Tag Archives: culture

Faustino Diaz: Trombone master from Oaxaca in L.A.

Faustino Diaz, the Oaxacan trombone master, returns to Los Angeles this weekend for a concert at the Ukrainian Hall, 4315 Melrose Ave., this Sunday at 2 p.m.

Diaz thrilled Mexico last year when he won the International Trombone Competition in South Korea.1511733_908562385837387_4934257276349175473_n

A few days later he visited the Pico-Union District and the music school run by director Estanislao Maqueos, who has used his school to organize Oaxacan youth orchestras.

There, I had the chance to sit down and talk with him about his life, and having to venture out into the world to find his music like a migrant finds a future.

The interview is above and in Spanish.

Check out the concert. Should be good.

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Filed under California, Culture, Mexico, Migrants, Southern California

Tell Your True Tale: East Los Angeles — the book presentation this Saturday

TYTT draft cover JPEGHey all — An invite  to the presentation of a book that grew out a tremendously successful series of nonfiction writing workshops I gave to new writers at East L.A. Public Library.

The presentation of  TELL YOUR TRUE TALE: East Los Angeles takes place this Saturday (April 26) at 2:30 pm, at the library, which is located at 4837 E 3rd St, (323-264-0155).

The volume is stunning for the mosaic of East L.A. it presents, as well as the variety and quality of the stories: A vet returning home from Vietnam; a janitor in Houston trying to find her children in Mexico; of braceros finding their way north and back home again; a man learning confidence as he woos a woman; a bus rider in Los Angeles; a mariachi singing for a heartbroken family on Christmas Eve.

All by folks who’d never published before: Andrew Ramirez, Celia Viramontes, Olivia Segura, Manuel Chaidez, Jacqueline Gonzalez, Joanne Mestaz, and Diego Renteria.

I call my workshops TELL YOUR TRUE TALE. They attempt to excavate new stories from unheard communities as they help new writers over the intimidating humps that keep them from realizing their writing dreams, and push them to start thinking like writers — all by mining the stories in their lives or those of people close to them.

Hope you all can make the presentation this Saturday, and pass along the word to others who might be interested.

Meanwhile, grab the book at Amazon.com.

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Filed under California, Culture, Storytelling, Tell Your True Tale, Writing

LOS ANGELES: Hell Restaurant

IMG_3062I was in Compton earlier today and came upon this restaurant on Long Beach Boulevard.

El Infierno Restaurant (English: Hell Restaurant), known for its excellent menudo, was named thus by its owner, a fellow named Andres, who comes from Apatzingan in the state of Michoacan, Mexico.

Apatzingan, you may know, is in a ferociously hot part of Mexico known as the Tierra Caliente, and known for its wild ways. Frankly, I was always afraid to visit and never did.

Andres said he named it for the heat of his native region, though Apatzingan lately has become a virtual war zone, as cartels fight each other and the military.

Anyway, El Infierno Restaurant has had some tumultuous times itself.

When it was in its original spot, in a strip mall elsewhere in Compton, it was burned down during the riots of 1992. Andres rebuilt. Then earlier this year, his restaurant was shot up and then someone crashed a car into it, gutting it with fire (see photo, right).IMG_3056

Andres blamed gang members who wanted to sell drugs and didn’t like his surveillance cameras (there to protect his business). A neighboring business owner said he didn’t treat customers well and some got mad. That seems hard to believe, but whatever the case, Andres moved to the newer, bigger, better location on Long Beach, which he shares with a cleaners. (See photo above)

(Reminds me of the time when, from a bus, I spotted a taqueria in Los Mochis, Sinaloa — Tacos Hitler — no lie).

The stories you hear in L.A. if you stop and ask….

Great menudo, too.

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Filed under Business, California, Culture, Los Angeles, Mexico, Migrants, Southern California, Storytelling

MEXICO: Tijuana Opera

One of the great arts events in all Mexico takes place this Saturday in Tijuana.

It is the Tijuana Opera Street Festival (Festival Opera en la Calle), now in its ninth year.

I wrote about the robust opera scene in Tijuana in my second book, Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream.

The street festival grew from that scene — which itself began germinating years ago when a guy imported an entire Russian orchestra (true story) from the crumbling Soviet empire straight to Tijuana. The musicians stayed, played, taught, shaped the first classical music conservatory in Baja California. A host of local underground opera aficionados were also pushing the whole gig along — among them Enrique Fuentes, who opened a Vienna-style opera cafe in the Colonia Libertad. (photo right)

The opera scene is the fruit of their DIY labor, though it remains a little like underground music (reminds me of punk rock, in spirit anyway) in TJ, which is a city not about harmony and discipline, but where the reigning ethic is about babble, chaos and commerce.

I loved telling this story because it was about Tijuana and its great complexity, yet had nothing about narcos, murder, maquiladoras or strip clubs. Also, it was all about people working toward something without much government help and for the pure love of it.

When my wife started crying after reading the story of Mercedes Quinonez (pictured above) and her lifelong attempt to be an opera singer while working at a hardware store, I figured I’d done well.

The festival takes place on 5th Street and Aquiles Serdan in Colonia Libertad (easy walking distance from the border crossing), a setting that cannot be matched for pure surrealness (surreality?). The neighborhood — the first to be built outside downtown Tijuana — is a crumpled wedding cake of a place, home to the city’s first boxers, gang members and mayors, as well as its plaster-statue industry. Two hundred yards away is the brown wall separating the city from the USA.

Just an amazing place to see people singing Verdi, Puccini, Wagner and the rest. Best time is later in the afternoon. Expect 7,000+ people. On this year’s bill are Carmina Burana, arias from Carmen, Cosi Fan Tutte, Turandot and Don Carlo.

Enjoy a bit of surreal border stuff — a very original creation by some very creative people.

I’ll be there. Can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Culture, Mexico, Streets