“Lucha libre is something very dear and personal to all Mexicans,” continues Arau. “All of my work, be it music, animation, film or art, is about popular Mexican culture and lucha libre is one of the most visible things there is. Compare that with the culture here, the gringo culture, where a mask is usually something associated with terrorism, with sadomasochism. There’s no tradition behind it whereas in all of Mexico, the Indigenous communities use masks, all of the fiestas in every state utilize masks, there are museums dedicated to masks made of different materials. For us, masks are something very natural.”
The space features a store that sells custom lucha libre merchandise including apparel such as shirts, hats and leggings printed in-house at the Republic of Lucha Print Shop. There are small baskets filled with plastic-mold action figures of masked wrestlers. Two large, glass cases contain mannequin heads adorned with various wrestling masks worn in official matches by wrestlers such as Fenix, Penta, Psycho Clown, Tinieblas Jr., and others, all for sale. They also host the Lucha Movie Club most Saturdays each month when the rooftop is converted into an outdoor movie theater to screen classic lucha libre films, such as the ones featuring El Santo and Blue Demon, and more.
My latest piece for KCET Artbound is my interview with artist/activist Julio Salgado. His work took off nearly a decade ago when he created his series of portraits of queer, undocumented activists titled “Undocuqueer.”
The purpose behind the series is to remind people that the bulk of the work in pushing the national conversation on immigrants’ rights, in planning and executing protests and all the other unglamorous, behind-the-scenes work was done by UndocuQueers. It’s also to expand the conversation behind the perceptions of who these immigrants affected by these laws and policies are.
On multiple occasions, Salgado has had to educate numerous people about the diversity of people who identify/are labeled as undocumented. In one such instance, he and others traveled by bus from California to Washington D.C. for a massive march on the capitol.
“A lot of them were faith-based groups,” recalls Salgado. “There were some immigrants who were very homophobic that would say homophobic things and, like, how do you navigate those spaces? You have to educate people, which I don’t have a problem with that. Working in kitchens with a lot of immigrant men and their machismo, you learn how to use humor.”
“That’s why I started making those pieces,” he continues. “It was for our communities to understand that if we’re talking about accepting people or creating policy that doesn’t criminalize us, we can think about other folks who are also part of our communities.”
I have a new article up at KCET about a collaborative music project that I also partook in. The project by Joshua-Michéle Ross is titled The Adjacent Possible: An Evolving Communal Orchestra and is a collaborative work of art between anonymous collaborators that, as I explain in the story, is an “experience [that] feels like equal doses of guided meditation, creative collaboration and a space for introspection and relaxation.”
From my article:
The project’s name comes from the work of Stuart Kauffman, a doctor, theoretical biologist and complex systems researcher, who coined the phrase “adjacent possible” in 2002. His theory is based on his work in biological evolution and is concerned with how organisms and biological systems, which he also refers to as “autonomous agents,” evolve into larger, more complex systems/organisms by seeking out numerous possibilities within their environment. His theory has been adapted in other fields, including the arts.
For Ross, the theory describes “how human beings, as parts of a very creative universe, are always pushing at the boundaries of what’s possible and how the aggregate choices that we make from that creates the kind of world we live in. It’s kind of how the future gets made and the idea of how the small choices that we make and bring to things, despite constraints, how those choices add up the reality we live in.”
Ross brings this theory to life through a communal orchestra. Up to 20 people gather to perform at each event. Ross serves as the event guide and conductor, speaking slowly, softly and deliberately as he shifts everyone away from the Zoom call where everyone first gathers and onto a website designed specifically for the experience.
Next is my conversation with Adriana Astorga-Gainey and Jesenia Gardea of the Pacifico Dance Company. The Los Angeles-based non-profit company takes a serious approach to folklorico dance that centers on training professional dancers.
One of the things keeping my sanity intact during the COVID-19 pandemic is music. There is, thankfully, still plenty of new music being released on a regular, normal basis. That sense of normalcy is appreciated. That being said, I present some artists & tunes I’ve been listening to for the past month or so while dealing with short bursts of existential dread. Enjoy!
Barzo & Un Rojo Reggae Band – “Electrified”
DJ/producer Barzo of Costa Rica teams up with Un Rojo Reggae Band on this track, which Barzo also published via his label, Lacteo Cosmico.
Carré – “This is not a band”
Carré is a French trio based in Los Angeles. The track above is the group’s debut single and reminds me of the types of bangers prevalent during the early and mid-2000s when Soulwax, Ed Banger, Justice, and Digitalism ruled dance floors worldwide.
Cheo – Sorpresa
Jose Luis Pardo makes his solo debut. Well, technically, it’s his debut without using a stage name. He originally went solo as DJ Afro in 2007 with the EP-1 four-track album. followed by the 2011 full-length album, Free. He was still a member of Los Amigos Invisibles, which he founded, during then. In 2014, he dabbled with a nu-disco project under the name Orquesta Discotheque and released an album of disco-fied covers titled Musica Moderna.
On Sorpresa, Cheo expresses himself fully, completely, and honestly as a singer, songwriter, musician, and producer. Says Cheo:
It took me some time time to write my own music again and re-invent myself after years of writing for a “sex-infused party band.” Who was I now?
In June 2019, I had a break from producing and decided to check all the song ideas to make a selection and produce them, maybe as someone else’s album, the same way I produced as my job.
The result is Sorpresa. What came out was a surprise to me in every way. I didn’t know I had all that music inside me. I didn’t know I was going to be an artist again…these songs feel like a book I needed to write after living so much, after I thought my career as an artist was done.
Esteman – “Hasta Que Tú Me Quieras”
The Colombian artist provides a peek and the soundtrack to what will hopefully be pandemic-free summer nights ahead. Here’s hoping the beaches and piers on the west coast can be reopened by late June.
LASTMONDAY – “Audemars”
Bronx-Dominican artist LASTMONDAY got stuck in Miami, FL when the COVID-19 lockdown went into effect. He and director Modern Day Auteur made the most of the situation and shot a video for his track “Audemars,” off his upcoming mixtape Yo! Tigerito.
N.Y.P.D. 南洋派對 – 南洋派對
Google Translate tells me that the name of this band is N.Y.P.D. Nanyang Party. I don’t know much else about these guys other than their lyrics/vocals are in Cantonese and that their album was released via Yeti Out’s HK label Silk Road Sounds. Oh, and it’s damn good garage/punk rock n’ roll.
Superposition – Form//Less
Superposition is the “meditative antidote to a world of digital overwhelm” created by the duo Justin Boreta and Matthew Davis. The five-track EP makes a great soundtrack for rest, relaxation, and soothing your anxiety, which is exactly what many of us need these days.