Brooklyn & Boyle is very pleased to feature pioneer artist Roberto Chavez, a historic figure in the development of Chicano Art in our upcoming Latino Heritage Month edition. Chavez, the Chicano art instructor at East LA College will be the subject of a one-man retrospective at ELAC's prestigious Vincent Price Art Museum, a marvelous new addition to the campus where Chavez taught scores of younger artists who are now household names, among them Gilbert "Magu" Luján.

We are literally only two weeks away from publishing what promises to be a riveting issue that will also include an article on muralismo in Highland Park and a history of the International Institute of Los Angeles, an organization that has provided services, assistance and advocacy to immigrants for one hundred years, among other stories that cover the vital communities that comprise the Greater East Side.

As a friend, reader or simple supporter, you can help us celebration Latinio Heritage month with advertisement that features your message to the large community of Latinos who look to Brooklyn & Boyle for great writing, art and community cultural coverage, as well as poignant pieces on the issues and concerns many of our community stakeholders need addressed for broader dialogue and understanding.

Thank you, once again, for helping us as we move forward into our fourth year.

Abel Salas
Brooklyn & Boyle
Brooklyn & Boyle, nearing its fourth year of publication, is extremely pleased and proud to bring back a tradition we began in 2009, our annual Ruben Salazar memorial tribute issue. It is a tradition born in the marriage between creative cultural expression and the legacy of journalism bequeathed to us by an outspoken leader who, sadly, we lost during the upheavals of the Chicano Moratorium season, a season of hope and struggle that lasted, say some, from 1969 - 1971.

For us, freedom of expression, the right to a free and independent press and the proud spotlight we focus monthly on the artistic accomplishments in our community have all gone hand-in-hand. We are proud of our recent July issue and have received numerous compliments, both on the caliber and quality of the writing as well as on the presentation and design.

We could never even dream of looking so good if it weren't for the many brilliant visual artists whose work as graced our front page over the few years we've existed. Our very first Ruben Salazar tribute issue cover featured a portrait of Salazar by our very own Barrio Dandy, John Carlos de Luna, whose work we have long admired. In fact, John Carlos is the only artist on the entire East Side, a born-and-bred son of Boyle Heights, who has contributed more than one cover.

Our second Ruben Salazar cover was created by J. Michael Walker, an honorary Chicano/Mexicano if there ever was one. His portrait of Salazar with a falcon on his arm rendered in prismacolor spoke to our collective regard for the popular LA Times journalist who galvanized so many with his powerful articles, columns, essays and television reportage. For this, our third Salazar tribute issue, we are blessed to present a portrait by Ernesto Yerena Montejano produced by his Hecho Con Ganas initiative in conjunction with Richard Duardo and the Duardo-led Modern Multiples print studio.

We invite you to become part of celebrating a free speech champion and a heroic figure in the Chicano movement, which now finds a new generation of dreamers donning the mantle of change makers, young people and students who are discovering in the history of individuals such a Salazar, their own voices. Reach us on FB, Twitter, or by email at to hear how you can support truly independent arts, culture and community journalism on LA's Greater East Side. We look forward to sharing more with all of you, both in and outside of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, as we reach more and more readers across the state and, yes, even the southwest.  
Abel Salas
Brooklyn & Boyle
Playwright Patricia Zamorano, author of Locked Up.

By Abel Salas

As a playwright, Patricia Zamorano doesn’t come with college credentials or the stuffy attitude that many in the realm of theatre assume in order to feel that their jobs as waiters and bartenders are just way stations on their journey to fame and glory as “artistes.”

Patricia Zamorano was raised in the projects and spent her early adolescence in and out of LA’s infamous juvenile detention centers. She did not go to art school. Nor was she trained in the Stanislavsky Method or in a Playwrighting  101 undergraduate course. She is a heavy machinery operator. She drives fork lifts and tractors and bulldozers as a regular part of her day job.

“Growing up, I ended up in juvenile hall many times, always vowing to never get locked up again. But every time I did go back, I was like a sheep with a set routine, day in and day out.  There were no resources or public discussions on how to prevent from becoming incarcerated,” says the author of a new play opening up this month at Casa 0101 Theater.
The play, Locked Up, is based on her experiences, and she hopes it will move people to action.
“The message I wanted to share generously with the youth, is hope, that there are better things to come, that even though the struggle is hard there, is a light at the end of the tunnel, that the future is and can be positive even in the darkest of times,” she confides.
Her personal experiences led her to pen her first play, You Don’t Know Me, which was ultimately produced at Casa 0101 in 2008. With Locked Up, Zamorano cements her work as a street-bred playwright who writes with compassion and a maturity that many of those art school-trained wannabes will never attain.

