Notes from Aztlán
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
I don’t pretend at highbrow Latino literature. I write violent dystopian sci-fi for a readership wanting new action, blood and mythos.
LOM is . . . Xicano science fiction for all the human tribes and a Hwarang story, that is to say, a Korean Bushido story about vengeance, justice & honor set in a future City of L.A.
LOM is . . . death on wheels, killer robots hunting for bounty, robotized apartheid, drone surveillance in the hood, honor and Great Law
LOM is . . . Death Wish in hi tech armor, killer robots, Toltec parallel universes, L.A. divided into Green Zones and Brown Zones
LOM is . . . hot rods to hell when road rage is the norm and it’s time to robotize your ride and armor up because your pretty BMW will be a target
DIVERSITY IN A FUTURE DYSTOPIC L.A. WILL NOT BE WHAT YOU THINK. THE SOCIOPOLITICAL SEEDS OF LOM’S DYSTOPIA HAVE ALREADY SPROUTED.
LOM is the acronym formed from the first letters of the words in the novel’s title (in its entirety, Books One, Two, Three and Four.) The complete title, what LOM means, will be revealed in the last installment of the series, LOM – Book Four
I describe my work as Xicano science fiction because I self-identify as Xicano and Chicano, and that is to say I am American born, an American citizen, American educated K-18 with cultural roots through my parents to Mexico and the First Nations of this continent. Others may identify as Latino or Hispanic writers and that is certainly their choice. I do not. As some readers may discover, I have incorporated certain aspects of my Xicano experience and consciousness into the LOM story.
I will add that LOM is also a hwarang do or Korean bushido science fiction novel-whose dystopic storyline runs on robotics, road wars, low riding, street gangsterism, a future apartheid and Toltec parallel universes thrown into the mix.
In fact, the mythos of the ancient Toltec warrior tradition provides a dynamic countervailing element supercharging both character development and plot throughout the LOM storyline.
Specific authors whose writing styles and subject that have inspired my writing include: Ray Bradbury, Roger Zelazny, Frank Herbert, Ann Rice, Michael Moorcock, Steven King, Ray Bradbury and Dean Koontz.
Frank S. Lechuga is a veteran of the early Chicano movement and a self-described foot soldier in the cultural and political wars of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 1950s and 60s he directly experienced the open racism and segregation that was commonplace in California and throughout America before the passing of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965.
As a young man he attended the historic Crusade for Justice National Chicano Youth Conference in Denver, Colorado in 1969, participating in numerous demonstrations throughout the early 70s and serving many times as security. He is one of the student founders of the Chicano/a Studies Department at California State University, Northridge. In a previous lifetime he has been an arts program director, English teacher and a university counselor. The father of two beautiful daughters from his previous marriage, Felicia and Polly, he has been in a long-term relationship with Liz, leader of the editorial/proofreading team that prepared LOM for publication.
Here’s a sneak peek at the cover for #FuckCancer by Robert Flores. The book is finally coming out (yay!). It’s currently at the printer and I am awaiting my proof copy. I am told that I should have the proof copy by Tuesday. Once I get it and approve it, the book will go on sale, so look for it next week!
Amazon and B&N will likely have the first copies while I await my order to ship. So if you are wanting to get your book asap, those places will be your best choices. If you’re a bookstore and want to carry this title, you can order through your Ingram account. I have put up a “coming soon” page on my shop and will let you know just as soon as I have hot little copies in my hands.
There are a ton of readings being scheduled as I write this and I will provide details as they become more concrete. We are also working on setting up a charity for donations so stay tuned for that as well. I am also looking for reviews and or press for this book and for Robert, so if you are interested please don’t hesitate to contact me.
If you want to host a reading and ora benefit please let us know!
As you can see by the cover, the photos are dynamite and capture both Robert and his hometown of Santana beautifully. The photographs were taken by L.A. photographer Art Meza, of Lowriting fame and he has eight pictures in #FuckCancer total. I’ll be working with Art to see if we can release a #FuckCancer print for charity or something along those lines.
The cover, as well as the book itself, were designed by artist Josh Divine. Josh has been doing design work for me for some time and recently was hired at Kid Robot to design toys for them. And if that’s not enough, the book also feaures a foreword by author Gustavo Arellano, who is a close friend of Robert.
