This month, we honor Latino heroes, veterans who served in the armed forces and came home, often to face difficult readjustment. My own father was wounded in Korea, was awarded a Purple Heart and, finally after much prodding from his children, sought treatment for PTSD during his late '60s. He is now 82. I am extremely proud of him for his bravery and for making it back from what he describes as the worst nightmare anyone should ever have to bear. Even as children, we were not allowed to use or play with fireworks on New Year's Eve or the Fourth of July because the sounds made him uncomfortable and reminded him of the hell that was war. He saw terrible things as an 18-year-old enlisted man, things he has been very reluctant to describe. Every year, I call him on Veterans Day. This year, he said not to wish him a happy Veteran's Day but to instead wish him luck with a surgical procedure he underwent yesterday to replace two stents in his heart.

Here in Los Angeles, we would also like to remember and honor those like Eugene A. Obregón, a Marine who gave his life to save a friend. Raised in Boyle Heights, he fought in Korea and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his sacrifice. Our cover features his portrait. And as such we would like to call upon our elected officials to consider placing a historic plaque in his honor at the East LA park that bears his name. We celebrate, as well, the legacy of Guy Gabaldón, another son of LA's Eastside who went to Japan as a Marine during WWII and single-handedly captured 1,500 enemy troops and civilians. A new housing development created specifically for senior Latino veterans by East LA Community Corporation in a partnership with Co-developer New Directions for Veterans on Beswick St. is named in his memory. Unfortunately, Gabaldón was not awarded the Medal of Honor for his intrepid bravery. While he was awarded the Navy Cross, the nation's second highest military service award, many feel that he deserved, like Sergeant Alvin C. York, who as the leader of a small band of US servicemen, was able to capture 132 German soldiers, to have been recognized with the the Medal of Honor. Our friend and mentor Ignacio Gómez was commissioned to create a clay bust of Gabaldón, and the story will appear in our pages as well.

We are proud, in addition, to feature a moving report on the renewal and re-launch of the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference by Thomas Varela, who was a first-hand witness, during his own youth, to the impact and legacy of walk-out leader Sal Castro, an educator whose work steered so many young people who have gone on to become prominent leaders in government, industry and the arts since those heady days of the early Chicano movement.

The serialized novel by Claude Martinez, a work in progress tentatively titled HORSES NOT ELEPHANTS, continues to follow the exploits of fictional 1940s Boyle Heights private investigator Tony Varela.  In this issue we add another chapter to the forthcoming detective novel.

We also, pay tribute Richard Duardo, a maverick artist who passed unexpectedly this week. Known as the Warhol of the West, he was the founder Modern Multiples, a fine art printing studio where he reproduced silkscreen images from the most prominent artists of our time, in addition to creating his own original works. We were fortunate to have had his help on our August 2013 issue in a collaboration with Antonio Pelayo. I believe our interview with him may have been the last published feature story on him and his significant contributions to art in Los Angeles.

As always, we invite you to support independent journalism that focuses on the communities which comprise the greater East Side. Your ad saluting our Latino veterans is a perfect way to help us all remember that their sacrifices and service will not go unheralded or forgotten. Your support is invaluable and helps us continue to highlight the beauty and history and heritage that, we as residents, small business owners, and stakeholders in the Greater East Side, who live and work in communities like El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Boyle Heights and beyond, are heirs to.

with respect and gratitude,
Abel Salas
Brooklyn & Boyle
Welcome to Sam's Barbershop, the funniest (and cheekiest) column on LA's East Side!