“What I wanted to share is that we, as human beings in a ‘modern society,’ can do better than just to keep incarcerating the youth,” she writes in her playwright’s letter. “This is a sad state of affairs when incarceration has become big business.”

“Never before in the history of modern times in, 'the free world,' has there been such an alarming rate of people being locked up by the by the thousands and right into the millions,” she explains. Her vision, as a writer, a role she is still slightly uncomfortable owning up to, is informed by the havoc she witnessed on the streets of Boyle Heights and the East Side of LA.

The play, she says, it about redemption and the possibility of personal transformation. “It’s about three female juvenile delinquents trying to survive on a day-to-day  basis, while facing their inner demons, struggles and issues.”

The play, she says, “tells the story of  Santa Chavarria, a street-wise Latina born and raised in the Aliso Village Housing Projects in Boyle Heights, who faces the demons of an abusive past and the lures of the street while trying to avoid getting jumped into a gang and coming out of the closet.”
The play, she explains, is about redemption, forgiveness and, above all, love.

Locked Up opened on July 18th as a World Premier. Co-directed by Emmanuel Deleage and Patricia Zamorano, it stars Vianessa Castanos, Cosima Cabrera, Liliana Carrillo, Angel Lizarraga, Aurelio Medina, Katie Ventura and Tony Penaran.

“I just want people to see it for themselves, and I hope they are drawn into the lives of the characters, because they are real people. They are you and me and so many of the people we knew and grew up with,” says Zamorano, smiling and still optimistic because, for her, hope and love are real.

Indie Pop band Kotolán will host a record release party to launch their first boutique 45, a special limited edition vinyl record, with a performance on Saturday, July 26th at the unique Arts District Flea Market, 453 Colyton St. Los Angeles, CA 90013 in the heart of the LA’s Downtown Arts District, The record launch—an all ages, free event—will run from 8pm-11pm. Specialty mixology cocktails will be provided by Tito’s Vodka and Agetha Tequila. A Pop Up fine art station will feature collectible works from Modern Multiples, the legendary Los Angeles fine art print studio. The Modern Multiples Pop Up will be highlighted by pieces from artist Richard Duardo, the Andy Warhol of the West Coast, as well as images from and Royal Photography’s Michael Hope. A live performance by Kotolán begins at 9:30pm.

A live performance by Kotolán begins at 9:30pm.
Kotolán, an LA fusion ensemble with roots on the East Side and the Far East continues to deliver an eclectic sound rooted in 60s mod/soul and world rhythms with a heavy retro throwback feel. The special limited edition 45 offer a Side A sould track titled “Fate.” Side B, not to be outdone, is pressed with a song titled “Space Machine,” and afro-disco world beat original that is punctuated by stirring vocals from Japanese-born Kotolán lead vocalist Junko Seki. The 45 will be released at the show, and will be available for sale online at Bandcamp and iTunes.

Led by singer Junko Seki and trombonist/songwriter Otto Granillo, two seasoned performers who are both highly accomplished veterans of LA’s diverse music scene, Kotolán has mesmerized audiences since their inception over a decade ago. Their first album La Tienda De Groove, released in 2011, showcases the band’s creativity and a gobal,multi-lingual vision that incorporates a vast arsenal of rhythms and traditions. As a result, the band has been invited to perform at an array of venues locally, including LACMA, the Autry Museum, Levitt Pavilion, UCLA and more.

Come and discover what the Arts District has to offer. The Arts District Flea Market is a creative community business space that brings innovative artisans in clothing, jewelry, art, furniture and handmade goods to the consumers and by design seeks to inspire and invigorate downtown Los Angeles.  Vendor spaces are still available, to reserve a space, go to:

The event is sponsored by Kevin Chen, owner of Art District Flea Market, Modern Multiples, Jarritos, Agetha Tequila as well as Brooklyn & Boyle. Visit Facebook page for continuously updated artist profiles and event surprises. , , ,, and

Review by Abel Salas

Give It To Me
Ana Castillo
Feminist Press, 2014
Paperback, 256 pp.

Palma Piedra, the stormy, conflicted, promiscuous heroine of Ana Castillo’s newest novel, is the kind of character you don’t want to admit you’ve fallen in love with. Give It to Me, the infinitely loaded title of the book is perhaps an over-simplication, because Palma is not simply oversexed. She merely enjoys being physical with others, and her appetites are expressed incessantly as a need for love and comfort for the most part but also as the very real ramifications of both an emotional and a physical hunger, a raw lust that can only be satiated with passion and lovemaking. The latter two are acted upon amply and in every manner of possible configurations, where traditional categories and orientations and preferences are gleefully thrown out the window.

