Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Granados SoCal Book Tour. Con Safos Magazine Tortilla de Oro Awards

Living Room Floricanto Tops Granados SoCal Book Tour
Michael Sedano

Flor y Canto, ©Magu
The flower and the song, floricanto, as a public happening, takes familiar form as a literary festival, or a reading in a local bookstore. Here at La Bloga, we celebrate flower and song via our semi-monthly On-line Floricanto. There’s a third floricanto that I hope increasing numbers of gente will pick up on.

A few years back, some friends were coming into town to read at a book fair in a local park. They had an early schedule and would knock off in time for lunch. I invited them over. And, as it happens, people knew people at the fair, and invited them, too. In a few hours, the back yard was teeming with hungry poets who wanted to share their stuff. They did, Jesus Treviño videotaped it for Latinopia, and the backyard floricanto came into being.

During a trip to Texas, Treviño, American Book Award winner for Return to Arroyo Grande, learned from Christine Granados she planned a book tour into southern California. She scheduled Skylight Books in Los Feliz and Tia Chucha’s Cultural Center in Sylmar. Vroman’s in Pasadena lived up to its reputation for giving a cold shoulder to raza writers. Jesus suggested we co-host Christine to a backyard floricanto at his pad in Eagle Rock.

Bobbi Murray and Jesus Treviño offer impeccable hospitality. A view of east Glendale and the Verdugo Hills from the shade of massive live oak trees were no match for the pitiless heat. The guests took refuge inside, where Casa Murray-Treviño’s art-covered walls made the interior compellingly comfortable and the right place to sit and listen to an author share her work.

Désirée Zamorano and Christine Granados enjoy a writer-to-writer chat
The Sunday afternoon floricanto was Granados’ second in as many days. The day before, Treviño joined Granados, along with Alicia Gaspar de Alba and Andrea Gutierrez, at Tia Chucha’s in Sylmar. A special guest was Granados’ niece, a self-taught composer and guitarist, Alyssa Granados.

Alyssa hails from Oakland. Or Chino. A California girl. The other artists are Tejanas and a Tejano. The All-Tejana Tejano reading produced a wondrous line-up. Granados said she simply asked and the writers all said "yes." An amazing and powerful lineup resulted.

Andrea Gutierrez read from “How To Grow Old,” short fiction published in the current Huizache, the Magazine of Latino Literature (link).

Treviño read the story “Arrullo” from the award-winning Return to Arroyo Grande. Here’s Treviño reading a horror story from the same collection, filmed during a backyard floricanto at Casa Sedano (link) celebrating the launch of Return to Arroyo Grande. It’s delightful that months later the National Book Award would go to Treviño.

Jesus Treviño's documentarian career dates to the time surrounding the emergence of el movimiento in LA. The August 29, 1970 police riot at Laguna Park that culminated in the deaths of three Chicanos, was the subject of an excerpt Treviño read from his memoir, Eyewitness: A Filmmaker's Memoir of the Chicano Movement.

Alicia Gaspar de Alba read an especially intense scene from her Calligraphy of the Witch. A continuation of a story begun in Sor Juana’s Second Dream, Calligraphy brings its characters to witch-hunting New England. The reading might have been the first for Azul, Gaspar de Alba’s daughter. Few sounds are more appropriate in a poetry reading than a baby’s noises coming from the back row where Alma Lopez Gaspar DeAlba tends her sparkling eyed baby. Why poetry, if not for that baby, que no?

Four views of the author at Casa Treviño Living Room Floricanto

Granados shared a pair of readings, the story “Address Book” and a selection from the title novella of the collection, Fight Like A Man & Other Stories We Tell Our Children (link).

Treviño videotaped both the Tia Chucha performance as well as the reading in his living room. Granados thus will have two readings of the same piece before two audiences. She can sit and watch herself as “the reader” and find two or three behaviors she liked and a couple of opportunities to do less of, without, or differently. Next reading, with that assessment in mind, Granados has a couple of techniques to do again to good effect, and one thing she’ll do differently, maybe therein derive more personal satisfaction while delivering ever more effectively for her listeners. She is already a superb reader.

The afternoon at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural was the middle of three readings Christine Granados scheduled on her tour of Southern California. The Saturday afternoon in Sylmar made for interest in a couple of ways. A compelling line-up of writers read from some great works of literature. Being Granados’ second reading, Tia Chucha’s offered a golden opportunity to fine tune her performance.

Con Safos Golden Tortilla Awards

Oscar Castillo, Sergio Hernandez, Art Flores, Rudy Salinas, Tony Gomez
The five older vatos sitting in the basement of Olvera Street’s La Plaza United Methodist Church, where it hosts the Museum of Social Justice, (link) were the all but one of the surviving members of the editorial team who published the iconic Con Safos Magazine.

