A Party Across Many Borders

Los Lobos played to thousands of Guadalajara fans Saturday night. Trini and I were in the VIP seats for LA folks. Before you know it, people there were off their seats dancing. Michael Alexander of Grand Performances even managed an Irish jig to a Son Jarocho tune. Department of Cultural Affairs Director Olga Garay seemed pleased when Los Lobos played "Guantanamera," she being of Cuban descent. Besides the Mexican standards and some of their own Spanish-language songs, Los Lobos also rocked the house with their particular blend of blues, R&B, and rock that has made them one of the top live bands in the world for over thirty years. There was no doubt that Guadalajara loves Los Lobos. This is important since we heard that the last time Los Lobos played here, some eighteen years ago, they were not well-received. Anyway, Saturday night the borders and barriers that often mark our existence as Chicanos broke down. Trini and I were fortunate to spend some time with Louie Perez, an original member of Los Lobos. On Friday evening we went to a showing of photographs by our friend Estevan Oriol at the Bullet store in the central part of the city (Estevan also signed books of his latest photographs called "LA Women"). Accompanied by Denise Sandoval, we saw hundreds of mostly young people flock to the store to check out Estevan´s work and meet the man. It was a success. We then had dinner nearby at an Argentine restaurant that turned out to have great food at reasonable prices. Louie and I go way back, although this was the most we have ever talked. When I left LA in 1985 for Chicago, the last thing I did was catch a Los Lobos free concert at Lincoln Park. Then whenever Los Lobos played in Chicago, Louie gave me backstage passes for family and friends. When I left Chicago in 2000, my daughter Andrea went backstage to catch a concert or two as well (I was grateful that Louie asked about her). And Los Lobos helped Tia Chucha´s Centro Cultural when we had our art auction last spring at the home of John Densmore of the Doors. They donated a guitar signed by all the members. With this and other items, we raised $26,000 in four hours. We are most grateful. On Sunday, Trini and I spent time with her family here in Guadalajara. They took us to Tonala, a city next to Guadalajara that on weekends transforms itself to one of the largest open air markets in the world. You can find anything from furniture, ceramics, wood products, art, sculpture, food, artisania, and more. The market goes for blocks and blocks, encompassing most every street and in front of the cathedral and in the main plaza. Thousands of people gathered there. At one point the crush was overwhelming, unable to move except for a few steps at a time. For a good twenty minutes, rain fell on everybody. This helped disperse some of the crowd, but not by much. We ended up walking around mud holes and water puddles. It was truly an exhilerating experience. We returned in time to catch the end of the largest book fair in the Western Hemishphere. There was something sad about this as books were being sold at deep discounts and vendors began to pack up their stock and tear down their booths. The party ended with Chicano conga player Poncho Sanchez and his band playing at the Esplanade to another appreciative crowd. I wish to personally thank the National Endowment for the Arts and the LA City Department of Cultural Affairs for making the LA Pavilion happen, and for inviting Tia Chucha´s to organize the lowrider show, a hit at the book fair. They also had hundreds of Tia Chucha Press books, which my wife Trini worked hard to promote along with other non-profit presses from the US. And I did around five panels that were well attended--the Chicano Encounters were spirited and helped articulate the Chicano experience to an interested mostly Mexican audience. An addition, I did around a dozen TV, radio and print interviews in Spanish. For all the years I´ve been coming to Mexico, more than thirty years now, this is the most welcomed I´ve ever felt as a Chicano. In honoring Angelino writers and artists, we also honored the many Chicanos among them. I was pleased to see Dagoberto Gilb, Ruben Martinez, Marisela Norte, Yxta Maya Murray, Michael Jaime Becerra, Alex Espinosa, and other Chicanos at the hotel restaurant and at the Expo. And that my old friend from Chicago, the accomplished Cuban American Achy Obejas, was also there. Non-Chicano writers like David Ulin, Susan Straight, Suzanne Lummis, Jane Smiley, Paul Beatty, Gary Phillips, among others, also spoke on panels or did readings. And that my old friend poet Peter Harris turned up accompanying the Brazilian dance group that entertained at the Esplanade on Thursday evening with Hawaiian and India dance groups from LA. Trini and I have been in Guadalajara for thirteen days already. Tomorrow, Trini returns to LA while I venture out to Puebla, Mexico to see an old friend and his family. I'll be back on December 10, then I go to Oakland for a couple of days. While safety issues have been raised about being in Mexico, I must say I felt quite safe. People were very open and generous. It´s a wonderful country, with some of the most hardened yet open-hearted people in the world. Still it´s a country in deep economic and social despair. Just to remind us that not all is well, a group holding a conference at the hotel we´re at will be discussing "how to prevent money laundering." c/s

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