Bluntly, Give It to Me, is a guilty pleasure, easily a one-sitting read because Castillo’s language, her dialogue, her caustic, always subtly sarcastic observational commentary as manifested in the mind of her lead character’s nearly omniscient sensibility are by no means muscular or truly literary in the traditional ways. It is, at its root, pure, rootless, and full of rooting fun, a fun-house ride through the life a woman already aware that she has attained a not so enviable cougar status but who retains a certain innocence and optimistic hope in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

Palma, named for the California palm trees her mother might have seen in California, grows up in Chicago under the assumption that she has been abandoned by said mother and raised by a strict, almost sadistic grandmother. Enter a boy child who is presumed to be her cousin, a handsome, charming troublemaker who she herself abandons early on and with whom she later initiates a long distance affair upon his release from prison for unspecified crimes.

Castillo is far from a Margaret Atwood and much less a Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, but it does seem as if the latter has had more than passing influence on the making of Castillo’s new novel. Palma Piedra expresses her femininity with a brazen, running, non-stop take-down of everything and everyone. From the “spider monkey” Mayan tree trimmer to the spoiled rich Jewish-Central American daughter of Brentwood or Beverly Hills privilege, not a single community, ethnicity, socio-economic class, artistic discipline or sexually-oriented identification is spared. Of course, the gamut is laden with stereotypical depictions of each, so there is never any danger of any real emotional or lasting connection with any single one of Castillo’s characters, including her itinerant protagonist.

Castillo is imbued with enough of an encyclopedic familiarity vis-a-vis cultural currents (both Chicano/Latino and otherwise), fusions, technological developments, social media and psycho-sexual babble from the last 30 years to make the roller coaster romp that is Palma Piedra’s life more than just the author’s masturbatory exercise. In the end, one finds that rooting, in the porrista, cheerleader-esque manner of speaking, for Palma is a worthy pursuit, even if it flies in the face of our most basic moral tenets. This is also one of the reasons Castillo’s is an important new work for an artist who has long been an outlier in the realm of letters and particularly among those whose work focuses on Chicano or Chicana literature.

If for that reason alone, beyond the sheer reading pleasure, Give It to Me can lay (pun intended) claim to a few hours of one’s albeit diminishing spare time, it would not be wasted effort. More than just an examination of issues around sex as subversive power which can be used to empower the colonized and disempower the those entitled by hegemonic systems historically at play on both socio-economic levels and in gender or sexual paradigms, Give It to Me—as perhaps an extension of Castillo’s own private personal experiences—is fascinating enough to be, if not imperative, at least not easily dismissed. The insider coding, Spanish-language word choice and the refusal to offer indirect translations, like so many others often do ala a Sandra Cisneros “I only speak Spanish in italics” mode, are for me, admirable and particularly enjoyable. Long live “la Rocky” Palma Piedra and may she get it as much or as long as she likes. A reader should revel in that wanton abandon no matter how guilty doing so might make him or her feel.

Brooklyn & Boyle
, LA's premiere Latino arts, culture & community monthly is once again pleased to share its unique perspective on the creative communities across the Greater East Side and beyond. In an effort to improve the publication and appear monthly at the beginning of each month from now on, an effort you, as readers and sponsors, have made possible as we move into our fourth year of publication, we will begin publishing at the beginning of each month.

With our July issue, due in two weeks, we once again bring you more of the great stories, interesting features as well as book, film, theater, columns and opinions you have come to love and expect, only now, it gets even better with special cover story on a major museum in LA County that was willing to share an exclusive scoop with our editorial staff, a move that means good news for both Angelenos across the Southland and art aficionados the world over. That's really all we can say, because we can't give the story away, at least not just yet.

Beyond that, we're excited to have Harry Liflan Ortiz AKA "El Art Pocho" back with a story on the Cinemateca tribute to legendary filmmaker Luís Buñuel. Senior Associate Editor Thomas Varela profiles new ACLU San Diego office director Norma Chavez-Peterson, the first Latina woman to assume  such a nationally prominent post. On the art front, Brooklyn & Boyle takes a look at the provocative and fanciful work of Cuban artist Roberto Fabelo (image above) who opens his first one-man exhibition in the U.S. at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach this month entitled "Fabelo's Anatomy."

