I wanted to write something about what happened last week at LA Weekly.
Much of the details can be found in this article by Jack Denton for Pacific Standard. The short version of the story is that a gaggle of libertarians bought the company and fired most everyone last Wednesday. The new EIC Brian Calle doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing or what he wants to do and neither do the owners as the site has yet to be updated with any new content other than a post introducing the new investors and since-deleted tweet offering unpaid work.
That’s not to mention the jaw-dropping ignorant statements that Calle and his investors have vomited out in recent days.
I contributed to the LAW for seven years with these past three years the best out of those seven thanks to everyone I worked with especially former music editor Andy Hermann who also wrote me a wonderful letter of recommendation as part of my application to San Diego State University.
The past three years were definitely something special. The four years before then felt like dangerous, shifting waters that threatened to sink LA Weekly with a revolving door of cuts and editorial staff. Then, somehow, the ship and waters stabilized and all went well again.
Until November 29th.
Some of my peers from LAW are fighting Calle and his ilk to prevent them from being able to do anything under LAW’s name. I’m not sure what will come of it but the new owners are off to a terrible start and many important names, retailers, and organizations in the city have joined a boycott against them.
I do believe it’s possible to save LA Weekly. I hope we can soon.
Below is an essay response for a quiz in my “Race, Ethnicity, & Identity” class at San Diego State University.
The essay prompt is based on the 1986 film The Mission starring Jeremy Irons as Father Gabriel and Robert De Niro as Rodrigo Mendoza. The former is a Jesuit priest who lives in South America with the Guaraní. The latter is a slave trader who converts to the Jesuit order with the assistance of Father Gabriel and the Guaraní and both seek to protect the indigenous Guaraní from the Spanish and Portuguese powers that be.
The essay questions asks:
The struggle against racism and inequality has existed for hundreds of years and the decision as to how to combat it has been a key issue for activists. Discuss the struggle between Mendoza and Gabriel and then correlate it to how you think about activism related to racism today.
My answer is below:
The struggles of Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) and Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert De Niro) bear a few similarities to the struggles as well as the methods used by Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in their respective attempts to combat segregation and inequality in the US during the 1960s. They also reflect some of the oversimplified rhetoric, as well as the complex issues underlying that rhetoric, in today’s era of the battles between Antifa and the Alt-Right.
Within both modern examples we see that the public understanding of the use of violence and non-violence lacks a deeper understanding of the complexities behind the pros and the cons behind the use of each as well as the reasoning behind the use of each. It is reflected in the (mis)understandings of the methods of MLK and Malcolm X and how their struggles are separated as a “good” approach versus a “bad” approach and also reflected in the (mis)understandings of resurgence of Nazism today and their privilege to a so-called non-violent, public platform versus their detractors, Antifa, who allegedly believe in nothing other than punching them in the face at every opportunity.
Arguments that favor defending the free speech rights of the Alt-Right are based on simplified, non-contextual understandings of the first amendment, Nazism, and non-violence that also lack the deeper understanding behind how speech is governed, who is entitled/privileged to speak, and who is given access to a platform to speak.
Meanwhile, the arguments against Antifa tactics enforce a belief that any idea and method that appears non-violent is the only one that should be held as valid, proper, and worthy of given a space.
The film ends with similar simplifications, which we can pin on the film industry’s crutch on “Hollywood endings” pinned on simplistic moral reasoning, on the ideals of violence and non-violence.
“If might is right, then love has no place in the world,” says Gabriel to Mendoza when the latter informs him that he and the other Jesuits plan to renounce their oaths to order and remain to fight alongside the Guaraní. His response to the larger threat of the impending attack by the Spanish and Portuguese reflects his strict religious beliefs and moral code, found within the biblical passage that Mendoza reads during his conversion, in the power of God’s love to overcome all obstacles.
Mendoza, meanwhile, decides to redeem his violent past by using said violence to help defend the Guaraní. In the end, both are slaughtered alongside those they defended. Neither of them alone, neither philosophy alone, was enough, which, I believe, is the lesson we should take from the lives of MLK Jr. and Malcolm X in spite of the simplified, competing narratives.
Simplistic understandings of the two men divide them into two camps. Those on Dr. King’s side and his belief in non-violence and others on X’s side of violence when necessary in the name of self-defense. The narratives behind these men can also be found in the narratives behind King and X.
Gabriel, like King, is a devout man of the Christian faith who stands behind it in a respectful manner. Mendoza is similar to X in that he lived a criminal past as a mercenary and slave trader before joining the Jesuit order just as X, then Malcolm Little, converted to the Nation of Islam’s black nationalist interpretation of the Muslim faith while in prison as he served time for the crimes of theft, drug dealing, and pimping.