Oh, and there’s #FuckCancer stickers coming too!
In any event, stay tuned and get ready because we’re gonna #FuckCancer! Let me know what you think of the cover and you can read the description below to get a gist of the book. Please share this post on your networks and help get the word out there! It’s much appreciated!
#FuckCancer is the true story of how one man beat the odds and kicked Cancer’s ass. While many people shy away from the very word “cancer,” Robert Flores, a mild-mannered butcher from Santana, California chose to face the demon head-on and beat stage IV colon cancer into remission.
You will read, in Robert’s own words, what it was like to go from diagnosis to remission and everything in-between. Most people lack the fortitude it takes to detail their own personal Hell but then Robert Flores is no ordinary man. He is Robert the Bold.
Cancer is a villain that affects us all and #FuckCancer is an uplifting and triumphant account of the trials and tribulations experienced by one man in the battle of his life. Robert’s motivation for writing the book was to give people afflicted with the disease some hope, some answers, and to give them the strength to never give up.
Also included in the book are photographs by L.A. photographer, Art Meza (Lowriting: Shots, Rides & Stories from the Chicano Soul), and a foreword by Gustavo Arellano (Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, Bordertown).
Paperback: 182 pages
Publisher: Broken Sword Publications, LLC (August, 2015)
Mario Garcia in conversation with Raul Ruiz, Gloria Arellanes & Rosalio Munoz to discuss and sign The Chicano Generation: Testimonios of the Movement
This is the story of the historic Chicano Movement in Los Angeles during the late 1960s and 1970s. The Chicano Movement was the largest civil rights and empowerment movement in the history of Mexican Americans in the United States. The movement was led by a new generation of political activists calling themselves Chicanos, a countercultural barrio term. This book is the story of three key activists, Raul Ruiz, Gloria Arellanes, and Rosalio Munoz, who through oral history related their experiences as movement activist to historian Mario T. Garcia. As first-person autobiographical narratives, these stories put a human face to this profound social movement and provide a life-story perspective as to why these individuals became activists. (University of California Press)
Mario Garcia will be joined by Raul Ruiz, Gloria Arellanes and Rosalio Munoz.
Those wishing to get books signed will be asked to purchase at least one copy of the author’s most recent title from Vroman’s. For each purchased copy of the newest title, customers may bring up to three copies from home to be signed. This policy applies to all Vroman’s Bookstore events unless otherwise noted. Save your Vroman’s receipt; it will be checked when you enter the signing line.
Tuesday, August 4, 2015 – 7:00pm
695 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91101
Just like when I get up in the morning and thank my parents for having made me a Mexican, I give thanks to life for having exposed me to the Chicana/o Movement. It has been a learning experience; teaching me the importance of helping Sisyphus push the boulder up the mountain.
If I could single out what I loved most about my life, it is that the opportunity to learn. I have met people who have become my teachers. They have given meaning to my life.
In the 1990s, I remember going to the home of my friends Cristina Shallcross and Ruben Guevara — great teachers of life. They knew I was not much for socializing, but they wanted me to meet their special guest Guillermo Gómez-Peña, who had recently been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.
Guillermo, a chilango, came to the US in 1978 and totally integrated into the Chicana/o community, exploring cross-cultural issues, immigration, and the politics of language. His works were a mixture of English and Spanish, fact and fiction, social reality, pop culture, and Chicano humor. He embraced activist politics and the theme of linguistic resistance.
He had just finished a tour of museums that included the Smithsonian, performing “The Couple in the Cage” (1992-93). His partner CoCo Fusco and he exhibited themselves in a cage, and they pretended to be from an undiscovered Amerindian tribe from an island off the Mexican coast. They performed rituals designed to befuddle patrons.
They portrayed “authentic” daily life — writing on a laptop computer, watching TV, making voodoo dolls, and pacing the cage dressed “in Converse high-tops, raffia skirts, plastic beads, and a wrestler’s mask.” The two “Amerindians” depicted a hybrid pseudo primitivism. The audience could pay for dances, stories, and polaroid photos. Some viewers were indignant and sent complaints to the humane society. They believed “that the two were real captives, true natives somehow tainted by technology and popular culture.”