“Is there a long wait?”
“Maybe ten minutes. Just one ahead of you.  Chuy there is next.  This is Carlos, and over there in the other chair is Al Valdez, better known as Buckets.  Buckets is getting his haircut by my partner Art, my name’s Sam.”
The stranger nodded in acknowledgement, picked up a copy of Sports Illustrated off a table, and sat down.
“Hey you guys, what do you think of Gloria running for City Council?” asked Chuy.
“I thought she got turned out and couldn’t run anymore,” said Art.
“Termed out,” corrected Sam.
“That only applies to Supervisor,” said Chuy.
“What’s the difference?”
Sam shook his head in exasperation and continued to cut Carlos’ hair.
What’s the matter Sam, don’t you think it’s a good idea?” asked Chuy.
Sam remained silent.
“He doesn’t like her,” declared Art.
“Come on, man, you know that ain’t true.  Molina has done a good job, but it’s time for somebody younger.  We need new blood to move forward.”
“But she has experience,” offered Chuy.
“So does Huizar.”
“All those politicos are the same.  That’s why I never vote,” said Art.
The stranger leafed through the magazine and smiled.
“What do you think Mister?”  Sam asked the stranger.
“About what?”
“Should Molina run for City Council?”
“That’s up to her.”
“That’s what I say,” said Art.
“But,” continued the stranger, “it’s kind of odd for someone to run for City Council after she has been on the Board of Supervisors.  Don’t think anyone has ever done that.”
“Then why is she running?” asked Sam.
The stranger remained silent, shrugged his shoulders, replaced the magazine on the table, and scrutinized the shop and its occupants.
“What else can she do?  She’s never done anything but run for some political office,” snickered Art.
“Ain’t true,” responded Sam.
“She obviously thinks she’s still young enough.  As a matter-of-fact, the rumor is that she really wants to be Mayor,” offered Carlos.
“Hate to be rude man, but she’s no spring chicken,” said Art.
“What do you think, Buckets?”
“He’s asleep,” laughed Art
“No I’m not. Just resting my eyes.”
“So what’s your opinion?”
“I really don’t care.”
No one said anything until Sam said in a semi-angry voice, “It’s guys like you and Art that help create professional politicians, instead of real leaders.”
“Don’t get pissed off,” said Buckets.
“Well it’s true.  Guys like you are always complaining, but don’t even vote.”
“Haven’t missed a vote in sixty years.  I just don’t think it makes a difference.”
“Then why do you vote?”
“Because it gives me the right to bitch.”
“I don’t get it.”
“It’s this way” Buckets explained, “I use to be pretty gung ho about politics.  My folks were radical lefties.  In those days most everybody in Boyle Heights was an FDR Liberal.  I guess I still am.  There wasn’t a meal at our house that didn’t include a political discussion.”
“So why don’t you care who gets elected?” questioned Art.
“Because I’m an old cynical son-of-a-bitch.”
“So what’s new?” piped Art.
“Yeah, we know what you are, but that doesn’t answer my question.”
“You mean, why don’t I care who gets elected?”
“I guess it’s because it doesn’t matter who’s in office.  Things never change.  We are still debating the same things we did back in the Fifties. Violence, poor housing, low wages, high school drop outs, and police brutality. The only difference now is that we have Latino politicians doing the debating, and Latino politicians are no different than non-Latinos.  All they’re interested in is getting re-elected.”
“Jesus, Buckets, don’t you think things are better?”
“In some cases they are worse.”

by Abel Salas

Are we witnessing the slow death by commercialization of the Día de los Muertos tradition? Each year, with the ever-growing tidal wave onslaught of events, art exhibitions and celebrations sponsored by corporate interests who are only keen on marketing products that are at best unharmful and at worst, far from benign, I have to ask myself.

For the record, I won’t go to Hollywood Forever Cemetery ever again. Sure, it was cool for a while, an opportunity to see some interesting altars, hear some great bands, many of whom I’d known from work on the real East Side and as a former record business professional in the Latin music industry. But after witnessing half-hour to an hour lines for watered down margaritas there and paying a cover at the door, I threw up my hands and said, “enough.”

Día de los Muertos in L.A., as an expression of creative energy wrapped in the rebozo of our spiritual ancestry and our indigenous roots, was first celebrated by artists and community folks who came together at Self Help Graphics 41 years ago. Back then, being Mexican or Chicano was still a thing to be disdained by the same hipsters and trendy culture vultures who go out of their way these days to paint their faces with the unmistakable calavera mask and go on any one of many Day of the Dead party crawls come the 1st and 2nd of November.

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t become aware of Día de Los Muertos until I was in high school. It was the early '80s, and I was in Austin, Texas when Sylvia Orozco, a south Texas Chicana artist and her then partner, a Mexico City-bred painter and muralist named Pío Pulido, rolled into town and set up shop as Mexic-Arte. Obviously influenced by both what had been happening in LA and Pulido’s close connection to the actual tradition as observed in places such as Oaxaca and Puebla, they recruited me to organize, cast, co-write, act in and help direct a short Día de Los Muertos farce, a staged comedy that involved a pair of star crossed lovers and a politician.

That year, I learned about José Guadalupe Posada, the legendary Mexican printmaker who pioneered the skeleton images and the tradition of limerick rhymes poking fun at contemporary political and social figures. At the same time, I was witness to the explosion in local Chicano art and learning first-hand how to hang exhibitions, in this case, of art inspired by the Día de Los Muertos tradition.