Belinda "Deedee" García Blase, a controversial co-founder of the National Tequila Party, a non-partisan independent Latina-led movement that has supported passage of the DREAM Act and opposed Arizona politicians with outdated views and positions with regard to immigration, offers an interesting editorial this month called. "Joaquin Joaquin, Joaquin." She has been a strong advocate for immigrant rights and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.

Again, we intend to provide you with our very best and invite you to drop us a line at anytime. Of course, business owners and community leaders are warmly invited to help support our fine publication with advertising.  We look forward to helping you communicate with almost 10,000 readers a month. We thank you for your patronage and support as we move forward with a new and improved version of our news monthly. Our deadline for ad copy and artwork is January 1st. Rate cards are available upon request, and we are happy to discuss frequency discounts.

Advertising inquiries can be addressed to:
Natily Gonzalez

Inquiries can also be addressed to:
Abel Salas

Brooklyn & Boyle

By Armando Durón

Boulevard Night, 1970, Gelatin silver print with hand-applied pigment
I might as well begin with a full disclaimer: I have been a fan of Ricardo Valverde since I first met him in the late 1980s.  I have collected his works, and I was honored to speak at his funeral in 1998.  So this missive doesn’t come from some alleged objective space where pseudo art critics roam. 

A retrospective of Ricardo’s work, which opened at the Vincent Price Gallery at East Los Angeles College on May 17th (and runs through July 26th), under the title Ricardo Valverde: Experimental Sights, 1971-1996, is the first solo exhibition since 1994.  But this is his first retrospective and it is well-worth seeing.  Featuring a twenty-five year career, with over one hundred works, guest curator Cecilia Fajardo-Hill presents an artist on a mission to distinguish himself even as he might have struggled to seem to stay within the bounds of Chicano artspeak of the times.

This exhibition is a long time in coming, and comes on the heals of the UCLA Chicano Studies Resource Center’s A Ver publication, Ricardo Valverde by Ramón García last year and his inclusion in an exhibition now in Marseille, France entitled, ASCO & Friends: Exiled Portraits.  Freed from interpretations and misinterpretations, the viewer will find his or her own way through these galleries and wonder why Valverde isn’t better known, why has he been so ignored.
Part of the answer may be found in the penchant Chicanos and non-Chicanos have for pigeon-holing Chicano artists.  It is a state of affairs that is increasingly insupportable as evidence mounts that Chicano art has never been of only one type: colorful, figurative, iconic and political.  Valverde’s work as presented here is proof of why that tired paradigm doesn’t work and why every attempt to impose it only results in Chicano art being relegated to a second-tier existence.  That mistake isn’t made here.

The exhibition opens with his Master’s Thesis work, “”la juventud y la vejez,” a group of snapshots of young people and elders.  Yet even here, where he is at his most documentary, Valverde seizes on images that work to accentuate the aesthetic over the documentary. Notice the old woman and the piñata in one of the frames.  The image is arresting as the woman is juxtaposed with the very symbol of youth in Mexican culture; beginning the conversation in a direction that veers away from simple documentation.

And so it goes as the exhibition moves thematically to “Self Portraits,” “The Family” and “Espie,” “Experimentality,” “Mexico/Los Angeles” and “Low Riders in Los Angeles (Urban Scenes).” Images created in 1974 are reworked—almost repurposed—years later.  The exhibition points this out time and again almost as if to make something abundantly clear that had not been clear in the monograph of Valverde’s work.  That something, I submit, is that Valverde was a unique artist who shunned the confining premise of Chicano documentary photography.

In Untitled (Half Nude), 1979, the bottom half a woman’s body is presented, while in the 1993 version, La Espera II, the same image has been scratched and painted.  Meanwhile in Integrated School, Valverde has signed the very same photograph once in 1974 and again in 1994 after reworking the image.  What is questioned here is the very definition of Chicano art.  Is it a documentation of a community, is it an artist’s reworking of that community, or can it be both without one side accusing the other of being a fallen angel.

The best works are on the other side of a wall that breaks up the space.  Look for El Ladrón del Pan Santificado (The Thief of the Holy Bread) 1992, a gelatin silver print with acrylic and gouache, and El Fin de Mundo (The End of the World), 1992, a solarized gelatin silver print with acrylic and gouache.  These works represent the apex of Valverde’s career.  These aren’t experimental doodles, studies or sketches.  These are mature works that synthesize a career of reworking the obvious to suit a sensitive man’s aesthetic.

Experience Boulevard Night (1979), an iconic image, included in the CARA exhibition in 1990.  That work is not so much about the Whittier Boulevard cruising scene as it is about the vibe one was left with.  It allows the viewer to experience the luminosity of those hot East L.A. nights, the allure of the street, the super charge of the ladies.  The piece is more about the reasons for cruising that about the event itself.

