Saturday, April 30, 2011

Centro Victoria en Tejas

Hosting television, film, literature & music stars

As the demographic slice of the Mexican-American pie grows larger, Centro Victoria at the University of Houston-Victoria wants to celebrate artistic contributions from this group.

The center, established last year at the university, invited Hollywood personalities Jesús Salvador Treviño and Josefina López; “dean” of south Texas Literature Rolando Hinojosa; and alternative musician Davíd Garza to Victoria from April 19 to 22 for a celebration, or “Community Pachanga.”

Centro Victoria is a group of writers and educators whose goal is to introduce Americans to cultural and artistic contributions of the Mexican-American community in the U.S.

Treviño, whose credits include “Babylon 5,” “New York Undercover,” “Law and Order Criminal Intent,” “Prison Break” and “Bones,” gave a frank discussion to high school and university students about growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s without any Mexican-American role models.

“I began to hate myself for being Mexican,” Treviño said. “I saw no one who looked like me on television. There were no positive Mexican-American role models.”

His career began with the public television station, and he got a big break directing an after-school special for CBS. Treviño insisted on casting Mexican-Americans in positive roles, as well as using minority crew members where they had previously had little opportunity. Having broken into major television drama work, he has helped change the landscape and open doors for other minority actors, directors, producers and crew members.

López, who also flew in from Hollywood, mirrored Treviño’s sentiments in her intimate discussion after the screening of her movie “Real Women Have Curves.”

“If Latinos are constantly the bad guys, servants, or ‘Latin Lovers,’ it robs of us our humanity in the eyes of those watching these stereotypical representations,” she said. “Movies are not just entertainment; they hypnotize people into believing what they see on the screen is real.”

During the ABR Reading Series, Hinojosa addressed the lack of Mexican-American representation in literature. He, like Treviño and López, took it upon himself to write about his community. He crosses genres − fiction, poems, mysteries, academic novels − as a way of showing that Mexican-American writers produce more than activist or immigrant stories.

Guitarist Garza gave Victoria residents his ingenious infusion of songs that blend the Mexican ballads he was weaned on with Tejano music, classical, folk, techno, folk, rock and blues music. His musical talents have been touted in Rolling Stone and The Village Voice, and have been captured on TV commercials and TV and movie sound tracks.

Dagoberto Gilb, Centro Victoria’s executive director, who conceived of the idea for the center and brought the artists to Victoria, also invited Chicano artist César A. Martínez to UHV to visit with the experimental English composition class featuring he and three other faculty members: Charles Alcorn, Diana López and Christine Granados. Martínez shared his paintings, photos and prints of South Texas culture with students and the public.

“It is not often that any of us gets to meet the legends of art history,” Gilb said. “For us, which means most of our UHV students, a class visit by a Mexican-American artist of his stature is like a visit by painter Paul Gauguin. He’s that big.”

The Crossroads hosted a lot of talent during the Pachanga, and it is just the beginning of what is to come from Centro Victoria. The week also coincided with the publication of the American Book Review’s “Latino West” April/March issue. Gilb was the focus editor and devoted the issue to works by Mexican-Americans.

For more information about future events and initiatives, visit

No comments: