Showing posts from October, 2019

Altarista Ofelia Esparza Headed to Smithsonian

Altarista Ofelia Esparza heads to Washington D.C. this year to create a Día de Los Muertos ofrenda honoring her indigenous ancestry for the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. Image: L.A. Museum of Natural History  By Abel M. Salas Although she will blush and shudder with nervous embarrassment to hear it said, or read aloud from these pages, Doña Ofelia Esparza is clearly on her way to becoming synonymous with the ofrenda. Literally an “offering,” the ofrenda, or “altar” is a spiritually-based expression of reverence or love traditionally assembled to honor the lives of departed loved ones. Today, however, it is just as likely to represent an idea or a political message. In the course of a quiet and unassuming second-act career as a fine artist over the last 30-years, Ofelia has earned a pristine reputation as one of the nation’s preeminent altar-makers. Widely acknowledged as a leading exponent and master practitioner of a cultural tradition she was first made aware of

'Til Death Do Us... Honoring Los Muertos at the 10th Anniversary El Velorio

Ofrenda by Isaac Pelayo, mixed media, 2019 A TRIBUTE IN HONOR OF THE 10TH ANNUAL EL VELORIO DAY OF THE DEAD FIESTA By L.N. Amoratto It’s all about the ofrenda , you know, the trunk-load of plywood cut into uniform shapes. Pelayo has it down. You give an army of artists what passes for a universal canvas that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and obligates everyone to work with the same piece of wood shaped into a cross or lucha libre mask or something else he’ll dream up soon and which will allow him to include pretty damn near 100 artists in an exhibition which will grace the walls of the Plaza de la Raza Boathouse Gallery at Lincoln Park. And all 100 of them, well, most of them, will be asked to try and sell ten tickets. Few will succeed.  They will, instead, give the tickets away and pay for them out of pocket. A substantial portion of the money goes to keeping the lights on at Plaza de la Raza, and the look of worry off of director María Jimenez’ face, because you wouldn’t be

Playwright/Director Rene Rodríguez Leaves Rich Cultural Legacy

From left: Rene Rodríguez, Tomás Benitez and Rosemary Rodríguez By Guillermo de la Luna Rene Rodríguez, director of Teatro Urbano, a Los Angeles Chicano Theater group, passed away on December 16, 2018.  The beloved Chicano theater leader, community arts advocate and family man leaves a behind a creative and artistic legacy reaffirming his life-long pride in and love for a significant and specific Latino heritage in the United States. Playwright and director, he authored and was responsible for staging perhaps the only nationally prominent theatrical production in the history of American theater to directly address and commemorate the slaying of legendary journalist Rubén Salazar and the National Chicano Moratorium of 1970 in his play, The Silver Dollar . Rodríguez was born in El Paso, Texas. He attended Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, enlisted in the army and did a hardcore tour of duty in Viet Nam. He never talked about it.  He was the recipient of many awards for

LéaLA Returns to L.A. with Spanish-language Litfest

By Abel M. Salas Ending a four-year hiatus, LéaLA—the unique literary event presented successfully in downtown Los Angeles by the University of Guadalajara Foundation USA under the auspices of the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL) in the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015—returns to L.A. this month. Organized as a celebration of Spanish-language letters, the festival was launched with considerable expectation as the “sister” or satellite edition of the literary festival held annually in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Founded there in 1987, the “Feria Internacional del Libro” is the largest and most important publishing industry trade show, book fair and literary event in the Spanish-speaking world. Globally, it ranks second only to the one hosted yearly by Frankfurt, Germany. The anticipation which accompanied the arrival of LéaLA was justified. Latinx Angelenos flocked to the L.A. Convention Center by the thousands to peruse Spanish-language titles from among the catalogs of over 2

In Search of Xandú: Journey to Tenango

Tenango de Doria is an evergreen valley where indigenous languages such as Otomi and Nahuatl are still spoken. By Avelardo “Lalo” Valdez We arrive by car to Tulancingo, about one-and-half-hours from Mexico City. It’s a hectic drive. We’ve contended with hundreds of cars escaping the city for the weekend. We’d departed from Roma Sur and driven north on Avenida Insurgentes and through the hard-scrabble, working-class suburban municipality of Ecatepec, Estado de Mexico. In stark contrast to the casual bohemian opulence of Colonia Roma where we’d begun our journey, Ecatepec is impoverished and bleak. From where I’m sitting, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the favelas of Brazil. On the road, we also pass near the Tenochtitlán pyramids, every tourist’s favorite spot, before arriving at our destination.   Tulancingo, Hidalgo  (pop. 151,582) is a city serving the eastern rural area part of the state whose economy is largely based on agriculture with a mixture of subsiste