La 2016 Pachanga in Los Angeles
By Jéssica Ceballos
Con Tinta believes in affirming a pro-active presence in American Literature. We come together in the spirit of intellectual/artistic dialogue and of recognizing our literary/social histories. C/T’s mission is to create awareness through cultivating emerging talent, through promoting creative expression, and through establishing alliances with other cultural/political organizations.
Avenue 50 Studio is an always-opened-door art gallery and poetry haven located in a small Northeast neighborhood in Los Angeles, and not a stranger to La Bloga. For over 15 years the gallery has been central to representing Latin@ culture, and has stayed true to its mission of bridging gaps through artistic expression, and using art to educate and stimulate intercultural understanding. This year’s Annual Pachanga & Awards Ceremony, which is presented annually by Con Tinta, was proof that there couldn’t have been a more welcoming host than this cultural space in Highland Park.
The 2016 Annual Pachanga held on Thursday March 31, as an offsite AWP Conference event, was co-presented by Con Tinta, the Department of Chicana & Chicano Studies at Cal State University Northridge, Avenue 50 Studio, Poets Responding to SB 1070, and 100 Thousand Poets for Change, and paid tribute to Francisco X. Alarcón, Lucha Corpi, US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, Los Ángeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez, and Odilia Galván Rodríguez. The pachanga also included a reading featuring Los Poetas / Poets Responding to SB 1070, La Bloga contributors and authors featured in the recently released Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice (UA Press) edited by Odilia Galván Rodriguez and Francisco X. Alarcón.
The brilliant and effervescent host of the evening, Xánath Caraza, kicked off the event by welcoming Chicano Studies Professor María Elena Fernández who briefly, but importantly spoke on the importance of the looming strike by Cal State Faculty. She reminded us of the oft-forgotten sacrifices faculty made through furloughs in 2009, and the money raised by proposition 39, and while teachers are passionate about what they do, they should remember that they are also workers. Workers have rights. I was reminded of the importance to stand with my passionate brothers and sisters who tirelessly fight for equity in all of these the institutions in order to counter their comfortability in exclusion, who fight for equity in the classroom and are rewriting pedagogy to better prepare our next generation of warriors, I was reminded that faculty are doing all of this, as not only brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, but as workers. And the day we resist to stand in solidarity with workers, is the day we let the establishment win.
Odilia Galván Rodriguez continued the evening by reiterating the mission of Con Tinta and its history of bringing Latino representation to AWP. At a time when so many of us are questioning the need for such exclusionary dynamics as the AWP conference, Odilia brought it home - the importance of writing, continuing to seek inspiration, and the importance of being inspiration, for our gente, and for ourselves doesn’t begin and end with AWP, it’s found in community.
Lucha Corpi joined us via telephone, bringing the spirit of San Francisco to our space in Highland Park. She read two poems for us and shared la experiencia como escritora and poet. Corpi has been a role model for many of us Latina/o & Chicana/o writers.
La Bloga’s Daniel Olivas, one of three editors of the recently released The Coiled Serpent: Poets arising from the cultural quakes and shifts of Los Angeles (Tia Chucha Press), introduced the next honoree of the evening, Luis J. Rodriguez.
He spoke of community building, cultural sustainability and literary excellence through overcoming obstacles. He also touched on the compartmentalization of literary positions; from being holders of space, the creator, and then there’s the Teacher, and Luis J. Rodriguez is exceptional in embodying all of those positions, all of those responsibilities, and gifts. Together with Trini Rodriguez, and the community they acknowledge and welcome they’ve built a much needed river in the middle of a desert. Luis J Rodriguez spoke about the inspiration behind Coiled Serpent and the need for authentic representation of Los Ángeles. As poet laureate he’s only obligated to so many events per year, but last year he participated in hundreds of events, a testament to his priority in inspiring the younger generation to read, write, and engage in their communities. Coiled Serpent is a reflection of Rodriguez’ work in bringing people of all backgrounds together, to unite for a common goal in inspiring each other to not be better, but rather to be the best literary citizens we can be - together. Next up for Tia Chucha Press is an anthology presenting work from all residents of the United States born in, or descended from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. Please consider submitting to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, Odilia returned to the microphone to pay tribute to honoree Francisco X. Alarcón, beginning with a prayer to the four directions, a customary ritual of Alarcón’s. Welcoming his spirit to our space made Odilia’s words more powerful as she shared with us the memory of a copy of a specially-made-for-Francisco edition of Poetry of Resistance being delivered to his home, during his spirit journey and transition. The feeling was palpable throughout the room, goosebumps, and heart crushing. Poets continued reading their work from Poetry of Resistance - JoAnn Anglin, Cathy Arellano, Victor Avila, Devreaux Baker, Esme Bernal, Sarah Browning, Xánath Caraza, Elizabeth Cazessús, Antoinette Nora Claypoole, Karen S. Cordova, Iris De Anda, Sharon Elliott, Mario Angel Escobar, Nancy Aidé González, Claudia D. Hernández, Mark Lipman, Andrea Mauk, Gerardo Pacheco, Melinda Palacio, Matt Sedillo, Edith M. Vazquez, Edward Vidaurre, and Andre Yang.
The evening closed with Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs reading her work and also paying a beautiful tribute to Alarcón with a prayer and a song in Spanish with the help of the audience.
A beautiful evening of memories honoring those who have done so much, and have meant so much to so many of us.
Con Tinta would like to thank the following for their support in making this event possible: Avenue 50 Studio, Cal State University Northridge Department of Chicana/o Studies, Poets Responding to SB 1070, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Los Norteños Writer's, La Bloga, Seattle University Department of Women and Gender Studies and the Center for the Study of Justice in Society, Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, Daniel Olivas, Norma Cantú, Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Kathleen Alcalá, Donna Miscolta, Pat Alderete, Amelia Montes, Xánath Caraza, Lara Medina, María Elena Fernández, Jéssica Ceballos, Kathy Gallegos, Pola López, Josette Siqueiros, Andrea Mauk, Iris de Anda, Claudia D. Hernández, John Martinez.
And thank you to Vegan Moni for providing the delicious food for the evening. Vegan Moni is a Community-Based Chef, Social Worker, and Food Advocate whose mission is to empower people to eat healthy by implementing a more plant-based diet. She teaches free/private cooking classes and leads workshops in her community to demonstrate that even in a food desert community like Boyle Heights, we can choose a better lifestyle. You can contact her through her website at www.veganmoni.com
Photo credit: Claudia D. Hernández, Edward Vidaurre and Daniel Olivas