Perhaps, Valverde inadvertently added to the notion that his work is documentary: “I think my work is evidence that we Latinos, as all other people of color, are in a struggle to be seen, to be recognized as a vital element of force [sic] in our society”, he was quoted as saying in one catalog. But a closer reading may reveal that he didn’t mean that he wanted to do it via the documentation of the community as much as to be recognized as a legitimate artist by society at large. 

Valverde taught me the importance of photography, the why and how of it.  “It’s art,” he said “just like painting and drawing. You just have to get over the idea that art is only painting and drawing.”  That seems simple now, but in the late eighties it was new to me.  Perhaps that is the reason why so many are still having trouble with looking at Chicano art through a wider lens.  This exhibition will help the casual viewer and the scholar alike to contemplate the possibility that perhaps another point of departure existed all along.

[Other events associated with the exhibition include, a conversation with the Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, Ramón García, Chon Noriega and Rubén Ortiz Torres on June 14th from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., and a Walk through with the curator Cecilia Fajardo-Hill on June 21st at 2:00 p.m.]

Brooklyn & Boyle is proud to once again offer an original work of art on the cover. Our next issue, due out next week (May 21st), features a painting by Ricardo Garcia entitled Sunset. An acrylic on canvas, the piece was selected because it evokes the hard working moms who have raised us while holding it down both in and outside the home. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be here,and  we would definitely have an appreciation for beauty and art.

Our next issue will also once again include a question-and-answer piece by El Art Pocho, who spoke to photographer Oscar Castillo, an artist who is considered one of the preeminent Chicano lensmen in the nation. Senior Contributing Editor Thomas Varela, offers an intimate look at funnyman Rudy Moreno, who packs them into the Pasadena Ice House every week.

Founding editor Abel Salas reviews Give It To Me, a new novel by Ana Castillo, a writer of extraordinary prowess and world-wide acclaim. In addition, readers will once again have the opportunity to "Ask a Wise Latina" questions about life, love and the pursuit of inner peace and happiness. And these are just a few of the things you'll find in the newest edition of Brooklyn & Boyle.

A limited amount of advertising space is still available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Team member Natily Gonzalez, a hard-working mother herself, is standing by to work with your staff to help boost your business with a strategic advertising and marketing plan. Your partnership means a great deal since it allows us to continue supporting cultural arts and education on the East Side through positive profiles, art reviews, interviews with educators, musicians, writers, playwrights, dancers, painters and sculptors as a way to showcase the talent and beauty within our communities on the Greater East Side.

Don't forget to come out and join us at the annual Sacred Heart Fiesta in Lincoln Heights this weekend for free music, food, fun and games for the entire family.

Brooklyn & Boyle
For advertising inquiries, contact:
Natily Gonzalez

LA Mayor's Chief of Staff Ana Guerrero
We are proud to share a link from the LA Weekly. This week they feature an article by Brooklyn & Boyle Editor/Publisher Abel Salas on LA Mayor Eric Garcetti's Chief of Staff Ana Guerrero.
Writer-director Richard Montoya on the set of Water & Power. Photo by Rafael Cárdenas.
By Abel Salas

It’s just after 10:30pm on 1st Street in Boyle Heights. Richard Montoya arrives in his trademark sombrero campesino with Francisco Hernández, who is playing taxi tonight because Montoya’s vintage Cadillac hit the skids earlier during the week on his way to a City Hall Water & Power presentation with Council Member Gil Cedillo and Edward James Olmos.  Hernández and Montoya go back, a long way back back far enough for Hernández to have been the natural choice for the assistant director slot on Water & Power, the debut feature written and directed by Montoya. Hernández wears a blazer with a silkscreened image of a ten-point buck across the back shoulders. The image is an early graphic representation of the film when it was still a work in progress. Tonight, Montoya carries a makeshift swag bag with posters and post cards announcing the film’s wide release on May 2nd.

“Soy el director de promociones,” says Montoya in his best imitation of a humble Mexican immigrant hawking wares with a subtle reserve. In this case, it is not sad or ironic at all but more the mark of a man who has been wearing multiple creative and practical hats for his entire life, first as a founding member of the legendary Latino comedy troupe Culture Clash, and—these days—as a new father, husband, East LA denizen, poet, screenwriter, playwright, and, yes, chief promoter of a neo-gothic noir turn on the screen that is a hyper-stylized version of the play he was commissioned to write by LA’s Mark Taper Forum – Center Theater Group in 2006.