Where Gabriel/King saw hope for a world filled with love, both Mendoza/X held a stronger grasp of its potential, and very real, cruelty thanks in part to their enriching their separate lives via that cruelty.
The simplistic narrative would defend a viewpoint that ends with Gabriel and Mendoza dying as King and X did in their respective ideological spheres. However, that viewpoint sells the lives of King and X far too short as both men evolved in their ideological outlook to degrees that some would be surprised about.
Dr. King, for instance, went beyond fighting against the injustice of simplistic notions of racism and segregation. He would soon go after the hegemonic powers of white patriarchal capitalist supremacy going so far as to echo the criticisms that Muhammad Ali levied against the war in Vietnam. He criticized Communism and Capitalism in equal doses and publicly shared his fear that he may have mistakenly integrated his people into a burning house. He began to question the limits of non-violence.
Malcolm X sung a slightly different tune after his trip to the Islamic holy city of Mecca. As a member and leader of the Nation of Islam, he never believed that white people could ever be part of, much less allow, a peacefully integrated society between the races. It was at Mecca where that belief was upended. He met Muslims of various ethnic and economic backgrounds and skin tones worshipping together peacefully.
Both men eventually discovered the limits of their beliefs. King never advocated the use of violence, but he realized that non-violence had its limits against an inherently violent society. X, on the other hand, realized that some integration was possible, even attainable, in his lifetime without the use of violence.
The Mission ends with Gabriel and Mendoza dead on the ground at the mission. Mendoza, mowed down in a barrage of bullets, looks on during his last breaths as Gabriel is shot while leading mass, defiant via his faith in the only way he knew how. Both men fail but the memories of their sacrifice will be remembered by the Guaraní children who survived much like the memories of the sacrifices of King and X survive today.
Those memories shouldn’t be tarnished by simplistic notions of right and wrong, good and evil, but should be understood and upheld within the proper context of their times, their ideas, and their hopes in creating a society that respected their autonomy and existence as a people.
After years of waiting, fans will finally get to see Saul “Canelo” Alvarez face Gennady Golovkin in the ring. Many fans and non-fans alike have witnessed the huge marketing push by Tecate in the US and Mexico for the fight. The campaign, which includes a set of commercials featuring Canelo and Sylvester Stallone, began a new phase a month before the fight with “16 Stories Of Punch.”
The digital campaign highlights the stories of 16 individuals of Mexican and Mexican-American heritage who Tecate selected as “punching above their weight” in their respective fields. Folks such as ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna, chef Enrique Olvera, artist Edgar “Saner” Flores (who provides the art for the campaign), and Olympic boxer Marlen Esparza make the cut in the company’s social media pages.
The campaign comes to an end at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV tonight where Saner’s art will be converted into large, physical portraits and posters for attendees to enjoy as an interactive photo exhibit.
I spoke with Gustavo Guerra, Brand Director at Tecate, and Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy Promotions (who is also one of the 16 personalities features in the campaign), about their work together for “16 Stories Of Punch” as well as the final preparations for the big fight.
Gustavo Guerra: We wanted to do something that compliments the level of importance of the biggest event of the year that is around the corner. Tecate sponsoring boxing and specifically Canelo’s fight, we wanted to combine two great things that Hispanics are about to live. One of course is the fight but the second is Mexican Independence Day weekend. For that, we put together the agency to work on something that can be impactful, that can be different, but at the same time can tap into these two facts: the boxing event and Mexican Independence Day.
The problem that we came about with this idea was just to shine a light on the story of Mexican-Americans living in the US that are punching above their weight. That, of course, is acknowledging that Canelo is the most important guy of our 16 stories, we wanted to find 15 more fighters from different fields, not necessarily about boxing, that can be a nice story to engage and to inspire our audience in digital. For that, of course, to celebrate this meaningful number of 16 that we know that is related to Mexican Independence Day as well to the Canelo fight [and] the momentum that we have. So we know that it’s a date full of significance for Mexicans not only because of the boxing but also because of Mexican Independence Day. With this in mind, we wanted to find 15 nice stories to tell over our social channel and, in some cases, we randomly picked some guys that are from different fields but also we wanted to walk the walk and acknowledge our partners who are, in this case, Eric was a great addition to the program because Eric has a very compelling and interesting story about the way he has been doing things with his career and his journey with Golden Boy Promotions.
We knew it was a very nice contribution to the program because, again, it’s a matter of being credible and telling stories of people that are related to the boxing scene but also about being fighters in their life. That was the common theme that aside of Canelo and, this case, Eric, we captured the stories of some other warriors that are doing great things in different fields.