Some gave them presents, offerings, and sent sympathy notes. Reactions were also violent. “In London, a group of neo-Nazi skinheads tried to shake the cage.” In Madrid, teenagers tried to burn Guillermo with cigarettes and gave him a beer bottle full of urine. They treated the Indians as if they “were monkeys—making gorilla sounds or racist ‘Indian’ hoots.”
According to Guillermo, “We understood it to be a satirical commentary both on the Quincentenary celebrations and on the history of this practice of exhibiting human beings from Africa, Asia, and Latin America in Europe and the United States in zoos, theaters, and museums.” But even he was surprised– in Spain, more than half the people thought they really were Amerindians. Some were so convinced that they were real that they said they could understand their language. “One man in London stood there and translated Guillermo’s story for another visitor… Men in Spain put coins in the donation box [CoCo] to get me to dance because, as they said, they wanted to see my tits. There was a woman in Irvine who asked for a rubber glove in order to touch Guillermo and started to fondle him in a sexual manner.” The lines between ethnography and pornography were blurred.
The responses from Native Americans and Latinos were also interesting. “They tend to find fault with the hybridity of the contents of the cage, while Anglos take this as a sign of our lack of authenticity. In Washington, for example, there was a Native American elder from the Pueblo tribe of Arizona who was interviewed by a Smithsonian representative. He said that our performance was the most real thing about the Native Americans displayed in the whole museum.” A man from El Salvador pointed to the rubber heart hanging in the cage and told everybody, “That heart is my heart.”
According to Guillermo, Western anthropologists are obsessed with authenticity. The authentic Indian, the authentic Mexico, the authentic Chicano. He found Mexicans less preoccupied with the question of authenticity. Mexico was less tainted by post-modernity and perhaps more accepting of Magical Realism.
I saw Guillermo again circa 1994 when he came to the campus. He was collaborating with the son of my late colleague, Roberto Sifuentes, on the “The Crucifiction Project.” I was into my suit against the University of California Santa Barbara so I lost track of Guillermo until the other day when I noticed an article by him titled: “An anti-gentrification philosophical tantrum, 2015” in which he critiques the dangers of the ultimate “creative city,” where you become a foreigner in your own neighborhood.
Illustrated by John Criscitello, it was addressed to “Dear Ex-local artist, writer, activist, bohemian, street eccentric, and/or protector of difference…” He continues: “Imagine a city, your city [San Francisco] and your former hip’ neighborhood, being handed over by greedy politicians and re/developers to the crème de la crème of the tech industry. This includes the 7 most powerful tech companies in the world. I don’t need to list them: their names have become verbs in lingua franca; their sandbox is the city you used to call your own.”
“Imagine that during the reconstruction process, the rent – your rent – increases by two or three hundred percent overnight. The artists and the working class at large can no longer pay it. You are being forced to leave, at best to a nearby city, at worst back to your original hometown. The more intimate history you have with the old city, the more painful it is to accept this displacement. You have no choice.”
“As your community rapidly shrinks, so does your sense of belonging to a city that no longer seems to like you. You begin to feel like a foreigner and internal exile: freaky Alice in techno-Wonderlandia; the Alien Caterpillar who inhaled… You become an orphan.” Guillermo uses imagination, a sort of magic realism to paint this new order. It becomes a “Blade Runner” set in words.
The invaders are the “zombie techies who make well over $200 grand a year, but behave not unlike obnoxious teenage frat boys.” With them the nightmare unfolds: “Full of Maseratis, Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes Benzes, the private parking lot is now protected with barbed wire fences and a digital display keypad encoded by microchips; and so are the ‘vintage bike’ racks and trash containers.”
It is “the latest American version of ethnic and cultural cleansing. It’s invisible to the newcomers, and highly visible to those of us who knew the old city. The press labels it ‘the post-gentrification era.’” He continues, “There are suspicious fires happening constantly, in apartment buildings and homes inhabited by mostly Latino and black working class families. And you cannot help but to wonder if landlords and redevelopers are setting these fires? … Is there a secret garden of violence in the heart of techno-bohemian paradise?”-Anonymous tweet.
“In this imaginary city, we no longer have citizens: we have self-involved ‘consumers’ with the latest gadgets in hand.” –Tweet.
