Friday, June 05, 2009

Five Reasons It's Great to be a Chicano in Denver

This post is motivated by similar articles I've read lately about why it's great to be a Latino in the U.S. or particular cities, etc. Lacking any brilliant inspiration for today's edition of La Bloga, I decided to steal the idea and give you my own list. No particular order, just how the pieces came to me. I have more than five reasons but I ran out of time. Maybe I'll continue with my list in future posts. If you have your own suggestions, send them in. Click on the comments link below.

1. Canción Mexicana - this radio program has been on the air for 24 years, an amazing run, and it's still as strong as ever. The show is broadcast on Denver's public radio jazz station, KUVO, 89.3 FM and on the Internet at The show is hosted by Florencia Hernández-Ramos and Debra Gallegos every Sunday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm (Mountain).

Here's what the KUVO website says about this very popular show that has become a cultural icon in the Rocky Mountain West: New Mexico, Colorado and Tejano music with information excerpts from Latino USA and News From Our Community. Canción Mexicana has dominated jazz89 KUVO's Sunday line-up in both audience and business support. The best of the best in Tex-Mex music, Canción Mexicana has been frequently recognized in Denver's major newspapers. The program consistently ranks in the top five slots on Sunday mornings in the Denver metro area and has enjoyed the number one spot. It's cumbia, it's rancheras, and a little bit of mariachi - it's all that and more; it's Canción Mexicana with the best New Mexico, Tejano and Colorado music. There's music on Canción Mexicana as well as reports from Latino USA with a glimpse into what's happening in the community. Get ready to dance!

2. La Raza Rocks - this show follows Canción Mexicana at 1:00 pm, Sundays, on KUVO. Pocho Joe and Gabe are the incredibly knowledgeable hosts of an hour of the best of Latino rock - new and old - Sunny & the Sunliners, Santana, Los Lobos, the Iguanas, Los Lonely Boys, and Dr. Loco and his Rockin' Jalapeno Band. Interviews and information are part of the show's presentation. Pocho Joe and Gabe dig deep into Chicano rock, coming up with groups like Thee Midniters, Tierra, Little Julian Herrera, El Chicano,War, the Blendells, Cannibal & the Headhunters, and the Premiers, but they also present the latest groups and singers. Over the years, this show has introduced Denver to Ozomatli, Quetzal, Alejandro Escovedo, the Blazers, and many more. As Pocho Joe likes to say, the show covers the "roots and branches" of Chicano soul music. It'll tear you up.

3. Su Teatro - this theater group sprung from the Movement more than thirty-five years ago (1971) as traveling agit-prop, consisting mostly of long-haired students. Today it is a well-established production company that every year amazes Denver audiences with the diversity and brilliance of Latino and Chicano theater. Under the direction of the long-haired Anthony Garcia, El Centro Su Teatro is about to enter a new phase with a multi-million dollar facility that promises to continue to enrich the Denver cultural scene with outstanding plays and events. In recent years, Su Teatro has presented remarkable theater such as Rudy Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima; Ollin; El Sol Que Tú Eres (Daniel Valdez and Tony Garcia collaborated on this Chicano version of the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus); Las Chicas de 3.5” Floppy; Death and the Maiden; and Catastrophe by Samuel Beckett. Annual events include the Neruda Poetry Festival (10 years), The XicanIndie Film Festival (11 years), and the Chicano Music Festival (12 years).

4. A bevy of writers and a strong literary tradition. Denver became the home for beloved poet Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado, author of one of the most famous Chicano poems ever published, Stupid America. Lalo probably is the best known Denver Chicano writer, but the city and the state have a long history of writers who have proudly preserved the story of Colorado's Chicanos and made a little of their own while they were at it. Names that immediately come to mind include Margie Domingo, Flor Lovato, Ramon Del Castillo, Anthony Vigil, Joe Navarro, and Corky Gonzales for I Am Joaquin, a classic bit of Chicano lit. (The Denver Public Library has arranged for a Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales Exhibit at the Central Library, June 2 through September 20, 2009. A special reception to honor the exhibit is set for June 18 from 7 - 9 pm at the Central Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway.)

The tradition continues and there are young poets reading and writing all over the city, with readings and slams happening at places like the Taza de Café where Café Cultura did a regular thing, Cafe Nuba, the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, the Neruda Poetry Festival, Art From Ashes, etc. We got fiction writers, too - Mario Acevedo, Aaron A. Abeyta, Rudy Garcia, Emma Perez, Angel Vigil, Reneé Fajardo, and yours truly, to name a few. Denver is a city that loves to read; it has great independent bookstores and many author events. Now if we could just get a permanent book fair.

5. The Chicano Humanities and Arts Council (CHAC) and the Museo de las Américas. These two institutions sit on Santa Fe Drive in Denver's West Side. They provide art, artifacts, history, and venues for performance artists, poets, film-makers, and sculptors. CHAC has been around for thirty-one years, created by a group of artists who saw the need for their own space, devoted to their understanding of art and the creative process. That spirit still lives on at CHAC with ever-changing exhibits with themes such as Vida Artistica, the Poetry y Mas series of readings, and, returning this year, the Chile Harvest Festival (August 29 & 30).

The Museo has consistently presented world-class exhibits of Latino, Chicano and Latin American art, and has developed a national reputation for its adherence to its mission. As the website says, the Museo educates our community about the diversity of Latino Americano art and culture from ancient to contemporary through innovative exhibitions and programs. With the Latino population growing exponentially in the Denver and wider communities, the Museo plays an important role in building pride in the Latino community's heritage and promoting understanding among cultures. Other history and art museums in Denver cannot focus on one segment of the community in a sustained or comprehensive manner. The Museo was organized to fill this important niche in the cultural milieu. Under the leadership of newly-appointed director Maruca Salazar, a celebrated artist in her own right, the Museo should make an even bigger impression on the art-loving Denver residents.

The cool thing about this list is that you don't have to be a Chicana or a Chicano to enjoy the music, art, writing or history. We like to share.

Okay, send in your own suggestions for this list - is it really great to be a Chicano or Chicana, wherever you live? If so, why?



msedano said...

it's great...Pasadena...

Who knows how Dudamel will merge into la chicanada, but for sure, his taking over the baton at Disney Hall has raised a montón of excitement across the Los Angeles basin.

i'm thinkin' too, comida from mole to ceviche to taco trucks,, murals, teatros, and a population so multi-generational and multicultural that hybrid vigor is always in the air.


Guzmán said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guzmán said...

Those are five damned good reasons!

Rita Serrano said...

Thanks for letting me know about Denver's KUVO, 89.3 FM. I'll be listening from Northern New Mexico for Los Lonely Boys

Anonymous said...

Great reasons...what about Escuela Tlatelolco?

SpiritDancer, Denver, CO