Friday, October 26, 2007

A taste of California...en Tejas

Karlos Paez of the B-Side Players

I was driving up Brazos the other day on my way to pick up Payan at NALAC. As I passed the once famous and now infamous Guadalupe Theater I see this guy with long dreadlocks standing outside. My eyes snap quickly to the marquis which reads "Tonite! B-Sides". Amidst our worldwind of projects, it had completely slipped my mind that we have a rockin' San Diego band in town!

Returning with Victor, we jump out of the car and head to their lead, Karlos Paez, who gives us a big bear hug. The B-Side Players were one of the most pivotal bands in ending our 7 year boycott of the Centro Cultural de La Raza in San Diego when they refused to cross the community's picket line. Like the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio, the Centro Cultural de La Raza in SD fell out with their community which resulted in a nation-wide boycott of the institution. More info can be found at In a nutshell, Karlos (along with many other artists who held the line) kept reminding the administration of the issues at play behind the community's outrage -- corporate-style secrecy, perceived conflict of interest, destruction of art, and an overall "vendido" like stance from some of it's members.

Still from Los Vendidos by Luis Valdez

For those of u who don't know the lingo, a "vendido" is a "sellout" -- an insecure, status concious Latino that gets all judgemental about certain aspects of their culture...usually the lowbrow parts. A great theater piece by Luis Valdez was written on the subject called Los Vendidos which was later broadcast nationally on the NBC network in the 70's. The play is HILARIOUS and I'll have to upload it onto Youtube sometime. Yeah, I dubbed myself a copy of it while working at an archive that later went down in "flames" -- the problematic NLCC. Like the Centro, and the Guadalupe, The NLCC - National Latino Communications Center - sounded great on paper, but in practice broke the trust of an entire community.

Giant candle commissioned by Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center costing over $300,000 that nearly bankrupt the organization

I know times were harsh for Latinos in the 60's/70's. Like Black Americans, our gente struggled for civil rights and dignity. In my native Orange County, Latinos weren't even allowed to buy property outside of Santa Ana until 1972! Things were a LOT worse in other states like Texas. Beatings for speaking spanish were common and institutional race descrimination ruled daily. It's no wonder these folks grew up all tripped out by their cultura. This unease and desire for "an assimilation utopia" that didn't really exist (the neurosis u pay is too high to bring a lasting peace) was passed on to their kids and taaa daaah -- a new generation of internally conflicted quasi-vendidos was born! These often well meaning folks went on to come of age in the "decade of the Hispanic" the lame-ass brain fart of the Reagan era 80's which further scrambled their brains. Once they bought the bullshit of "corporate america" -- watch The Corporation and read the book -- and applied it to their local cultural organizations (the heart and soul of our cultura)...the result was ENORMOUS dysfuncion of heartbreaking proportions.

B-Sides rockin' the Guadalupe

Now that things have settled down in San Diego and the boycott has ended on the Centro, it was nice to take some time out to celebrate the new spirit of things to come. We left town the day after announcing the boycott's end at Chicano Park Day and didn't really get a chance to savour the victory. Hearing the B-Sides' music brought all the emotions back. Their call to action and "revolution" infected the still weakened hall of the Guadalupe, infusing it with strength and the ganas to make this organization whole again. It was an hechizo and a musical blessing decending on us all...

** To watch their video, visit ** or befriend them on Myspace - **

Karlos channels the SPIRIT!

Thursday, October 18, 2007 the wind

Amalia of Brazil, Max's tragic first love

I've been buzzing away these days. Gettin' buzzed, oh yeah...on my sewing machine. Vic is in Austin attending the conference where he's gearing up to make a "24 Hour Film" with our video students. That leaves me ample time to sew uninterrupted, so I've spread my projects all thru the house.