”But dear reader/audience member, don’t take it personally, you are always an exception to the rule.’ – Tweet.”
“For the poetic record: They are mostly ‘white,’ (meaning gender or race illiterate). 70% are male and have absolutely no sense of the history of the streets they are beginning to walk on.” The description continues, “In the ‘creative city’racism, sexism, homophobia and classism are passé…”
Gracias a la vida, a life that permits me to see reality. Tweet.
— by Rodolfo F. Acuña
Understanding memory is vital to your health. An abundance of clichés such as the present is “the future and the past is the present” have been floated around. Karl Marx and Jacques Derrida added insights to the importance of memory and how it establishes a philosophy of liberation. Memories of injustice remind us what we inherited from the past.
The danger is that memories can be manipulated and used to minimize the negative impact of government policy on public health, safety, and welfare as well as cloud corporate corruption.
Memory is a needed to create new memories. Distortions today contribute to gross corruption tomorrow. What we actually learn is through hearsay. The professor or teacher interpret history through their or someone else’s memory.
We also acquire memories through the observation of current events. Thus the concept that “the present is the key to the past” takes on meaning. Negative memories alert us to the dangers of certain courses of action. Because I am so passionate about the evils of war, every semester since the mid-1970s I have shown my classes the documentary “Hearts and Minds,” After every showing I ask, “What have we learned from the Vietnam War?”
Recently it dawned on me that I should also be asking, “What have I learned about how I am contributing to the students’ memories?” In search for the answer, I reviewed memories of forty years of student reactions to the documentary.
I remember when I first showed it in the mid-70s students would cry uncontrollably and often walk out. When the scene of the two soldiers in the whorehouse came on many walked out.
The reaction was less emotional in the 1980s and 90s. There were tears but they were not uncontrollable. It changed radically in the past ten years; there are fewer wet eyes. No one seems shocked by the prostitution scene. Without reading too much into it, generational memories differ.
In 1975, the scenes in “Hearts and Minds” were real to most students. There was nothing new, and the atrocities were familiar and common place. For all the deception during the Vietnam War, there was a free press. Journalists were on the ground at home and abroad. They fully covered atrocities such as the My Lai Massacre and the napalming of children and civilians.
Although seventy-one television crew members and journalists were killed in Iraq by 2006, the same number as in Vietnam, the coverage during Vietnam was indelible for those watching the evening news. I remember when the Vietnamese soldier was assassinated – shot point blank in the head that was all my high school students could talk about. The war was being televised.
So when we view “Hearts and Minds” today, the reaction seems to be less real as the times change. There are no Walter Cronkites or Edward Murrows to engrave them on our memories. Instead we have Brian Willams and Bill O’Reilly manufacturing memories.
Without the memories the lessons are lost or softened. We are no longer shocked by scenes of the victims of the drones; they are not part of our everyday memories and in some ways are unreal. Torture and assassination are morally accepted. If in the 1960s we would have talked about assassinations, there would have been a reaction, today it is routine, part of everyday life.
The sex scene in “Hearts and Minds” that highlights the dehumanization of women, especially those of color, is no longer a novelty.
Ten years ago I asked a college audience how many 55 or over had watched porn, only one hand went up; 35 to 55, five hands; until I got to those of college age, and it seemed as if every hand went up. Porn was not as common in the sixties as it is today when the “mature” category leads the pack.
A comparison can also be made with horror films and their shock value. When I saw The Son of Frankenstein circa 1939 as a child it scared the crap out of me. Today kids laugh at the monster and horror films have gotten progressively bloodier.
What role does the present play? It scares me when I consider that the 1960s generation is not affected by what is happening in the Middle East and Africa. It leads me to ask, what about the present generation that does not watch the nightly news, but the dribble on Fox News? What is their reality? What will they remember as time distorts reality?
In 2014, AlterNet carried an article titled “The Science of Fox News: Why Its Viewers Are the Most Misinformed.” The article was by Chris Mooney author of The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality. It wrote that authoritarian “people have a stronger emotional need for an outlet like Fox, where they can find affirmation and escape factual challenges to their beliefs.”
