The Heroes of East LA

In Quantum Physics, there is a Law of Attraction in which similar objects are attracted to each other. Since we humans are also part of the physical world, that theory would also apply to each of us.
I am fortunate to meet many great men and women during my usual week. They work quietly and diligently in the background, always steady, always faithful—adding more than their share towards the whole. It is not then surprising that two such similar beings should succumb to the Laws of Attraction even on the eastside.

Dewey Tafoya born in East LA, raised in Boyle Heights was fulfilling UCLA’s practicum for non-service learning at Self Help Graphics, when his vibrations collided with those of recent Texas émigré Becky Cortez, a graduate in social work. One of their first assignments at Self Help Graphics was to conduct the mask-making workshop for the 2003 Annual Dia de los Muertos Festival. Both had that ‘inner artist’ thing that gravitated them to the LA visual and music art scene. In the fall of 2003 over a table of neighborhood children, glitter and paint, their mutual botany bloomed into full flower.

Each year since 2003, Dewey and Becky are the mask-making group leaders, just as for over 30 years Ofelia Esparza and family are the Community Altar and paper flower workshop artists. In spite of the financial struggles and changes that have occurred at Self Help Graphics since 2003 these faithful, steady and committed to community heroes come year after year to lead the children in a cultural endeavor that like art, has no boundaries or limitations.

Dewey & Becky—-always spoken like its one word now— can be seen performing their own mix of Chicano/Punk music, selling their Social Machine Productions ELA style urban wear, being part of an art project, attending all their friends’ art exhibits, caring for their families, and being called to help when no one else can. If that’s not enough, Becky recently got her Master’s degree and since she came to LA has been a full time teacher at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, one of the prototype inner city schools whose aim is to provide a nurturing supportive environment to children who typically get run over by public schools. Dewey recently quit a lucrative job, where he spend most of his day sipping coffee, reading the paper and supervising, for a part time job in Santa Ana where he leads an after school “problem with homework, help & enrichment program”. Boy, did they hire the right person for the job.

I always look forwarded to Becky’s “Hi y’all!” big smiled Texas greeting when she walks into a room, followed by Dewey’s peaceful beam of joy. I wonder (as most comadres do), if there are wedding plans in their future—to which they answer, “When it happens, it will be on Day of the Dead.” Knowing their esthetic for fun, art and family—that will be a wedding not to be missed.

8 thoughts on “The Heroes of East LA

  1. Should we be reading between the lines? I’ve known Dewey for over 20 years, and although I don’t have the knack for staying in touch with all my friends the way he does, I know that all I have to do is find him and I will usually find a friend or two that I haven’t seen in years. Dewey has always been the glue that held us all together so it doesn’t surprise me that he has found someone special. Congradulations to the both of you for all your accomplishments and for finding each other!!!!

  2. Hi Dewey and Becky!

    Hey guys you know that “Dia De Los Muertos” falls on a weekend next year? Weddings usually do too!!!
    I have had the pleasure of knowing Dewey for all of 18 years now and Becky at least 4 or more, give or take a year. I met Dewey as a best friend of my husbands and he never made me feel like I came between two good friends, instead I felt embraced into a new friendship and always felt welcomed. Thank you Dewey for always being at our sides and knowing that we can always count on you for being there for us. Becky, you have truly been blessed with someone special in your life. Good luck with all your endeavors together.

  3. Hi Dewey and Becky!!!!
    Did you know that “Dia De Los Muertos” falls on a weekend next year? So do weddings!!!
    I have had the pleasure of knowing Dewey all of 18 years now and Becky at least 4 years now, give or take a year.
    Dewey never made me feel like I came between two good friends, instead I felt embraced into a new friendship and always felt welcomed. Thank you Dewey, for always being there and knowing we can always count on you for being there for us. Becky, you have truly been blessed with someone special in your life. Good luck with all your endeavors TOGETHER.

  4. Ay, ay, ay! Spread some of that Aztlan lovin’ Fresno way, guey! Cuando es an~o de los muertos?

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