The stage version, according to Variety critic Bob Verini, included at least one scene “so perfectly written, directed and played, so chilling and yet so hilarious, that it justifies the efforts of sketch comedy troupe Culture Clash to expand its artistic ambitions…” So yes, it’s Friday night in Boyle Heights, along a strip where many of the locals are wary of gentrification and white hipsters moving in because they’ve seen what has happened in Echo Park and what  is now occurring in Highland Park. And Richard Montoya himself, like a number of those gathered at the M-Bar on this particular occasion, often has to straddle the fence.

While he is beloved across the city as a bona fide Chicano artist who is uniquely capable of telling original stories rooted in the history, culture and heritage of his Mexican and Mexican American forebears, he must also rub elbows with politicians and Hollywood types. He is also not averse to hanging out anonymously in the paisa (Mexican immigrant) bars with equal aplomb. It’s his first night at the M-Bar, the upstart nightspot that is, for most insiders, the only real alternative to East Side Luv, it’s older, trendier, and somewhat ritzier neighbor across the street. Montoya shot an entire scene inside the East Side Luv bar and is using ESL bartenders at a VIP downtown reception this week for a free Water & Power screening in the middle of Grand Park, a showing presented by Council Member Gil Cedillo and County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Montoya has hired Buyepongo, an East Side cumbia powerhouse headed by Edgar “Metzli” Modesto. The swag bag he carries is for Edgar, whom he has never actually met in person. He knows they are playing the M-Bar this evening and wants to check them out, first hand. He’s asked Hernández to park slightly east of the both M-Bar and East Side Luv so as not to arouse suspicion or be spotted by anyone at East Side Luv who might take his visit to the M-Bar as a sign of disloyalty. It doesn’t matter that he’s been a regular at ESL for years and even held a press conference about his film there recently.

Opening for Buyepongo  is a band called Viento Callejero led by guitar player Gloria Estrada, a former member of La Santa Cecilia. Buyepongo is doubling up and has another gig elsewhere in the city, so they have not yet arrived on the scene. But the M-Bar is packed in anticipation of a show with two of the most favored Chicano-Latino outfits on the East Side. Jason Zepeda, himself a founding member of La Chamba, LA’s most well-known exponent of cumbia chicha, a Peruvian take on the genre that uses guitar in the place of a keyboard, is on deck to handle monitors and sound. Across the street, off-duty officers from Hollenbeck are celebrating at East Side Luv with a much deserved boy’s night out. Less than a block away from the neighborhood’s famed Mariachi Plaza, Richard Montoya settles into a cozy M-Bar back patio where he is recognized by a line of people who know his work and have watched with pride as he has slowly—over the last two decades—woven himself into the fabric of life on the East Side, the East Side that is revealed and paid homage to in his film and which he has connected to artistically, spiritually and emotionally as an h eir to Chicanismo and Chicano art.

An adaptation of Montoya’s play, Water & Power was polished at the Sundance Feature Film Lab in 2007. The story rests with twins, Gilbert and Gabriel García, nick-named respectively Water and Power by their father, a blue-collar DWP employee who instills in them a sense of pride and responsibility. Gilbert grows up to be a senator and Gabriel becomes a senior LAPD officer who has done things under the cover of his badge for which he is ashamed of and for which he fully expects retribution. The film transpires through the course of a single night.

“Making Independent Cinema is not easy, but it is essential if we are going to be at the center of our story telling,” writes Montoya on his Facebook page, which is at the center of thousands of re-posts from friends and family who really want his film to succeed. Among them is acting powerhouse-cum-producer-director Edward James Olmos, who describes Water & Power as “masterful,” and was only too happy to sign on as one of the movie’s producers.

“We love Eddie. He got us those electronic billboards at the Citadel right on the 5 Freeway for a whole month to announce the film,” adds Montoya. “Imagine driving by at nght and those LCD lights, or whatever they are, say ‘Water & Power’ then switch to ‘Agua y Poder.’ For the Chicano and Chicana filmmaker, we’re promoting a whole movement to elevate each other’s work,” he says with regard to his support for the recent Cesar Chavez film by Diego Luna, who worked closely with the Cesar Chavez Foundation and the Chavez family to create a portrayal of the UFW co-founder that would be honest and respectful at the same time.

“We have a foundation here,” he says, addressing the hipsterization or gentrification of traditional neighborhoods where the poor Black and Latino populations are in danger of being displaced. “We didn’t just get here from Iowa with ä CBGB t-shirt. We [Chicanos] have all come from here or places very much like here.” We have a responsibility, he says, to uphold the integrity of those communities and the cultural life that made them vibrant when they were neglected and abandoned and ignored by everyone else.”