Mooney exposes Fox’s history of misinformation and blatant lying. The article is important because it goes beyond the usual name calling. Mooney says that news should be based on available evidence, and he shows the “Fox News effect.”
An obvious example was widespread public misperceptions about the Iraq war in 2003. Americans believed the fabricated notion that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had collaborating in some way with Al Qaeda and had “weapons of mass destruction.” The lie grew to the point that a plurality of Americans believe that Barack Obama started the war.
A 2010 survey, found that “more exposure to Fox News was associated with more rejection of many mainstream scientists’ claims about global warming.” Despite scientific evidence Fox viewers do not believe scientists on global warming.
A 2009, NBC survey found “rampant misinformation” about the healthcare reform bill before Congress — “Obamacare.” 72 percent of Fox News viewers believed the healthcare plan would give coverage to illegal immigrants; 79 percent that it would lead to a government takeover; 69 percent that it would use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions; and 75 percent that it would allow the government to make decisions such as when to stop providing care for the elderly.
Although the percentages were not as bad among CNN and MSNBC viewers, misconceptions existed. Propaganda gave authoritarian personalities the opportunity to act out their biases. It created a nation of true believers polarizing society and wiping out memories.
I cannot help asking where we are heading. Vietnam and the lessons learned in the Middle East l have consequence. We seem headed for a situation identical to that of Israel with the only reality being our truth. This is especially lamentable since Jews played a central role in the protection of human rights and the civil rights movement..
Words have no meaning because they are rationalized. Lives other than our own do not matter.
Progressives are contributing to the distortion because they are tolerant of lies. Quoting Herbert Marcuse, “Tolerance is an end in itself. The elimination of violence, and the reduction of suppression to the extent required for protecting man and animals from cruelty and aggression are preconditions for the creation of a humane society.”
Tolerance is spread by the bread and circuses of the ruling elite that allow the distortion reality. Soccer games become divisive distorting our memories. It is divisive when words have no meaning and it is okay for comedians or journalists to use inappropriate words. “Tolerance strengthens the tyranny of the majority.”
The strength of the right is that it is blunt that it is intolerant and that is why they are winning.
— by Rodolfo F. Acuña
El Centro Cultural de México presents
The largest Día de los Muertos celebration in Orange County!
13th Annual Noche de Altares
Save the Date and join us on November 7th 2015 from 1-10pm on Calle Cuatro in downtown Santa Ana.
With the great help of Centro volunteers and local community members, Noche de Altares continues growing year in and year out as more and more people join the celebration of our sacred traditions.
The purpose of this celebration is to honor our ancient customs all the while bringing community members together through art, culture, and compassion.
Participate this year in various ways:
Build An Altar
Invite your family and friends to build an altar in memory of a deceased loved one or to bring awareness to a social issue. Participation is open to all members of the community and organizations.
Deadline to reserve a space is Wednesday, September 30th.
For more information please email: firstname.lastname@example.org and see attached Altar Maker Form.
Be a Vendor
Be vendor and sell your wares to over 30,000 attendees at Noche de Altares.
Deadline to reserve a space is Friday, July 31st.
For more information please email: email@example.com and see attached Vendor Form.
Be a Food Vendor
Deadline to reserve a space is Monday, August 17th.
For more information please email: firstname.lastname@example.org and see attached Food Vendor Form.
Volunteer Your Time
It takes an entire community to put on this community event! Sign up for one or more shifts.
It’s a great way for students to get community service hours.
For more information please email: email@example.com and see attached Volunteer Form.
Make a Donation
Support this free, family-friendly, community-funded event by making a donation! Your generous gift will go towards the construction of the community altar, the creation of traditional art exhibits, and supplies for children’s arts and crafts workshops. You may also make your gift in honor of a deceased loved one and have his/her name listed alongside yours in the event program.
For more information about Business Sponsorship please email: nochedealtares@elcentroculturaldemexi… and for Community Donation see attached Community Form.
Spread The Word!!!
Help us spread the word by telling your family, friends, and co-workers to join in the celebration and share the various ways they can participate in this year’s 13th Annual Noche de Altares.
Thank you for your help and we look forward to seeing you on Saturday, November 7th!
