A Grand New Beginning for Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural

Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore established its third incarnation with a truly grand Grand Opening yesterday, March 28, at the site of our new space in the Sylmar Plaza (13197-A Gladstone Avenue, Sylmar, CA, 91342).

Some 500 to 700 people came streaming in at various times during the afternoon and evening. Pueblos Unidos Car Club of Oxnard brought amazing old "ranflas" and "bombas" (vintage lowrider cars) to the parking lot, and we had food from El Ranchito Mexican & Salvadoran food from the nearby strip mall, and good old fashioned BBQ from our friend and board member, Ron M. Daniels. Coffee was provided by Buffalo Bruce's Mercantile thanks to Vivian and Bruce Hartman. The Young Warriors, Tia Chucha's youth project, held an auction of photos from the Pacoima barrio (the auction continues till May 16). We also held a monthly pledge drive that netted several thousand dollars.

We began the event with a powerful united blessing and ceremony led by our own Azteca Danza group, Temachtia Quetzalcoatl, along with other area Danza groups from the San Fernando Valley, East LA, South Central LA, and other communities. It was accompanied by Mexican indigenous instruments taught by Juan Pueblo in his Nahuatlaca music workshops he's held at Tia Chucha's for many years.

My wife Trini and I spoke about the value of community-based arts and culture as the most powerful means to renew and regenerate community, in particular during hard economic/social times. With the help of Tia Chucha's Open Mic Emcee, Neri Boche, we introduced various acts and speakers. There was performances by members of our workshops in guitar, led by long-time Tia Chucha family member Alejandro LaBorde, followed by Las Cafeteras, a Son Jarocho musical group consisting also of teachers of our Son Jarocho music workshops. Councilman Tony Cardenas (District 6) said a few words in Spanish and English about genuine community participation and his own commitment to the arts and to youth development. 7th District Councilman Richard Alarcon couldn't come, but he did have a staff member, Jose Rodriguez, present Tia Chucha's with a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles.

One of our honors was having Chicano pioneer intellectual and activist Rudy Acuna address the audience--his statement about cultural spaces by nature also being political spaces, and the value of community owning the political spaces it encompasses, was most wise and appropriate. It turns out that Mr. Acuna was Trini's teacher when she was a student at California State University, Northridge in the early 1970s.

Poetry also had a stage with my reading of the "Tia Chucha" poem that explains why I named our center and bookstore after my favorite relative, Tia Chucha (Maria de Jesus Rodriguez). We also had one of LA's most inspiring and creative performance poetry ensemble, Ah-Womb Collective, blow everyone away with their lyrical and physical presence. In-between we had our various arts/music/writing/theater instructors talk about their workshops. Our current Development Director, and long-time performance artist, Ruben "Funkahuatl" Guevara and John Densmore of the Doors also performed, with drums and voice, including Ruben's classic "Con Safos" piece.

Also in-between acts, we had talks by Tia Chucha board members Dolores Villanueva, Angelica Loa Perez, Julie Harmon Chavez and Victor Mendoza about the pledge drive that helped bring in badly-needed funds. Other announcements included representatives of the Young Warriors (Mayra Zaragoza), our Mexicayotl classes, about Tia Chucha Press, our annual Celebrating Words festival (to be held June 27 at Mission College in Sylmar), Don Cuco's 2012 Mayan Prophecy classes, and about our upcoming annual benefit event at the Ford Amphitheater on August 2.

To round out the evening, we had a song by Gilbert Chavez, a long-time Chicano musician and Tia Chucha instructor; the experimental Latino reggae sounds of Fosforo; the amazing Nahuatl songs in women's voices of Chihuatl Song; and the experimental Latino music of the local phenomena, La Santa Cecilia, which had everyone dancing at the end.

This event was proof that life and energy can continue even as the economy unravels and people lose homes and jobs. We had many of the most affected of this crisis in attendance yesterday, and through the arts and the imagination we are doing our part to bring hope, but also the organizing/creative tools to challenge and better their communities, their country, and the world.

"Renewing Community Through Arts & Culture."


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