“We’re carrying a lot of water for a lot of people,” Montoya declares flatly, which something his film will do by turning the camera 180 degrees and depicting, albeit sometimes in dark, ominous tones, the eastside from the point of view rarely ever witnessed on the large screen. Later, at his new home somewhere on the southeastern corner of City Terrace, over crackers, cheese and wine, he says good night to his son Mountain, a small daredevil in skivvies and with a reluctance to sleep well beyond closing time and last call. His wife Consuelo, an administrator at Otis Art School tries hard to deal with the ardent resistance that surfaces when the child decides he wants to stay up with papá and a guest. as Montoya looks ahead.

“We have to find a way to get into the business of television,” Montoya explains, “Television is where the money is, and we should all be working, writing, you, me, the kids making web-TV… but the future is good in terms of telling more specific stories. “I tip my hat to Diego [Luna]. What’s left to us is making sure we don’t ever stop writing and telling our stories.
“Art is something we leave behind, and this is important. The awards, the dinners, the BS is nothing compared to the art, first and foremost. So in that context, our screenings are a call to action,” he says. “That’s why it’s so important to get out to support films and stories by us for us, the human race.”

Montoya is aware that his Chicano-centric take on LA will make many of those who are part of the industry uncomfortable. He is unafraid of the consequences. He is, after all, a peacemaker who has to balance opposing agendas, often from those who don’t realize that their move to the barrio, as artists or creative types, has its downside. While the newcomers to the East Side may sincerely feel that they are truly here to honor and respect the culture they have discovered, they are blind to the fact that their arrival represents a new kind of colonialism, one underscored viscerally in Water & Power.
Adelina Anthony as Yoli in Bruising for Besos. Photo by Marissa Becerra.
 Interview by Karla Legaspy

Adelina, you are the writer, director, co producer and starring actor in our film Bruising for Besos. That is a lot of responsibilities. How do you juggle the different hats you have to carry and still have the energy to focus on the creative process of writing or acting?
Bueno, figuring out the hustle of when and how to juggle multiple demands has been part of my queer Xicana artist life for well over 20 years now, especially if you want to preserve a vision or keep the integrity of a project.  The demands never cease, but what I figured out over the years is that the creative part of my life comes first.  Meaning, I give my writing or acting the first hour(s) of my workdays.  I meet the rest of the responsibilities by setting priorities and delegating duties to other team members.

Y honestamente if I want the energy to actually do the work, I make sure to get my seven to eight hours of sleep.  “No” is a powerful word to put into healthy practice.  We tend to feel bad as mujeres or activist oriented artists when we decline offers, but setting good boundaries is a must.  I want to enjoy my life too, not just be working all of the time.   Replenishing my spirit is crucial to the work I do.  And I’ve had some health setbacks or “warnings,” so even I know I have to get better at the practice of rest and balance.  More importantly, I have collaborators that are also wearing multiple hats.  This is the vision of a company, of team players.

As you know I am a great fan of your work, not only your acting, but, your writing fascinates me! I saw the solo play Bruising for Besos and I’ve read the screenplay and they are very different. I love that the corazon and spirit in the play still lives in the film.  What inspired the new elements and characters of the film?
Gente should know you’ve not only been a fan, but, in truth, a supporter in real ways, from my stage manager to my actor and now my co-producer.  You’re also an ideal audience member, so when you say you love my work, I know I’m doing something right, something right for us as Xicanas, muxeres and jotas.  I started adapted the work into a screenplay in 2012 knowing and expecting the new genre to push the story in different directions.  But, most significantly, last October I woke up thinking about changing the script in a major way, because I was starting to realize I had too many stories in the work.

I really owe thanks to my filmmaker friend, Masami Kawai, because we met later on that same day, and she was honest enough to give me the same feedback.  She’s also been a great supporter of my work, so I knew her eye on the script was coming from a place of love.  Plus, she was affirmed that gnawing feeling I was having about the work, so I didn’t resist the note at all. I think when you’re kicking the “theater play” out of the screenplay, you just have to be willing to write new material altogether, preserve the essence of the story, but go somewhere new and deeper.

I knew I wanted to focus the main story on Yoli’s adult life in Los Angeles.  I had already created a role for one of my best friends, D’Lo, but I increased it in size last Fall, because I want to showcase not just my acting talents, but those of other QTPOC and allies of color.  Truth is, I’m inspired daily by my queer/trans people of color communities and how we survive and thrive.  I wanted a film that reflected us in beautiful and complex ways.  As one of my maestras would say: Write what’s missing.  And when I look at feature films: we are missing from the stories.