SATURDAY, JULY 25, 2015 – 12PM to 5PM
PLEASE NOTE THE LOCATION:
Boyle Heights City Hall – Community Room
2130 East 1st Street, Boyle Heights, CA 90033
(enter via Chicago Street)
PLEASE ONLY PARK ON AVAILABLE STREET PARKING & ADJACENT PARKING LOTS (DO NOT PARK ON SITE)
Self Help Graphics & Art’s Annual Print Fair & Exhibition is a highly anticipated one-day only opportunity for art lovers to acquire new, limited edition, fine art prints created by dozens of artists at Self Help Graphics & Art between 2014-2015. The Annual Print Fair & Exhibition features serigraphs, monoprints, as well as, new relief and intaglio print editions.
Art lovers of all kinds – from casual admirers to serious collectors – are invited to attend this highly anticipated showcase of artists that have participated through Self Help Graphics & Art’s Professional Printmaking Program.
The Professional Printmaking Program is the artistic foundation of Self Help Graphics & Art (SHG). The acclaimed Professional Printmaking Program has produced over 750 editions and offers artists of various experiences the opportunity to create limited edition silkscreen serigraphs and monoprints through a peer-led approach that is dedicated to providing a nurturing environment that supports our artists’ creativity and careers.
As one of the most recognized Latino printmaking centers in America, SHG is committed to taking more innovative approaches in everything it does. We have been dedicated to working with artists in exploring the juxtaposition of traditional and non-traditional printmaking processes and to the development of content that is both culturally relevant and investigative. As is our tradition and mission, emerging artists will be central in helping us experiment in each atelier.
Self Help Graphics & Art is a 501(c)3 organization. Our programs and events are supported in part by our artists, volunteers, and board of directors, as well as by our major donors and collectors. Additional support is provided by AltaMed, Bank of America Foundation, The California Arts Council, California Community Foundation, The California Endowment, Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles, The Getty Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, First District, City of Los Angeles, Councilman Jose Huizar, 14th District, National Endowment for the Arts, Rose Hills Foundation, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Surdna Foundation, Pasadena Art Alliance, Union Pacific Foundation, and the Weingart Foundation.
Last Friday (July 17), I took a little trip to neighboring Lincoln Heights for a special private event for the soon-to-open (July 25) art exhibit and gallery entitled L.A. Story: A Lowrider Cultural Event held at La Plaza de La Raza.
I was invited by my friend and photographer Art Meza aka @Chicano_Soul to experience the stories from those who are capturing the lowrider scene the best: the artists, photographers, and the lowriders themselves.
As many of you know, Universal Pictures is banking on the Chicana/o community to support its upcoming Lowriders film, which is currently in production. Since it began initial filming in the Eastside, Lowriders from the get-go alienated the Chicana/o community thanks to the paternalistic response of @filmcrewLA (now @ForLocations) and also because of Hollywood’s history of depicting Chicana/o culture as deviant and backward.
The L.A. Story art exhibit is curated by Pep Williams and is “dedicated to celebrating the culture and lifestyle of the classic Lowrider and the journey on the streets of “El Blvd” and truth be told, the lowrider exhibit was a much needed break from the endless racist stereotypes we are forced to endure by Hollywood and other media narratives.
Thus, L.A. Story is the story of La Gente, which dramatizes the need to collectively belong to a community, while at the same time responding to injustice, segregation, racism and the conservative tendencies of Euroamerican culture since the post-World War II years.
As part of Chicana/o socio-cultural history, the lowrider aesthetic defines for a generation a sense of continuity, survival, and creativity. Although the Chicana/o voice is clearly present in L.A. Story, a closer look reveals how culture is fluid and how other racial/ethnic communities, such as the Black and Japanese have also been impacted by the lowrider culture.
Inside the Gallery
As you walk the L.A. Story gallery space at La Plaza de la Raza, you can’t help but think of the working-class origins of the lowrider phenomenon with the Pachucos and Pachucas who cruised the streets of Whittier Blvd or Downtown L.A. in the 1940s and 1950s. I visualized these images when I saw a framed poster of Luis Valdez’s classic play Zoot-Suit, which was signed by Ignacio Gómez, one of the contributors to L.A. Story. And again, these images came to mind when I came upon a Chaz Bojorquez framed Boulevard Nights poster.