Coming to LA in 2000, I had already even attended more indigenous, grass-roots Día de Los Muertos observations that excluded art and painted faces entirely. These were serious, all-night vigils filled with songs and prayers and candles that were meant to accompany our departed loved ones on the journey back from the underworld. We burned copal and shared cups of hot chocolate and sweetbread as others formed sacred indigenous Aztec symbols with flowers of different colors on the ground. Later, these flowers would be lifted and tied to long dowels or rods and these flower encrusted rods would be rubbed over our bodies in a ceremony of symbolic purification and rebirth at sunrise.

So you’ll understand if I’m a little soured on alcohol-fueled Día de Los Muertos-lite. I have nothing against arts organizations truly rooted in community work or neighborhood activist and advocacy organizations honoring the tradition with expressions of art, the sales of artisan created Día de Los Muertos merchandise. This is a good thing. But I have to draw the line somewhere, and if you were not raised with the Día de Los Muertos tradition or only come to the East Side this time of the year to get your drink on and get your face painted then I don’t have any use for you. You’re not doing this community any favors just because you hopped on the Gold Line or rode a bicycle from North Hollywood and dropped your donation at the door.

Mindful people would make it a point to remember that Day of the Dead, as originally expressed, was about reverence, about remembering our kith and kin on the one day out of the year they are allowed a visit to the earthly environs. It is all well fine and good to support deserving organizations, particularly those that are about empowering the least of us through arts education and cultural programming. And yes Brooklyn & Boyle has signed on as a sponsor for at least one Day of the Dead art party where Red Bull has left a heavy imprint. Check the inside back cover of the new print edition, if you must know. But that still does not and should not impede the serious considerations proffered in this editorial, written in a sacred city where ancient sorcerers once trained, in the mountains about two hours southwest of Mexico City.

Here, the church bells ring all day long and the tombs are, even now, being decorated with cempasuchil (marigolds) and papel picado. We don’t want Walt Disney to own a piece of our spiritual past, present or future. You make that possible when you forget that it is not just another day like Halloween, but rather, a blend of our Catholic and indigenous belief systems developed to honor both traditions equally. Please regard it with the seriousness it deserves. It’s not a party and it never was.

Six years ago, when I began the epic experiment that would become Brooklyn & Boyle, it was, essentially to nurse a broken heart and a nearly broken spirit back to life with a return to work as a writer, work I had begun in earnest while still a child. Had a grand total of $80 and a laptop borrowed from the DJ sound booth at Eastside Luv wine bar y QueSo to get started. I had no idea it would last as long as it has. I was told by Mark Kraus at Josefina Lopez' Casa0101 Theater today that the paper appears to be very well established. Admittedly, it has been the toughest struggle I've ever faced. We still fly by the seat of pants on a shoe-string, but along the way I've been blessed with the opportunity to meet, share and work with countless creators and makers of culture, art & artesanía. In the spirit of gratitude we offer this Saturday's survey of cover art from Armando Duron and his family's collection at Rock Rose Gallery in Highland Park. He has all 42 editions. We started with a Dia de Los Muertos issue in Nov. of 2008. And here we are again. This issue has to be out by next week. I simply wanted to thank everyone all the patience, kindness, love, friendship and willingness to forgive, even when I didn't deserve it.

This will be our sixth Dia de Los Muertos edition, so we especially want to thank the advertising sponsors who come to our aid over the years. I'm especially excited with new additions to our volunteer staff and with the growing number of young writers and artists who get it. Obviously, there is still some last minute room to get your Day of the Dead event, special, party or exhibit included. Or rates are economical and when you buy and ad you support the arts in a very direct way.

