Overcoming the Pandemic in the Inland Empire

My latest article is an interview with a few people from El Sol, a community health advocacy group based in San Bernardino county. The non-profit group has devoted resources to share information about Covid-19, vaccines, and more in the county’s Hispanic/Latin American population.

The workers at El Sol realize that the conversations around the pandemic aren’t limited to the virus or vaccines. This latest phase of their campaign is called “Time to Heal” and was produced in collaboration with the CDC. Along with the toolkit, El Sol’s website features moving testimonials from residents (PDF) who have been severely affected by the pandemic. The website offers a guide on coping with short- or long-term trauma (PDF) and tips on creating a self-care plan (PDF).

“We have lost everything — people, jobs, hope, and we have not had time to reflect on it,” Fajardo said. “Everything now is about the ending the pandemic and, as soon as we get this done, I’m pretty sure we’ll be having a lot of mental health–related issues. When we were doing ‘Time to Heal,’ I tried to get testimonials from people I know who have suffered a loss. People are not ready in terms of how to talk or how to heal. These discussions were painful for them, so I think it’s a good opportunity to bring awareness of it and how to talk about it.”

Link: https://www.chcf.org/blog/superheroes-songs-el-sols-promotores-help-vaccinate-inland-empire/

CSULA, USC to Digitize Mesoamerican & Spanish Colonial Archives in Joint Project

My latest story is available to read now at dot.LA. It’s about a joint project between California State University Los Angeles and the University of Southern California to digitize their respective archives of Mesoamerican and Spanish Colonial artifacts and photographs.

EXCERPT:

“We’re hoping to do some 3D printing on campus of some of the objects,” said Ramirez. “It’s supposed to be a teaching collection in many ways but, obviously, many of the artifacts are very delicate so we don’t want people accidentally dropping them. We’re hoping to 3D print some of them so that it’s feasible and students can actually handle some of them because we have a Mesoamerican Studies minor on our campus.”

The photography collection also includes nearly 10,000 images printed on 35mm slides. The images are dated from the 1950s to the 1980s and feature Mesoamerican objects held in museums in Italy, Spain, Germany, France, the US, and South America. Of these, Cunningham has digitized 4,500 of them.

Cunningham uses a different camera and process to digitize physical objects such as statues and jars. He uses a Phase One XF camera with a 100-megapixel Phase One IQ3 digital back. Normally, he shoots 32 images of each item from one of three angles for a total of 96 images to create a single 3D render of an object. The 3D render is processed using Agisoft Metashape.

Link: https://dot.la/usc-csula-digitize-mesoamerica-artifacts-2655544787.html

Republic Of Lucha A Haven For Lucha Libre Fanatics

My latest story for KCET is now available for reading: Republic of Lucha Provides a Haven for Lucha Libre Culture in L.A.

EXCERPT:

“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.

LINK: https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/republic-of-lucha-provides-a-haven-for-lucha-libre-culture-in-l-a

A New Wave of Souldies Artists

My latest for KCET is my interview with a half-dozen artists who are part of a new wave of souldies artists. Souldies, a.k.a. Chicano Soul, has a distinct flair and sound that’s also connected to a specific cultural context, which I write briefly about in the story.

The familial connection to the music and the culture is one shared by nearly all the artists involved in this resurgence of oldies music. Samano recalls his parents putting artists such as The Delfonics and Brenton Wood on heavy rotation during his childhood. Lane grew up on gospel and studied “the pillars of northern soul” while studying music in college. Garcia’s father had a record collection that included Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells and Brenton Wood plus dozens of doo-wop artists.

The same goes for Vicky Tafoya, founder and singer of Vicky Tafoya and the Big Beat, who grew up surrounded by the sounds of doo-wop, big band and Motown. As the youngest of 12 children, she inherited the vinyl records that each one of her siblings left behind as they moved out. She became completely enamored with the music and had a life-changing experience in 1989 when she joined The Doo-Wop Society of Southern California. It was there that she would spend years watching and even performing acapella doo-wop on the same stage as the artists she listened to obsessively at home: Vernon Green and The Medallions, The Teenagers, The Six Teens, The Chantelles and many other legendary artists.

You can read the story in full here: https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/a-new-generation-of-musicians-are-revitalizing-chicano-soul-music

Life As Undocuqueer

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.”

An excerpt:

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.”

Read the full story here: https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/julio-salgado-undocuqueer-immigrant-artist