Usually when one thinks of Lowrider culture, it is assumed that it is mostly a Chicano (men) socio-cultural practice, but women are also actively involved. This was conspicuously missing, however, as there are only three contributions by muXeres: Adriana Avila, Laura Pelayo, and Stephanie Bueno. This does not in any way diminish the exhibit, however, but something that did catch my attention since several of the pieces prominently feature muXeres.
As a life-long Boyle Heights resident, one of the better contributions to the L.A. Story art exhibit is Adriana Avila’s Bloody Mary, an art piece done in oil and gold flake. Bloody Mary depicts the iconic 6th Street Bridge (scheduled to be demolished soon) in Boyle Heights from the vantage point of the concrete Los Angeles River. With yellow roses adorning the skyline, this seems like a fitting tribute and eulogy to what the bridge represents not only to the history of Boyle Heights, but to the city of Los Angeles.
One of the highlights of L.A. Story is without a doubt the Gypsy Rose, which is described as “the world’s most famous lowrider,” and this is what most people are eagerly anticipating at the opening reception. Appearing in the Chico and the Man series in the 1970s, the Gypsy Rose has gained fame for the lowrider cultural scene. In 2011, hundreds paid their final respects to the creator of the Gypsy Rose Jesse Valdez, a founding member of the Imperial Car Club, who died of colon cancer at the age of 64.
Art Exhibit and Benefit
There are several dozens pieces spread throughout the gallery space featuring artists, such as Frank Romero, Omar Mendoza, Julian Mendoza, Takashi Kikuchi, and many more. For those old enough to remember cruising down Whittier Blvd. in East L.A., this is definitely a stroll down memory lane, and an invitation to relieve those memories.
I highly recommend that you make the time to attend the opening. Not only do you help to counter Hollywood racism but you also send a message that are our stories are not to be commodified for profit. In addition, the art exhibit is also a benefit for La Plaza de la Raza as it continues its cultural programming for the community.
The grand opening is tomorrow (July 25th) beginning at 7pm featuring Tierra, Lala Romero, MC Pancho, host Compton David, skateboarder Pep Williams, actor-writer Enrique Castillo, an art exhibit and car show, ages 21 & over. Ticket prices are $30 and proceeds go to support La Plaza de la Raza.
What follows below are two interviews I did with photographer Art Meza, one of the contributors to L.A. Story and independent author/publisher Santino Rivera, who released Lowriting: Shots, Rides & Stories from the Chicano Soul (2014) as they discuss their work, lowrider culture, and what it is to have Chicano Soul.
Interview with Art Meza aka @Chicano_Soul
What is L.A. Story?
L.A. Story is the latest cultural event being put on by artist, Antonio Pelayo and his company, Exodus Events. It will be a concert/ art exhibit celebrating Lowrider culture. How often does Lowrider culture get celebrated? Not often enough. And certainly not by Hollywood. Lowrider’s and the Chicanos who love them are never shown with respect in movies. Instead they’re portrayed as gang members and their cars are paid for with dirty money. Now I’m not gonna say that doesn’t exist but I haven’t seen it and my photos share what I see.
How did you get involved with L.A. Story?
I reached out to Antonio and Pep Williams (curator of the art show) when I heard about this event because my goal with my photography has been to capture Lowrider and Chicano culture and share it as I see it. This exhibit is filled with talented legendary artists like Chaz Bojorquez, Frank Romero and Julian Mendoza among others and is the perfect place for it. I knew I had to be a part of it.
Describe the pieces you have included in the exhibit?
I’ve got two pieces in this show. The 1st one is titled “Colores Chignons”. It’s a photo I took of comedian and El Mas Chingon, George López’s ’51 Chevy. This ride has a matte olive green paint job that is played down to bring more attention to the metal flake painted Mexican Flag on the roof. Lowriding is worldwide now but it all started with Chicanos. The 2nd piece I have in the show is titled “Impala en Aztlán”. It’s a photograph of a ’63 Chevy Impala taken in front of the Toltecs en Aztlán mural at Chicano Park in San Diego. This image caught my attention as I was walking by because what I saw was our people, our struggles and our history all up on that wall and an extension in the form of what many consider the Lowrider car of choice, a Chevy Impala, a beautiful paint job of its own. Lowrider cars have always been an extension of their owners creativity, personality and I think that’s why they’re special.