best regards always,
Abel Salas
Brooklyn & Boyle

Abel Salas
Brooklyn & Boyle

by Citlalli Chávez

  On a recent warm LA Friday night, in the heart of Boyle Heights, loyal fans and supporters of Viento Callejero packed into the MBar to celebrate this up-and-coming band’s much-anticipated CD release party.
   The celebration was a culmination of a recent crowdfunding effort organized through a Kickstarter campaign in which community contributors, organized primarily through social media platforms, raised over $8,000. The money allowed this trio to showcase their diverse musical backgrounds and talents with the release of an eponymous CD.
   Composed of three permanent musicians, Gloria Estrada (formerly of La Santa Cecilia) on guitar, Federico Zuniga, Jr. (Grammy-nominated Sistema Bomb) on the bass, and Gabriel Villa (Chicano Batman) on the drums, the trio manages to cover classic Colombian Big Band Cumbias infused with electric psychedelic sounds that give the band it’s unique and novel sound. Viento Callejero, as the name implies, intends to uplift and “scoop up” as a wind current might, an itinerant camaraderie among musicians within LA’s impressive Independent Latin music scene.
   “We scoop up the talents of the ‘callejeros’ and we have honorary ‘callejeros’ all of the time and the name suits how we are. We’re about the party. We’re about hanging out, but it also represents how we are as a band. We wanted to make collaboration more dominant and to be that band that glues talents together,” elaborated Estrada.
   In accordance with the “street” or “callejero” tradition, Viento Callejero has long featured a rotating cast of singers that sit in during live performances, a tradition which is also reflected in the new CD. The record, as a result, includes guest turns by a number of vocalists and musicians from among the local independent Latino music milieu, among them Martha González from Quetzal, Leah Gallegos from Las Cafeteras, and Edgar Modesto from Buyepongo. Zuniga commented on the unique experience that is created within the band and the novelty of each show, saying “when we play, we have to change the key, we have to change our approach, the song can be more aggressive with one singer while having a completely different feel with another singer.”
   The variations in singers, musical instrumentation and talents highlighted through the “honorary callejeros” tradition also allows the audience to explore and appreciate featured artists in a new, uninhibited musical setting which lends itself to innovative improvisation on stage.
   The Viento Callejero sound offers audiences throughout California to witness a band where each musician assumes numerous roles within the trio. “When musicians listen to our sound, they can really appreciate what we are doing as a trio because they can see how hard we are working,” explained Estrada. “To have a drummer play the role of a percussionist and background singer, Federico [to] not only to hold down the bass but also do melodic lines and singing and myself not doing montunos on the guitar, I am following more of an accordion line while also singing, I think they notice we are doing a lot.”
   The essence of the novel sounds they imbue classic Colombian big-band tracks with can be found in the song “Cariñito,” available on the new album. “You hear different elements of not just Afro-Colombian cumbias, you hear a little bit of reggae, a little bit of hip hop, rock, funk, the psychedelic… those aspects, where we just thought outside of the box,” Zuniga recounted.
   Another track on the album, “Tolu,” a 1950s Lucho Bermúdez hallmark song with elements of cumbia, porro, and gaita, opens with the classic big-band version of the famous track and then quickly morphs into Viento’s signature style, riddled with their electric, psychedelic, flare. These musical innovations combined with the voices, creative expression and instruments that have become staples in the LA’s indie Latin scene can be appreciated throughout the composition.
   From before it inception, Viento Callejero has been adding a slew of new footnotes to this long-vibrant musical community. Estrada grew up in Boyle Heights and found her passion for music at Roosevelt High School. She eventually pursued a music degree at the University of Southern California (USC). Zuñiga Jr., from San Jose, developed his passion through the influences of his musical family and his musical exposure in East San Jose; and Villa, from Colombia, brings his affinity to Afro-Colombian Cumbia and rock.
   Founded upon their varied musical exposures, Viento Callejero is serious about finding the common elements between numerous musical genres, ranging from classic Veracruz sounds to New Orleans line and brass bands and to traditions birthed in Colombia and Jamaica. They are intent on re-imagining these diverse schools of music through a modern lens.
  The album cover, featuring the artwork of San Jose-based artist Rodrigo Oliva, uplifts this broad reach in similar way, capturing the wild spirit of invention with vivid, psychedelia-inspired artwork.   The piece depicts an Urban Calavera formed from tree branches seated at a curb playing an electric guitar, wearing a sombrero vueltiao, typical of Colombia’s coastal region. Above, the downtown LA skyline is accompanied by two palm trees, numerous other objects commonly found on urban sidewalks and a spray-painted album title.
   The pictorial iconography found on the cover juxtaposes the organic and coastal next to the electric and urban, representative of the music contained within its sleeves. The cover captures precisely what Viento’s band members intended.
   “Album covers back in the day presented what the music sounded like. Nowadays, you have music that sits in a magic box in the sky and you can’t touch it or appreciate the artwork as an aspect of the album. We wanted to present that element to the people,” continued Zuñiga, Jr.
   You can support our local community artists and musicians by picking up Viento Callejero’s fisrt CD at Espacio 1839,  located at 1839 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA or by  finding available digital downloads on cdbaby or iTunes.

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.