The name of the story is “16 Stories Of Punch.” The idea is to, like a cherry to the cake, to have a very nice activation on site outside of the arena in which we will expose the 16 stories along with the 16 paintings and thanks to Saner, a great artist originally from Oaxaca, who has a great style in line with what we were looking for: very Mexican and very authentic. We will have him performing one more time with a big mural in the T-Mobile Arena outside of the arena and he will be doing an interpretation of the two fighters. That is the way we will conclude this great program.
What was the process of selecting the individuals for the campaign?
Guerra: For us, it was a task of finding Mexican-Americans that can live in the relevant market in which we target especially California, Texas, Chicago, which happens to be the market with high Hispanic concentrations. The common theme was to be fighters, to be of Mexican descent, to be born and raised in Mexico but come to the US but to have this story in the same line of success in the way they see and the way they tackle life in a lighthearted way. We wanted to have this combination of different profiles and who have a fighting spirit and that’s how we came up with guys like Raul [Torres] being an actor, Francisco Galvez, the head of CharroAzteca.com, he’s an entrepreneur. He’s selling charreria online, which is awesome! We were very lucky to find different personalities that collectively have in common this theme to be fighters, to having great stories.
I know this is a separate campaign but how did Tecate come to work with Sylvester Stallone?
Guerra: That’s been a very successful campaign! I need to be very honest with you. That has been the most successful campaign ever in the history of Tecate in the US. We normally track the campaigns when we show it to consumers. We have a way of tracking how we’re doing in terms of awareness and in terms of relevance. We like to call this the top quadrant when we have the highest scores. We truly believe this is a campaign that is breaking through our target audience. We tested the first spot and we got these great scores and then we tested a second spot and it was the same.
The bottom line is it’s a campaign that is very likeable to fans because it’s about two key things and that’s my interpretation of the results. One is boxing, which is the passion point for the Hispanic consumer, and the second is the barbecue location, which is a very traditional and important location for Hispanics. Those two things in combination with Sylvester Stallone, which is a celebrity of high stature, it has been a great combination that delivered great results for us.
Eric, what prompted Golden Boy to work with Tecate on this campaign?
Eric Gomez: We have a long relationship with Tecate. When we first started Golden Boy Promotions, we worked with them early on. We worked with them closely with the brand, we were familiar with a lot of the executives, with the people who worked with Tecate. We always had a very good relationship. We like to say that we’re almost like family and I think Gustavo would agree.
For some time, we got away from Tecate and started working with Corona for a little bit but ultimately we found our way back and we’ve been working together for the last three years, the last two and a half years, more or less. It’s been very successful. They have a level of professionalism in the way they promote and market their brand that we try to emulate with Golden Boy and we try to do the same thing.
What was important to them was we try to come up with premiere events right around Cinco de Mayo and September 16th. We had the same vision. We’ve been working hand-in-hand and we’ve been very successful.
We’ve done a great job of bringing Canelo along and making him into the superstar he is now. We knew early on that there’s one or two guys out there that was going to make a super, mega event and Golovkin was one of them. One of them was Floyd Mayweather. We ended up doing that fight a few years back but after Mayweather and we said “who is the guy we can target and build a fight?” and it was Golovkin. When we got together with Tecate and said this is the guy who would eventually have a super, mega event and to see this come to fruition now is what we work for. It’s our Super Bowl. This is our Super Bowl.
In the NFL, they have the Super Bowl once a year and it’s very succesful. It generates a lot of attention, a lot of money. In baseball, they have the World Series, in NBA the Finals but in boxing, we really don’t have that. A lot of it we got from Oscar’s career. When Oscar fought on those important dates, which are important dates for the Mexican public and a lot of Latinos, those were kind of like our Super Bowl. Now, that’s what we try to emulate. Tecate’s been very supportive and basically helped so that we can make these events big and the way they market these events really is like a Super Bowl.
I’m very happy with the promotion. Tecate’s been very supportive. The amount of dollars they’ve poured in is probably the biggest they’ve ever done. For us, it’s a pleasure working with them.
Guerra: Of course we’re looking to engage with people but at the end it’s just to recognize Mexican-Americans. I am Mexican myself and I have lived in the US for the past five years and I think we all have the same spirit and the brand just wants to showcase and put it up front in our campaign. If you’re talking about this and the way Canelo is fighting and the way he’s taking his job as a fighter and a lot of value that we share with the brand, it’s kind of a no-brainer to think outside of the box a little bit, not necessarily about boxing but to mirror this fighting spirit that Canelo has in some other fields as well represented by some other Mexican-Americans. I think it has been a very unique opportunity to tell our story in a very different way, which was kind of expected from before.
The recent 24/7 HBO special does a great job of painting GGG as a national hero in his native Kazakhstan. It makes sense to elevate Canelo in a similar fashion.