Adelita pillow

Peeking out from the piles of fabric and poly-stuffing are little gems of this pocha's arte. I'm wondering if I'll be able to make the DIY Factory this weekend. I registered while we were making our "48-Hour Film" for the 48-Hour Film Project with our San Anto students -- Team i-Chingao! With four teenagers and 3 adults sprawled out all over our ground floor, that was a creative tornado that took weeks of clean up to recover from. We won 2 awards tho. Not bad for a pair of sleep-deprived instructors, 4 fifteen year olds and 1 dedicated parent -- gracias Sandra! To view the flick on youtube, CLICKHERE. I keep sewing and wonder how long the cleanup from this textile tornado will take? ;-p

Running thru my fevered mind on these marathon sewing

Enamorada Pillow

You'll see from my etsy descriptions that some of these pieces are cinematically inspired --

Images from the Mexican Revolution and Crown of Mexico art pillow series

I'll have to cut out and head to work soon. I run an after school arts & culture program on the Eastside and we have our open house this weekend. The same day as the DIY Factory! I don't know how I'm going to manage with all this sleep deprivation, an exhausted partner and my own hacking cough (which has returned with all the stress). But I'll keep going as long as I can. I will like the wind!

Mexican Revolution pillows

Que viva la revolution!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

San Anto's biggest huevos...

Last Saturday we attended our first Huevos Rancheros Gala. Huevos is San Anto Cultural Arts -- -- big annual fundraiser which honors local activists in San Antonio. Their invite reads..

"Many years ago, before borders were invented...there lived a proud people known as Hueveros, people who celebrated the egg -- the egg as the symbol for all acts of creation, especially artistic creation. The Hueveros were known far and wide for their art, their resourcefulness, and the artistic materials they produced from eggs...(they) were also known for their festive creativity. Each year the Hueveros held a celebration in honor of the egg and to express their caring for each other. A feast of huevos rancheros was served to everyone and cascarones with yellow and white confetti made the event lively..."

And so this year, San Anto Cultural Arts crowned artist Cruz Ortiz and activist Patti Radle as King and Queen Huevo.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

A candid moment with egg-static royalty...

...who makes sum intense and playful art...

...and exhibits thru-out the land!

Payan bidding on a piece...

...from Chikle, a fellow San Diegan.

San Anto's Christina enjoys a bite of eggy goodness...

...and San Anto co-founder, Manuel Castillo, celebrates with his mom.

Amidst all my recent sewing on the new line, spending a day beneath San Antonio's gorgeous pouffy clouds and turquoise blue skys was a welcome interlude.

Puro Westside!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

MacArturos wrap up

A dozen new friends and 100 conversations later, the MacArturos wrapped up last night with power-packed performance led by prankster Guillermo Gomez-Peña. We caught up with news and talked about the new "fall of Rome" and shared stimulating perspectives on immigration.

Borders of mind and spirit were crossed.

Are they coming to get us? Will Aztlan survive zuvulla?

Baldemar Velasquez is an activist who lives the gospel every day

I was inspired by Baldemar Velasquez, a "liberation theologian" who advocates for farm labor rights. To find a christian who isn't issuing pop culture judgements or condeming "backsliders" is refreshing and energizing. Baldemar inhabits his beliefs in the field and lives in the spirit.

Hugo Morales connects communities thru internet radio broadcasts

I totally cried when heard Hugo's moving transmissions from rural indiginous communities. It reminded me of childhood holidays in South America, everyone crowding around the 1 radio operator's shop in Quime. It was a meeting place, mail drop, science hub. I used to love seeing the operator crank thru his signal thru the Andes, linking us up with the whole world. With upcoming radio-band expansion offering dynamic opportunities for cultural connections. McLuhan's global village is here now...and it speaks in Aymara, Zapotec, Nahuatl, Mixtec, and Maya.

MacArturo creator and event hostess, writer Sandra Cisneros

One of my highlights of course was meeting la gran dama herself, Sandra Cisneros. I still remember seeing the 1st volumes of "House on Mango Street" arrive at my high school bookstore job. I hadn't seen anything Latino at work that wasn't Neruda or Paz. I remember reading her bio, "Sandra is nobody's wife, mother..." -- wow! It empowered my youthful persuit of autonomy. We see so much of her now in the flesh -- at two years of MacArturo events, exhibitions, etc. She's all bright charisma and charming sillyness. I wonder who her upholsterer is?

San Antonio conjunto-punk maestros, Piñata Protest

Forging a solid intro to the closing nite event, Piñata Protest were a cathartic interlude. Their innovative sound even awoke the dead -- as several of their pics were littered with pulsating orbs. Such sweet guys too. My students Sarai and Jessica literally "danced in the aisles" during one of their songs with total effervescent abandon. Good to see the spirit alive and thriving!

Gomez-Peña as cultural shaman

Dressed to the nines, GP channels the border in bikerboots and high heels.

Playwrite Maricella goes drag king on us.

