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Book Review: Down & Delirious in Mexico City

Escondido, 2005, from the Mazahuacholoskatopunk series. Photo by: Federico Gama

Down & Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century
Daniel Hernandez
Publisher: Scribner
Published date: February 8, 2011

By guest contributor Susy Chavez of mexiroccan.blogspot.com

There is a legend that runs through artist circles in Mexico about the surrealist French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s first visit to that country. They say Cartier-Bresson was so moved and overwhelmed with visual stimulation that he declared all one had to do to find a surrealist image while in Mexico was to point one’s camera and simply shoot. Apparently, Cartier-Bresson found the surrealist promised land in le Mexique.

I often times find myself imagining Mr. Cartier-Bresson wondering the streets of Mexico camera and western sensibilities in hand, like some sort of belated colonialist explorer encountering the totem-like mishmash of the ancient, colonial and the modern that makes up Mexico. My own voyeuristic fascination with Mexico, like all the best voyeuristic endeavors in life, is deeply personal. I am, to put it mildly, passionately in love with its fluid pump-up-the-color-volume folklorico-piñata-dance chaos. Fortunately, this love abounds and Daniel Hernandez’s new book, a quasi telenovela meets Boogie Nights love letter to the 20 plus million metropolis that is Mexico City, is a worthwhile testament.

To take Hernandez’s book as simply a non-fiction travel book or as the cool kids are calling it these days, creative non-fiction travel book, would be a mistake. Hernandez’s book is fascinating precisely because he is NOT: 1) trying to find himself by teaching English in another country 2) throwing himself into hard labor in a remote indigenous village 3) has no philanthropic endeavors 4) and NO broken heart he needs to mend through ancient indigenous practices. Hernandez is on a mission to find himself, a San Diego native, Angeleno transplant via Tijuana, Mexico whose parents warn him early on that in el DF, he’ll get his socks stolen while he’s got his shoes on. Instead of making him run up towards Canada, Hernandez, a self-described “dark-skinned” pocho mexi-gringo, decides to move to el monstruo. It is in el monstruo that Hernandez leads us through a series of hoyos funkys, underground tunnels that weave through the city coming up momentarily from time to time for brief snap-shots of a series of urban subcultures that include but are not limited to fashionista fairies, nezayorkinos, banda, grafiteros, emos and fresas.
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Bye Bye Big Buy

Another fine contribution from guest contributor Jessica2cents. Check out her awesome new blog Mis Neighbors!

According to Big Buy’s Manager, Tom Rumack, Walgreens Pharmacies will be replacing the long-time grocers. Big Buy Foods, Inc. leased the property after the Walgreen Company bought it a couple of years ago—but the lease is up at the end of the month, and Walgreens did not wish to renew.

“We’re very sad to leave our customers,” said Rumack. His father and uncle opened the family-owned business-turned-corporation in 1962, when Boyle Heights was a predominantly Jewish community. Today, working-class Latinos make up most of the population and see Big Buy as a part of the neighborhood landscape.

As for the official closing date… “We’re taking it day by day but I’m pretty sure we’ll be closed by the end of this week,” said Rumack.

-Jessica Perez

The East L.A. Classic

The East Los Angeles Classic 2010 from Jessica Perez on Vimeo.

It’s that time of the year again… The face-off between the Garfield Bulldogs and the Roosevelt Rough Riders!

I traded my purple flats for a pair of New Balance and went on the field to see what this rivalry’s about.

Come cheer your little heart out and represent for your team and hood.

Friday, November 5, 2010
F/S- 4pm, Var- 8pm
East Los Angeles Community College
Weingart Stadium
$12 general admission at the door


Detained in the Desert at Casa 0101

“Detained in the Desert” Heats Up Boyle Heights Stage


Yes, the country is riled up over immigration.
But for some of us, the issue of immigration is more than just a hot topic… it’s our life, who we are, and how we came to be.

Boyle Heights’ own Josefina Lopez (“Real Women Have Curves”) had so much to say about the pending immigration statute in Arizona, she popped out a play speaking out on the issue in FOUR days.

So, with no doubt I reserved two seats to Friday’s opening night at CASA 0101 Theater and sneaked in a couple snacks from next door’s liquor (the non-alcoholic kind, although I thought I saw someone with a paper bag over their tall can, but I’m not judging).

A sold out show and no AC, I started to feel like WE were ‘Detained in the Desert,’ but as soon as the lights went out and the immigrant-bashing gringo barked his first lines, I was hotter than hot… I was HEATED!
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The Story of Carmen

View of a large crowd of people on Broadway looking south from 7th St, 1934. Photo courtesy of LAPL.

A beautiful tribute to Carmen Castellanos who passed away on August 16, 2010. Submitted by reader Estella Tinajero Medina and written by her brother Art Tinajero.

My Aunt Carmen’s first memory of America was the glorious reception she received upon her arrival. It was the summer of 1917 and her family, her mother, father and little brother, had finally arrived in El Paso, Texas after a long train ride from Aguascalientes, their hometown in central Mexico.

As they pulled into the station they saw the buildings were all draped in red, white and blue bunting. A military brass band burst into patriotic marches while hundreds of tiny U.S. flags were waiving in the hands of cheering well-wishers. Along the tracks, rows and rows of fresh-faced uniformed soldiers stood at attention in perfect alignment. For a wide-eyed, six-year old little girl, it was an over-whelming welcome that would be ingrained into her memory for the rest of her life.
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Zapata’s Horse ready to get down in LA!!!

Multiple sightings of Zapatas horse dressed to the nines in Lincoln Park.  100 years riding and still going strong!

Since Zapata’s horse magically escaped when Zapata was assassinated in Chinameca, Morelia in 1919, witnesses have announced sightings of this legendary horse throughout Mexico. Recent sightings have occurred this morning in Lincoln Heights, just before the Mexican Centennial and Bicentennial Celebrations.