Wait. That sounds wrong.They were the originals, Oscar Castillo, Sergio Hernandez, Art Flores, Rudy Salinas, Tony Gomez. That’s better, the originals. Only Rafas couldn’t make it. Rafas doesn’t get around much anymore, so the vatos are going over to Rafas’ pad to make a personal presentation of his Con Safos Tortilla de Oro award.

Rafas and the gang were a literary and cultural sensation in the 1960s in Los Angeles. They gained international recognition in Europe, Japan, and GIs in Vietnam. Amid the ferment of the times, C/S stood for arte, politics, satire, cartooning and graphics, produced from raw materials resourced in the streets and student hangouts, in the fields with Chavez, at the forefront of emerging cultural identity.

Documentarian Jim Verlarde is in the final days of wrapping a documentary on the magazine and the Museum of Social Justice event started out with a showing of the full-length semi-final cut of Velarde's film. It is good seeing Magu and Pancho Sifuentes on screen, qepd.

Velarde’s sister, Diane Velarde Hernandez, was one of the rare women associated with the magazine. She presented the Gold Tortilla awards, along with the veteranos.

Diane Velarde Hernandez displays Ralph Rafas Lopez' award
Hernandez’ husband, Sergio, led the magazine’s cartoonist mission of delivering sharp sticks to eyes of worthy targets, like the Brown Berets. Sergio and the panel recalled outraged--and armed--berets storming the C/S offices over a cartoon.

La Bloga reviewed comprehensive examination of the magazine’s life, the pedo with the BB as well as the FBI, a collaboration between the staff and Maxine Borowsky Junge, Voices From The Barrio, “Con Safos: Reflections of Life in the Barrio” here (link). As Borowsky’s title notes, C/S is an abbreviation; the magazine’s full name includes the life in the barrio tag.

The light-hearted ambiente to the affair came from the affability of the five long-time friends. Each has derived ample satisfaction from a lifetime’s work that took off from 1968 and 1969. In their youth and early thirties, creative fervor and long hours produced a series of cultural landmarks and affirmed the notion that the power of the press belongs to the vatos who own one.

Asked about future generations making a C/S Magazine of their own, todo electronic and web-savvy, students from Cal State University Channel Islands were pointed out in the audience with the amorphous designation as “working on something.” A ver.

An engaged audience asked a handful of questions.
Con Safos Tortilla de Oro Awards went to Rafas, a sentimental tribute to his leadership. An award went to the former museum director and current curator of an upcoming exhibition at CSU Channel Islands, The Latino Museum Of History, Art And Culture Revisited (1995–2000), Featuring Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin, Oscar Castillo And Leo Limón.

Los Angeles has a near approximation to C/S, Abel Salas’ Brooklyn & Boyle. (link) 

Salas’ selfless service to the community extends well beyond the circulation of his monthly free newspaper covering arts and community Boyle Heights and the LA eastside.

The C/S gente, recognizing themselves fifty years ago in Salas' newsprint, name  Abel Salas a Golden Tortilla Award Winner.

Abel was deep in the heart of Texas so his paper’s reporter, Alci Rengifo, accepted the award with elegance.

Salas deserves special thanks for his work on the eve of 2010's reunion floricanto at USC.

The three-day event didn't include a vital cross-section of LA poets in its two days dedicated to contemporary and emerging writers. The first day dedicated to Veteranas and Veteranos of the 1973 Festival de Flor y Canto that launched the floricanto movimiento that still thrives, in traditional institutional settings, on-line, and one's own backyard or living room. Why not?

Giving the USC event the kind of community-based kickoff that set the tone for that fabulous event, Abel Salas organized un floricanto en adelanto that welcomed a packed audience to a full evening of readers who deserved to be on stage at USC. Next time, they shall.

Left: Jessica Hough of the California Historical Society. 
Center: John Echeveste, CEO LA Plaza de Culturas y Artes.
Right: Rev. Jennifer Gutierrez Museum of Social Justice Executive Director 
The final Tortilla de Oro award went to John Echeveste, CEO of the nearby LA Plaza de Culturas y Artes, one of Los Angeles’ most promising cultural destinations. Just as the existence of Con Safos Magazine represented a culture’s sense of humor and conscienticized identity, the award stands for a community’s heartfelt gratitude to a classy place opening its gates to the grass roots. Echeveste has opened the institution’s doors to numerous community activities, from the launch of the C/S book to Naiche Lujan’s revival of Magu’s Mental Menudo tertullias. I do not know if Echeveste is responsible for bringing in 2016's disastrous LBFF. That was a noble idea that needed the energy of LA Plaza’s new marketing director, Abelardo de la Peña, Jr.

Seeing those vatos up there, emotions running a gamut from rueing their sexism to reaffirming their defiance at full-of-themselves tipos, those guys have memories that have use, for those who would use proven experience and living models who've been there, done that.

It can be done again, let's watch on the horizon for who will bring us 2017 Con Safos: Reflections of Life On the Gentrified Frontier.

1 comment:

Vincent Cooper said...

I want one