How does the film Bruising for Besos relate to the xicano or queer experience in Los Angeles?
Pos, our protagonist Yoli Villamontes identifies as a queer Xicana and she’s been living in Los Angeles, making familia with all kinds of queer gente.  But, as we know, there is no one Xicana/o or queer experience.  There is a plethora of stories that can be told from these embodied histories. And our comunidades are hungry for this diversity on storytelling.  Claro, when people see the film, there’s will be no denying that it is a queer Xicana story, it’s steeped in Spanglish también. 
But to be real, Yoli doesn’t represent all queer Xicanas, she’s just one character on a journey many of us will be able to relate to in one way or another, either because we’ve been there or we know someone who has.  Also, one of the tenets Xican@s abide by is the practice of looking back in order to move forward with our lives.  This is very present in the film, both as theme and structure.
What inspired you to create a cast of diverse characters? It’s something very new for me to read a script, watch a movie or even read a book with diversity. We live in L.A, and it’s a diverse city, but we are somewhat still segregated, but in your script I don’t see the segregation.
I guess this script reflects my life in that way, the real diversity I experience with my friends, as do many other queers of color.  In some ways, I think this is another aspect that will make the film relatable to people outside of L.A.  Places like NYC, Chicago, Austin, and Oakland where our queer/ and communities of color mix more readily .  Let’s just be real about L.A. and its intense history of a deliberate segregation that was/is imposed by political forces outside of our communities (read Gaye Theresa Johnson’s brilliant book, Spaces of Conflict, Sounds of Solidarity).
But when you’re making home and familia as queers, you have the opportunity to make connections with other culturas.  It’s not without its trappings, primarily because we’re so poorly versed in each other’s ethnic histories, but it does allow us to enrich our own experiences and open up to each other in nurturing ways.  This being said our film is primarily Xicana/Latina more than anything else, and one of my goals was to show different kinds of queer Latina characters in relation to each other.

We know one theme in Bruising for Besos is domestic violence. Do you think domestic violence is still a taboo in our communities? How will this film make a difference in how we perceive same sex domestic violence?
Yeah, it’s taboo todavía.  It’s hard for nonqueers mujeres to address it, so imagine jotas who may be dealing with homophobia in their family?  They’re not going to bring up any issues of same-sex domestic violence because they’re already feeling judged.  My hope is that the film breaks silence in both queer and hetero relationships, because it’s a social issue that affects so many of us.  In the end, we queers have been raised within heterosexual families, we’ve been shaped by the traumas experienced by our parents and familias.  I know I had to face that fact in my early twenties.  I never imagined I would tolerate any kind of domestic violence because my mother had been victimized by it. But I know we do this thing as queers where we somehow consider it different because the physical or verbal violence is from the person of the same gender.  But domestic violence has myriad forms and it infects our society.  We have to look at the wounds to find the medicinas we need to heal. That’s my hope with the film, that it will highly entertain as it also brings great awareness to this social issue.

I know you as an artist and know that everything has a meaning. What are some symbols in the film that carry great meaning for you?
Yeah, you know me.  I would say the biggest symbol is our film’s logo which is from a visual art piece I made back in 2005.  It has a pair of female hands holding Coyolxauqui.  For Xicana feminists, this Mexica moon diosa has had significant cultural weight as we identify ourselves with her story as the betrayed daughter in a patriarchal mundo.  So that symbol is crucial, it’s something visual for us to immediately recognize.

It’s not mainstream like the Superman logo per se, but that’s the point, it’s culturally specific.  The pair of hands around the symbol allude to how this one Xicana character takes up the story for herself.  At one point in the film, her lover, Daña, who is Boricua asks her what the symbol means, and Yoli says, “It means I take care of myself.”  And while that may sound empowering, and it is, it’s also a character flaw.  But there are other meanings sprinkled in the story, but they all came about organically.

We know that indie films are hard to make and funding seems to always be an issue. What can our readers do to help AdeRisa Productions bring this film to life?
Grrrl, funding is THE issue.  We are an ultra low budget film, and it’s still a very real challenge to generate the funds, but we haven’t given up because of the people who do believe in it.  Last month at the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Intensive I had a very affirming experience, in particular, with the great feedback and sessions I had with my two advisors.

We just need a fraction of what most films cost to make these days, the more we raise, the better our production values.  Because the talent is there, we just held two weekends of auditions that proved that to us.  I owe big thanks to Alma López for recommending them and introducing me to one of their very supportive programmers, Stephany Campos.  People can search for us on their or go to our www.BruisingFor website.  We’re making this film in July, “come hell or high-water.”