And La Chata spins local chisme into a hilarious number.

Thanks to genus Luis Alfaro, I learned an interesting trick involving Alka Seltzer and a Condom. Impressive!

All in all, a fabulous event. Aaand yes, folks did come over and I had a goood coffee table ;-j


Friday, October 5, 2007

The "Crown of Mexico" series

Vintage "photo" of Virgen de Guadalupe appearing to Maximilian and Carlota

Some of you may be familiar with the story of Maximilian and Carlota, the former Emperor and Empress of Mexico. Amidst all the MacArturo madness swirling around me, I'm carving out time to collect images of this hapless pair of Hapsburgs for some new photo-textiles I'm making. The DIY Factory craft fair is coming up on October 20th and I have a whole new line to crank out. To see some of my past textile work, visit

Hapsburg Family Portrait - Standing (left to right): Emperor Franz Josef, Archduke Maximilian, Archduchess Charlotte (Carlota), Archduke Ludwig Victor and Archduke Karl Ludwig. Seated (left to right): Empress Elizabeth with Crown prince Rudolf, Archduchess Gisela, Dowager Duchess Sophie and Archduke Franz Karl

This familia's true life adventures rival any telenovela. Seriously, I'm going to have to write a some screenplays about them. In a nutshell, this portion of my tale will deal with Franz, Max and his wife Carlota...

Eldest son Franz Joseph wasn't content to swipe his brother Max's future wife, Bavarian princess Elizabeth (better known as "Sisi"), he wanted him out of the picture altogether. Maximilian was more popular and handsomer than his powerful older brother and his presence in Austria was a threat. It didn't help that Sisi took Max on private 3 month voyage to Greece (as he was the head of the Royal Austrian Navy...and probably a navigator of the romantic kind). As a result, Max and his new bride, Carlota, moved to Miramar Castle in Triest, Italy, where he fell into a deep depression. Frustrated to be a mere Archduke without a country, and secretly mourning the death of his true love (and former fiancee), Princess Maria Amalia of Brazil, Max was miserable. Mientras tanto, the newlywed Carlota wanted desperately to win her husband's love and bring him joy.

Mexican Delegation to Maximillian

When Carlota heard that Napoleon III was looking for someone to govern Mexico, she got in touch with his wife Eugenie. She was told that the Mexican people were unhappy with Benito Juarez and his rogue regime, that they needed a champion to bring order to the post-revolutionary nation. Napoleon could name Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico and she would be it's empress. It sounded too good to be true! So on October 1863, Yucatan lawyer José Maria Gutiérrez went to see Maximilian describing Mexico as a "budding plant entitled to a place in the sun" and called on him to be the country's "redeemer." Max accepted. Thus the Archduke became the "Archdupe."

Maximilian with Map of Mexico

Maximilian and Carlota docked at Veracruz May 28, 1864 with a full retinue of French troops. It was the beginning of a long spiral downward. The majority of the Mexican population didn't want them. The revolution turned out to be far more successful than they had been told and very few wanted a monarchy or the Catholic Church back in power. Maximilian and the French Army fought Benito Juarez until the battle of "Cinco de Mayo." That was when Napoleon decided to cut his losses and withdraw most of the troops leaving Max & Carlota to fend for themselves.

Empress Carlota

Max fell into another deep depression and retreated to his palace in Cuernavaca where he found love with an indian mistress, smoked weed, binged on psycotropic drugs and partied 'round the clock with his buddies. He blamed the whole misadventure on Carlota and wanted nothing to do with her.

Desperate to win him back, Carlota decided to visit Napoleon III and her comadre Eugenie herself. She abruptly ended her tour of Mexico (where she was disturbed to hear lyrics to a song titled "Adios Mama Carlota") and set off for the port of Veracruz. Somewhere along the journey, she is rumoured to have been fed some magic mushrooms and had a drug-hazed affair with a Belgian officer in Maximilian's army, Colonel Alfred van der Smissens. Carlota was probably pregnant and rapidly losing her mind when she embarked on a ship to Europe. After making a scene at Napoleon's house, she set out for Rome and begged the Pope to save her. Feeling that everyone was trying to poison her, she refused to leave the Vatican and slept in the library. To this day, she's the only woman to have offically spent the night there.