What is Lowriting?
Lowriting was/is our (Santino Rivera) attempt to share that. By connecting with people who also share the love of the culture and including them in this Chican@ Literature anthology was a great way to get that positivity out there. I’m proud and still humbled to be a part of Lowriting.
I’m not the most knowledgable on the subject of Chicano Studies. I don’t speak the best Spanish. Hell, I don’t even eat chile but my photos have already inspired pride in youngsters to learn more about themselves and history. I know I’ve inspired a few to pick a camera and document for themselves and I feel that is how I can contribute to helping the cause.
What is Chicano Soul?
Chicano Soul is more than just one guy. It has grown into a movement and I will continue to hustle and inspire as many as possible. I got lucky and fell into this photography but if my photos can help our young Chicanit@s see the beauty in their skin color and/or culture I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing.
Interview with Santino J. Rivera
What is Lowriting?
Lowriding: Shots, Rides & Stories from the Chicano Soul is a book that I published in 2014 about lowriding culture and lowrider. It contains photography by Art Meza and short stories, essays, artwork and poems by a multitude of Chicano/as from across the country. It is the first of its kind and has resonated with people worldwide.
How did Lowriting come about?
The book came about after seeing some of the car photography that Art Meza was doing as a hobby in and around L.A. I wanted to publish a book of his work and we talked about what that would be like. This was after Ban This! was published and we decided that it would be amazing to publish some of Art’s work and pair it with stories about lowrider and lowrider culture in the same kinda way I did with Ban This. The process was very organic and I held open submissions in order to get the best material. The book has stuff from the likes of Luis J. Rodriguez, Lalo Alcaraz and Danny De La Paz just to name a few.
Why was Lowriting an important project considering there are several books on Lowriders already available?
I think the book is important because it broke new ground. There are several books about lowrider out there but in my research many of them deal with things from a historic point of view or an academic one or even anthropological. But I wanted to publish a book that told the stories behind the cars themselves and the culture that loves them. I also wanted the book to be from a Chicano/a perspective as opposed to an academic one. Despite being ignored by the press and academia, the book has really resonated with the car culture itself, which is a total and complete success in my opinion. I didn’t publish this book for lectures air fancy schools but for the families and people who sacrifice to make their lowrider dreams a reality.
What can we learn about Lowriting especially in light of Hollywood’s upcoming Lowriders project?
I believe that you can learn many things, one of the most important being that lowriding culture is as American as muscle car or classic car culture. The latter two get put on a pedestal by the mainstream while lowrider, and the folks associated with the cars, get demonized and stereotyped. Hollywood serves to reinforce these negative stereotypes ad nauseam. I took it upon myself to show people that the culture and the people are much more than what is portrayed in the movies and deserve as much respect as the classic car culture gets. American Graffiti is heralded as an American icon while Boulevard Nights is relegated to a “gang” flick. That’s wrong.
What future projects do you have upcoming?
Right now I am getting ready to release #FuckCancer: The True Story of How Robert the Bold Kicked Cancer’s Ass by Robert Flores. It tells the story of how Robert Flores, a butcher from Santa Ana, was diagnosed with and ultimately beat stage IV colon cancer, which in many instances is a death sentence. It’s told in his own voice, diary-style and includes photographs from Art Meza as well as a foreword by Gustavo Arellano, who is Robert’s friend. You can also read one of Robert’s poems in Lowriting!
After that I am set to release a couple of new books of my own material and possible an anniversary edition of my first. After that…I am keeping things secret for now.
Why did you feel a need to create your own publishing company?
I felt the need to create my own publishing company because I got tired of collecting rejection letters from publishers and ultimately took matters into my own hands. The mainstream publishing world doesn’t publish books like I do and despite the call for “more diverse books” the selection is still slim and often not even supported by those doing the calling. But I’ve been doing this in one form or another for a very long time and try and pass on the knowledge that I’ve accrued to others (especially the youth) in hopes that some of them will see that it’s possible for them to pursue their artistic dreams. Everything that I’ve done with this venture has been community oriented and grassroots and I’ve very proud of that. Not a lot of publishers can say that.