We're back!

We're back with a new blog program and blogposts! My good friends and supporters. I apologize for not posting blogs this past few weeks. I've been extremely busy with finishing up a new book for Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster, due August 1 and slated for Fall 2010 release. I also continued my travels and lectures, my work for Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural, my other community work, and "Keeping up with the Rodriguez's" (including my four children and four grand-children). But we also made the switch to WordPress, which is due to the hard work and diligence of my web designer and collaborator, the renowned Chicano artist Mark Vallen. Until my book is done I'll only do sporadic posts, so please bear with me. Meantime, I want to inform people about the federal indictments against my friend and fellow peace activist Alex Sanchez. These are serious charges against him and 23 other alleged "shot callers," "members," and "associates" of the Mara Salvatrucha. You know I've written about MS-13 and 18th Street in various articles, books, and posts due to my work as an expert on gangs in the United States, Mexico, and Central America. I know Alex very well. He's a genuine leader for peace and turning youth away from gangs, violence, and drugs. He's a founder and current director of Homies Unidos, one of the most active and prominent gang prevention and intervention programs in the city. He's also a solid father, husband, brother, and son. Many of us are doing what we can to help him make bail, if needed, for his next court hearing on Tuesday, June 30 at 2 PM. If anyone is interested in being part of the group that will stand vigil at the courthouse, please contact Mirna at (213) 291-5494 for more information. The address of the federal court is 312 Spring Street, 8th Floor, Court D, in downtown LA. Also a community forum is set for this Sunday, June 28 at 6 PM at CARECEN, 2845 W. 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90005. I'll try to provide more updated information as it comes. I'm also encouraging the community to attend the free "Celebrating Words" Literacy & Arts Festival at Mission College in Sylmar this Saturday, June 27 from 3 to 9 PM. We'll have vendors, a children's area, food, books (for free and to sell), author signings, as well as a stage with Azteca danza, indigenous blessings, bands, poetry, performance, and more. And I send a big rest in peace to the talented, troubled, but no doubt amazing Michael Jackson. c/s
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Chi-town--A city close to my heart

After driving five hours (I stopped a lot along the way) from Madison, Wisconsin to Pontiac, Illinois, on May 3 I rested so I could have a good five hours with my son the next day. Ramiro is staying in the Pontiac prison complex that includes a maximum security and minimum security prison. Because of his "shortness" in time--Ramiro is slated to be released in February of 2011--he's in the medium security prison with his own cell. Many of the prisoners in both joints have been removed when Department of Corrections planned to close the prison complex. But that has apparently changed--new prisoners are being brought in every day. It's always good to talk with Ramiro. Despite twelve years of incarceration, Ramiro has tried to better himself with two associate of arts degress and a couple of certificates (in horticulture, landscaping and cuisine), but this stopped when the DOC backed off from any educational programs for prisoners--a big mistake, but no accident: prisons live off people unprepared except to return to prison. Ramiro now gives advice and sage counsel to his teenage kids when he can talk to them--they are now 17, 15, and 13. He also helps his mother, myself, and sister. He is removed from the daily dramas we all go through and he prides himself in thinking through issues. He still has problems with his own concerns, but I have to say he's doing well emotionally, at least as well or better than most of us in the free world. That night I went to visit my friend James Lilly and family in LaGrange, IL. James is a champion wheelchair racer. He was paralysed when he was fifteen by rival gang bullets in Chicago. And James now speaks to kids about gangs and violence throughout the country. He's a strong family man--he has three young boys. He had two of his sons in two parks playing baseball league games, and a baby on his lap. You can check a trailer about his life documentary calledy "Pushin' Forward" on www.pushin-forward.net. The next morning I drove to Chicago--a city close to my heart, having lived there for fifteen years--to have breakfast with my friends in Juvenile Justice work: Amanda Klonsky; her father, a long-time progressive educator, Mike Klonsky; my friend and juvenile justice lawyer, Bernardine Dohrn; among others. Then I spoke to a group of young incarcerated men at the Juvenile Detention in Chicago, once the largest youth lockup in the world (now I believe the Sylmar Juvenile Hall, near my home in Sylmar, CA, is the largest). The boys were creating music, poems, Hip Hop pieces, and murals. They had access to computers and teachers. It's been a big change from the last time I was there when the whole place was falling apart (about a year ago). The new director also came to my talk, and even read a few poems from the young men. Ryan Griesling is directing a special program there for almost ten years, and it's working. That evening, I spoke at a detention home for undocumented youth run by the Hearland Alliance. My good friend Gerardo Serna set this up. We both spoke in Spanish to a group of about fifteen youth. Staff and I believe a couple of parents were also in attendance. I ended up giving most of the books I brought to them. They in turn wrote me letters and a thank you card. I spent the rest of the week dealing with family and friends. I spent a nice evening with my granddaughter Anastasia. On Saturday, May 9, many of my friends and family took part in the graduation ceremony for Tanee Blazquez who just received her BA. This was held at the American Indian Center. I've known Tanee since she was twelve years old (she's now 26) when she got involved with Youth Struggling for Survival with her whole family. Frank and Lou Blazquez, her parents, and their son Frankie also took part. They've been active in YSS ever since. I was so proud of Tanee, to see her develop into the beautiful, smart and spiritually engaged young leader she's become. She's now married to "Chek It," one of the founders of Chicago Tribe Breakdancing group, and a YSS leader himself. Anastasia came as well as her grandmother, Camila, and her husband Alvin Thompson also showed up. Many long-time YSS members were there. It was so good to re-connect with them, as well as the younger youth who are now taking part. The weekend of Mother's Day, I ended up in DeKalb, IL with the Blazquez family and their guest, the Lakota elder/teacher/medicine man, Ed Featherman (Young Man Afraid of His Horse), who facilitated Tanee's ceremony. He's always a great person to talk to, to learn from, to find guidance. I want to wish my beautiful wife Trini a happy birthday - on May 8 - and a Happy Mother's Day. This is also the first Mother's Day I've had without my mother, who passed away last October. I know she's with us in spirit. I love them both very much. c/s
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Poetry Out Loud, Latino youth, a hundred years of Progressive magazine, and May Day Rally