Maximilian consoles his priest confessor before he is executed

While Carlota was gone, the situation got dismally worse for Maximilian. He was taken into custody and put to death. Max's last request was that his body not be mutilated so that his mother in Austria could take comfort in seeing his face before burial. Someone gauged his eyeballs out anyway. They also paraded his gunshot strewn shirt thru the streets.

A dead Maximilian on display

Needless to say, hearing that Max was dead hurled Carlota further over the edge. She was locked up at her former home Miramar until some Belgian relatives took pity on her. Carlota died crazy, old and single...totally guilt-ridden about everything that had happened. Some say that her illigitamate son, General Maxime Weygand, surrendered the French armies to Hitler in 1940. The whole ordeal left a sad yet strangely fascinating legacy.

So as a Mexican/American/Bolivian artist, I had to do something with these strange "memories" of our culture. By putting them on comforting pieces of cotton and stitching complementary patchwork designs, maybe the story will survive in the popular mind. The tragic poetry of this tale is too seductive to resist!

Dead heros and anti-heros will always have a special place in the heart of our collective unconscious...

A dead Che Guevara on display

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The MacArturos are coming to town, and I need a coffee table...

The MacArthur "Genius" Award is mysterious and much coveted honor. Who wouldn't want an award where you're surprised by a morning phone call announcing you've won $500,000 with no strings attached? Each year about a dozen Americans are thus honored -- the result of a secret selection process.

One of these MacArthur winners, the writer Sandra Cisneros, decided that she would host a reunion for the Latino "MacArturos." That was 10 years ago, and this weekend 18 Latino Geniuses will gather again in San Antonio for a series of lectures and workshops. My hometown hero, Ruben Martinez, will fly in along with my long lost friend, playwrite Luis Alfaro and art star Guillermo Gomez-Peña. What a meeting of the minds!

Given our arts & culture work, it's inevitable that one of these nights some "geniuses" will head over to our pad for drinks and conversation. I'm already feeling a bit ashamed about our shabby couch -- an early 60's classic sectional in bad need of reupholstering -- but what truly concerned me was our lack of a coffee table. There's this gaping hole in the center of our lovely parlour where an elegant mesa should go.

So I set off, determined to track down the puurrfect piece. My previous weeks online yielded nothing interesting. Since I'm not a fan of Ikea-type pasteboard and wanted something with character, the antique shops of San Antonio were my last hope...

The storefronts on Hildebrant offered pieces worthy...

....of a Holly Hobby dollhouse.

Funky shops on South Flores yeilded over-tha-top glamour.

Was it "Hollywood Regency" or a Hollywood Trainwreck?

And the offerings at the antique warehouse on Broadway...

....were mind-numbingly dull.

I finally wandered into a cute spot run by an earthy Latina named Dora...
...and found the gem I'd been looking for.

A perfect fit!

Now we're ready ;-) Amazing how a little home fine-tuning can feel sooo good.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Milk Crates

Milk Crate stools featured on

While visiting San Antonio last year, and teaching a youth video course, my wandering eye was enchanted by the many lovely homes there. The prices I found were just as appealing. I persueded my then boyfriend Victor to consider purchasing one these chateaus. He expressed the usual uneasiness about committing to a 30 year mortgage and concern about moving costs, furnishings, etc.

"It won't cost much more than were paying in rent now. We'll use milkcrates as furniture!" I pledged. And I meant it.

Years before, while living in a Downtown LA loft, a resourceful friend of mine had moved into a tiny room above Al's Bar. It was a temporary dwelling, bridging the gap between baby-daddy farewells and a dazzling new life in Hawaii. Nicole put her gorgeous furnishings into storage and vowed to use only milkcrates in her new home. I was amazed to see the ingenious ways she constructed these items...making floor to ceiling shelving, tables, chairs...everything out of milkcrates!

But when Victor & I arrived in Texas, we found that only 2 of our crates had survived the journey, so all hopes of creating a milkcrate wonderland were tossed out the window. I had to use more "conventional" furniture...and so began the hunt.

I researched for weeks, in shops and various sites online. After aquiring a reasonably priced selection -- see my Flikr account for details -- I signed up for an on-line interior design "support group" to further refine my vision on

Of course Victor was not amused. "What happened to 'we'll use milkcrates'?" he lamented as each giant box arrived. But finally accepting the inevitable, even Payan had to admire my selections.

Thus began my burning desire to round out the collection. A coffee table quest is in the works...