Submitted by: Ejército de Liberación del Monumento (ELM)

via our Contact Us page. See, you can contribute too!

Got Towed?

Predators attack for personal gain. Parking on an Eastside street I naively thought that a city sanctioned tow company would never attack for personal gain. I now feel differently.

Here’s a taste. I park a car a block from my house late one night. The next day it is gone. I report it as stolen to LAPD and wait. Three week later I get a call to call the towing company–the car has been found. Total to recover just under $900. As the clerk is doing paper work I discover that the car was found the same day it went missing on the same block where it was parked. Strange? When I ask why it toke three weeks to notify me if the car was found the same day, the clerk stares back in silence. Still strange? To make this even stranger I had locked the steering wheel with a Club, which was still attached at the pick-up yard. Strange, strange, strange? No, I think scam!

I feel violated by my city, my family attacked–emotionally raped in a way. Power makes people do deranged things. I wonder if anyone else has had similar experiences with Viertel Towing?

submitted by M. Saldivar Galindo

Waiting for Zooey Deschanel

Waiting for Zooey Deschanel
Matt Lucas

I left as the sun set. The steering
wheel was in my hands for 7 hours. My foot hovered over the gas petal
alternating a heaviness with a light touch. The speedometer measured
my rate of progress. The tires of the automobile took me further down
the forever highway to my destiny.

The banality of work was too much for
me. I’d seen her image everywhere, in everything. I was enraptured,
enthralled. I couldn’t think of anywhere to meet her that would be
more appropriate than in Los Angeles, the city of angels. I left
work, and home, to sip a moment of time with her.
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American Lit

Reading about John Fante Square being inaugurated on 5th and Grand I remember the passionate racial fights between Bandini and his Mexican girlfriend. Soon after, Kerouac comes into mind smoking marijuana in the desert heat of a Mexican afternoon, the gratifying pleasure he felt after eating the refried beans made by his Mexican girl. These page-turned memories rising on the same heat-rippled smoke of mirage like driving on the 15 into The Cajon Pass. Back in the city, Hunter Thompson’s friend, Oscar Zeta Acosta’s, attorney-rants in Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo, the Juarez prison cell, the judge demanding for him to learn his father’s language: Spanish. How many other aspects of American literary culture have been ignored, or forgotten, even by Chicano Studies courses, let alone more traditional literature classes, I ask myself?

Submitted by M. Saldivar Galindo

City Arts Organizations Need Your Help

This exhibition, co-curated by two Department of Cultural Affairs employees and taking place in the Municipal Gallery of the City of Los Angeles is exactly the kind of innovative programming that’s threatened by the proposed staff and budget cuts. This show brings together 60 artists who represent the thriving experimental nature of Los Angeles’ art scene, possibly the first gathering of size in LA of artists of this experimental generation, raised on a diet of relational aesthetics and a dissatisfaction with the art world in general. Our city is being recognized as an art capital today because of the risks and experiments of the artists gathered in this exhibition.

Hello Eastsiders!  I live in the Harbor Area, but this affects the whole city, so I’ve asked to borrow this soapbox for a minute.

The Department of Cultural Affairs is being threatened with a 24-48% staff cut, the elimination of the entire $2.2 million grants budget and there is a motion to eliminate the ordinance that guarantees a %1 “hotel bed tax” that forms the core of the Department’s budget.  These cuts will cripple the department, and the elimination of the grants program will spread the pain out, further crippling the ability of scores of non-profits throughout the City to deliver key programming.

There are hard working people at the Department of Cultural Affairs who will lose their jobs, and kids who will not get an arts education if these cuts pass.  Small businesses and individual contractors who provide services to arts organizations will be hard hit.  Artists who desperately need support and venues for their work will find it gone.  I will likely have to cancel upcoming programming at Angels Gate if these cuts go through, and I know that other arts organizations will be even harder hit than the one I work for.

This situation has been developing for several days now, and even now as I write this there is a meeting about the elimination of the grants program.  I have a whole series of posts up at my site that go into detail about the cuts, you can read about it here, here and here.  Arts for LA has also been on top of this, and their site has lots of information as well.  The Times is barely covering this, at the time I’m writing this, the Culture Monster blog hasn’t even addressed the issue.

How you can get involved and make a difference

Angels Gate Cultural Center, in partnership with the Grand Vision Foundation, will be hosting a letter writing party tonight, February 1, at the Grand Annex on 6th Street in Downtown San Pedro from 5:30-8:00 pm.  We will provide paper, pre-written letters, writing assistance, pens, envelopes.  We will write letters to the city council, Council District 15 councilmember Janice Hahn and the Mayor’s office, letting them know how important the Department of Cultural Affairs and its services are to you and your families.  Your words can change things.

If you can’t make our letter writing party, you can write a letter online via Arts for LA’s website.  If you don’t live in the City, but enjoy the services provided by the DCA, you should direct your Emails to either council president Eric Garcetti.  You can write all of them if you like, too.  It’s easy.

Write a letter online here.

You can also contact your councilmember’s office directly, via the City of Los Angeles website. Nothing gets their attention more than a barrage of phone calls.

Marshall Astor

UPDATE, click ahead

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Second Annual Los Angeles Anarchist Bookfair

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L.A. Anarchist Bookfair: Actions + Conversations + Intersections 2010
Ideas Occupying Space:
Sunday January 24th : :
Barnsdall Art Park 4800 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Actions, Conversations, and Intersections

Libertarias Pre-Bookfair Film Screening
Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 7pm
Koreatown Immigrant Worker’s Alliance Culture and Education Center, 3465 W 8th Street Los Angeles


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