Gomez: In many ways, that’s what makes this fight is that both guys are the top athletes in their country. Canelo’s not only the top boxer but, right now, arguably, he’s the number one athlete they have in Mexico. You think of all the great stars they have in soccer, he probably surpassed them and the same holds true for Golovkin. He’s probably the hottest commodity out of Kazakhstan. That’s what makes it huge and the fact that they’re coming together in this great country that’s made up of foreigners just makes it more special.
Yeah, there’s an almost political scope about it which I hate to point out but it’s practically impossible not to.
Gomez: These two guys have been very successful building their careers here in the United States. The public loves them, they’re very entertaining. They’re both from other countries but the American dream is available if you work hard. That’s kind of the message. These guys are here and they’re grabbing the world’s attention in the US. This is not their country but they’ve been adopted here because of what they do.
What’s the atmosphere like at Golden Boy right now with the fight just two weeks away?
Gomez: Canelo’s at the last stage. He’s looking great. This week is maintaining and the last stages of his training. He’s already in shape. The reality is they go into these training camps for the past two months and they’re such great athletes. He was ready to fight a month ago! He’s getting his mind conditioned for war. Us here at Golden Boy are just tying up all the loose ends. It’s very exciting! We live for these events. It takes years sometimes to put together these events.
Speaking of which, I think most fans aren’t fully aware of the complexities behind putting together a fight as big as this one.
Gomez: What I said to a lot of the media or fans that ask me “why didn’t you make this fight sooner?” is there’s things that have to happen. I’m a big baseball fan. I wish I could always see the Dodgers face the Yankees in the World Series. That’s not going to happen but I know that when it does happen, it’s special. If you get that all the time, then it wouldn’t be special. In the pennant race, you wish the Red Sox could always play the Yankees. It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does happen, it’s special. The same holds true with boxing. There’s a natural process in getting to a big fight. If you really analyze this, the fans really only had to wait two years or a little less for this fight. It was worth the wait.
The fight probably wouldn’t have as much hype or expectation as it does now had it happened a year ago either.
Gomez: You’re absolutely correct. It’s all part of the process [and] part of the promotion. You can’t always get what you want when you want it but, at the end, they’re getting it. The fans are going to react to it. All the signs are very, very positive right now. It’s still too early to forecast how we’re going to do pay-per-view wise but if the gate is any indication, it’s going to be huge. We sold out the gate in nine days. For us at Golden Boy, it’s a record. It’s the biggest gate we’ve ever done. It’s bigger than when Oscar fought Mayweather and bigger than when Canelo fought Mayweather.
He’s taking this fight seriously and he’s finally grown into his body. He’s finally a man. A lot of guys are used to watching Canelo a few years back when he was still growing. He was 23, 24. Now, he’s a man. He just turned 27. It’s not a young kid’s body anymore, it’s a man’s body and he’s always worked very hard in camp but he knows that this is a special fight and he knows that he can’t leave any stone unturned. I was talking to his manager and trainer, Chepo, yesterday and was asking hjm questions and he was telling me the kid was so motivated.
Two months ago, City Football Group announced its new partnership with Goals Soccer Centers in the US and Canada. The companies made the announcement at GSC’s 5-a-sde training facility in Pomona, CA in the middle of Manchester City’s pre-season tour of the USA with the help of a few players bedecked in the team’s new home and away kits. Yaya Toure, Leroy Sane, Nicolas Otamendi, and new signing Danilo fresh off the plane from Real Madrid. A handful of the local kids who train and play at the facility were lucky enough to play a scrimmage with the four pros for a few minutes.
There will be a point this coming Thursday night when Helado Negro, the musical alter ego of Roberto Carlos Lange, will kick up a wave of high-pitched sounds off his synthesizer and lead the crowd at the Regent Theater into a chorus about being “young, Latin and proud.” The song, which turns 2 years old this summer, continues to serve as an anthem for a generation of Latinos growing up in Trump’s America, a development Lange never expected.
“Absolutely, it caught me by surprise,” the multitalented Lange admits over the phone. “The song was made for me and was more of an intimate song. We had a few shows and, kind of the way the world works in trying to get people to know that you have a new show coming up, we thought it would be a good idea to release a new song, and I thought, ‘Oh, this would be a great song for summertime.’”
Lange released “Young, Latin and Proud” just as candidate Trump was calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. “A lot of people have commented to me that they found the song to be somewhat of a reinforcement of an anti-Trump idea,” he says. But he insists the song wasn’t intended as a response to Trump: “It was just music that I was making that I’ve always made since day one, since the first record. A lot of my music has been covering the same themes. People pick up on it later in time.”
Read the rest at LA Weekly.