Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Guest Columnist: Sandra "Pocha" Peña: Mental Menudo Is Back

MENTAL MENUDO: The Next Incarnation
By Sandra “Pocha” Peña
Fotos by Msedano

foto: Pocha Peña. Menudo bowls hover above Mental Menudo participants: Sergio Hernandez, Naiche Lujan,
Susan, Michael Sedano, Manuel Urrutia, Victor Payan

On a balmy night this past week, Mental Menudo ignited anew in the heart of historic Los Angeles. As the Santa Ana winds cleared the air, a group of true believers in the power of community-building discourse gathered at La Plaza de Artes y Culturas to continue the circle of charlas created by the late great Gilbert “Magu” Lujan.

A Los Angeles-based painter, sculptor, and muralist, Magu was a founding member of “Los Four” and a beloved creative force. He drew sketches for seminal Chicano Art zine “Con Safos,” designed the Hollywood & Vine metro station, and inspired thousands with his fanciful depictions of Magulandia, a utopia of vibrant Chicanismo fused with nostalgic Americana.

Early in his college days, Magu saw a pattern of dysfunctional communication emerge from his fellow artists and activists. People in the movimiento were tearing each other apart when discussing everything from fine art and folk culture to science and social issues. Worse yet, vicious gossip and petty broncas were keeping some groups from even speaking each other. Magu recognized that these ideological &social divisions keep Latinos isolated from each other and disempowered. He set about to analyze and address the issue, creating Mental Menudo in the 1970’s.

Mental Menudo: Dinner and de-brief. Foreground, Victor Payan and Naiche Lujan,
middle, Sandra "Pocha" Peña, Susan, Mario Trillo
back, Diane Hernandez, Manuel Urrutia

Much like the soup these meetups were named after, “Menudo” a mix of cow entrails and vegetables, the ingredients need to be carefully cleaned and simmered before the mix can become a nourishing meal; similarly, the MENTAL Menudo needs volatile ideas carefully presented, transforming them into nourishing discussions.

In fleshing Mental Menudo out, Magu devised ground rules based on indigenous customs and non-violent communication, and created the3-part structure, led by 2 moderators, followed by a post-discussion feast. The result is a discussion that is far more dynamic than contentious. Many times, former adversaries emerge as allies, strangers often become friends. The post-discussion Mental Menudo feast is an equally important component of each session, where many great breakthroughs and connections happen.

Flash forward several decades and the impact of these gatherings is evident. Countless professional relationships, torrid romances, creative partnerships, political alliances and treasured friendships were fueled by these ideological feasts. Los Angeles, Pomona, San Diego and other host cities have seen great benefit from the networks Mental Menudo helped forge within the Latinx community.

Mental Menudo de-brief: Mario Trillo, Susan, Sandra "Pocha" Peña
back, Naiche Lujan, Victor Payan

Today, Mental Menudo is poised to relaunch after falling dormant after Magu’s death. In a Getty-funded initiative, LA/LA, which spotlights Latinx contributions to contemporary art, Gilbert Magu Lujan is in the spotlight once again. The Getty is extending its celebrated Pacific Standard Time initiative into the Latinx Arts & Culture, celebrating the impact artists have made to contemporary arts in Southern California. This Fall, Magu’s UCI retrospective will become an important milestone for a body of work, returning to its creator’s alma mater in glory. Continuing the artist’s legacy, his son, Naiche Lujan was invited by the Getty to advise on Magu’s exhibit and incubate a new Mental Menudo cohort that will stage a live demo in October.

“The central idea is to communicate, inform and network with other artists.” – Magu Lujan

Stay tuned for Mental Menudo: The Next Incarnation, a multi-generational convening of Mental Menudistas this October 2017 to coincide with Magu’s UCI show. Not only will the Getty showcase a new group of Mental Menudo moderators, but also stage a full demonstration of a traditional gathering. Mental Menudo practicioners believe that in consciously connecting our youth, peers and elders through nurturing platicas, we help our community survive & thrive beyond any difficulties ahead.

Help your community blossom, have some Mental Menudo!

For more information on Mental Menudo, visit the Mental Menudo Facebook page or contact Naiche Lujan via the Facebook Mental Menudo page. https://www.facebook.com/mentalmenudo/

Mental Menudo April 2017
front, Susan, Diane Hernandez, Sandra "Pocha" Peña
back, Sergio Hernandez, Naiche Lujan, Manuel Urrutia, Mario Trillo, Michael Sedano, Victor Payan

About today's Guest Columnist: Sandra Pocha Peña

 Sandra Pocha Peña is a multi-disciplinary artist based in California and Texas. Growing up Chicano and Bolivian in the shadow of Disneyland cultivated her skill at subverting pop culture. She produced a music video for OC punk band The Vandals that aired on MTV and went on to study video art in Spain. Peña received two BA’s, in Sociology and Visual Arts from UC San Diego and completed the prestigious UCLA School of Film MFA program.  Throughout the ‘90s and 2000s, Pocha worked in Spanish-language television, producing game shows, variety shows and promos for Univision, Telemundo and Fox Latin American. She was also one of the producers on hit indie feature East Side Story written/directed by Carlos Portugal, creator of the Hulu hit series East Los High.

Peña went on to program/direct film festivals in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Antonio's CineFestival, the longest-running Latino film fest in the US.  A dedicated writer,Peña is best known for her seminal film essay, "The Pocha Manifesto" published in Jump Cut film journal, reprinted in Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures by Scott MacKenzie and featured in Chon Noriega’s classic Chicanos and Film anthology.  She has also written features for La Opinion, the OC Register, Tu Cuidad, Frontera and Chicano Art magazines among others.

As a fine artist, Peña won a Warhol Foundation prize for video/performance; a NALAC artist fellowship for her textile art; Woman of the Year for the 46th Congressional District; University of Washington diversity speaking fellowship;and media arts teaching residencies from LULAC, the James Irvine Foundation, San Anto Cultural Arts, OCCTAC, as well as directing the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center “Cine en el Barrio” program.

Pocha currently serves as Vice Chair of the Santa Ana Art Commission, continues writing, teaching, and lecturing on matters of race, silent cinema and women in the arts.

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