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...

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Karlos channels the SPIRIT!

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