamed of who you are or where you come from. Braid your sister’s hair in a good way and tell yourself that peace and prosperity are possible in the world. Love more, live more, forgive more. Like Francisco Hernández, my soul brother, said on New Years Eve. “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

"Flowers of Fire" will return on Wednesday, January 13. Get there early. We may run out of room. As always, it's open mic. On January 23, stay tuned for Ojos de Mi Pueblo, Voces de Mi Barrio, a digital media and spoken word celebration of youth, by youth & for youth. More on this incredible project in a minute. And on January 27, Big Joe Hurt will be there to show us what Chicano Blues is all about. The Boyle Heights bards will be there in force.