The recitation of poems by master poets like Martin Espada, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Edna St Vincent Millay resounded in the Lisner Auditorium in Washington DC where the national finals of the Poetry Out Loud competition were held the last week of April. The recitation contests involved some 300,000 high school students from around the country. Like last year, I was invited to be one of the finals judges, something I truly prize. Seeing young people recite powerful poems, with the emphasis, understanding, subtleties, and respect these poems deserve is truly an inspiring thing.

This year's final judges included my long-time friend (and Tia Chucha Press poet and National Book Award nominee) Patricia Smith, A Prairie Companion's Garrison Keillor, actress Tyne Daly, journalist Jeffrey Brown, poet Suji Kwock Kim, and Tim McCarty of "Quest: Arts for Everyone."

Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation of Chicago.

We had to determine who would get the $20,000 in scholarships as this year's Poetry Out Loud champion from the twelve finalists. After outstanding presentations from all the finalists, William Farley of Viriginia took the top prize. His emotional response was met by that of his young brother and parents--they were all so proud of William.

Poetry was big for me these past few weeks. Previously at Xavier College Prep High School in the Coachella Valley of Southern California, I read poetry with former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Also Tia Chucha Press just released the astounding collection of Kansas City poet Linda Rodriguez (no relation, except in the larger sense of "we are all related"), entitled "Heart's Migration." You can find this on Amazon.com as well as any major and independent bookstores (ask for it).

And then after the Poetry Out Loud finals, I talked and read poetry to Blair High School Students in Maryland, and later in Virginia at a Youth Community Center, both due to the efforts of long-time activists and friends, Luis Cardona and Susan Cruz.

I flew from Washington DC to Chicago, where I rented a car and drove the two hours to Madison, Wisconsin to take part in The Progressive magazine's 100th Anniversary. I've been a columnist for The Progressive the past two years (a poem and an essay is part of a 100th Year Anniversary Anthology recently released by the University of Wisconsin Press). I was a panelist on a Civil Rights panel, and I read poetry--along with poets and speakers such as Martin Espada, Dolores Huerta, Naomi Klein, and others.

Later Robert Redford and Howard Zinn held a reception where I got to speak to Mr. Zinn (his talk on US wars taught me more significant history than all my history classes). I also got to speak briefly with Mr. Redford--he remembered that I was a Sundance Institute Fellow for Arts Writing. In the mid-2000s, I took part in a film lab, workshops & panels, and two film festivals where Mr. Redford was in attendance.

I was most honored to again share the stage with labor leader Dolores Huerta. She is the consummate labor and community organizer, presently promoting the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Her talk was instructive, wise, personable, and an example of how to engage one's audience. I also saw Jesse Jackson in the lounge area of the Hilton hotel--he was among the key presenters.

I want to thank Matt Rothschild and the staff of The Progressive for inviting me to share in this historic event. Several hundred people were in attendance from all areas of struggle. And there was much inspiring and unifying talks and presentations to dramatize that progressive politics in the United States, especially in this age of change, is strong and growing.

I left feeling renewed.

I wanted to also thank Eric Shager and the students of the Work and Learn Center of Madison. For fourteen years, they've been reading "Always Running" and communicating with me through the Internet and email. I spoke to Eric's class, something I try to do whenever I get back to this liberating city. They had poignant and well thought-out questions.

AND I'm grateful to Alex Gillis and the organizers of this year's May Day Rally, held at the steps of the state's Capitol building and the county building. I was one of the speakers to several hundred participants, including labor leaders, immigrant rights activists, and community people. I didn't have much time, so I gave a rousing talk, directed to the many young people in the audience, in Spanish and English. I encouraged them to keep organizing, keep getting consciousness and knowledge, and to make their own history. I was very pleased by the inspired response after my talk.

Today I drove several hours from Madison to Pontiac, IL, site of one of the state's major prison complexes. I'm here to see my son, Ramiro, tomorrow in one of the prisons. Since his incarceration twelve years ago, I try to visit with him whenever I'm in the Chicago area. Despite all we've been through, my son and I are very close.

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The Border Book Festival: Where the spirit sings the vibrant literacy of poor and working class border communities

This past Saturday, with Perla Batalla and her band behind me, I read my poem "My Name's Not Rodriguez," to several hundred people at La Plazita of Mesilla, New Mexico. Perla sang and the band played the Mexican classic "La Llorona" during my reading--they also mesmerized everyone with beautiful renditions of other Mexican and Latin American favorites. We had already done this in two schools--a high school in the border town of Santa Teresa and at Crossroads, an alternative school of last resort for middle and high school students.

The young people were blown away in both schools. I also spoke to an alternative school, San Andres in Las Cruces. Our school presentations and the concert at La Plazita were part of the 15th Annual Border Book Festival, one of the most important and vibrant community literacy festivals in the country. Also on hand were the Chicano writer Benjamin Saenz, "Democracy Now!" journalist Amy Goodman, as well as storytellers, poets, and filmmakers.

My reading at the Mesilla Community Center was packed. The next day I also had a Platica on issues of gangs, indigenous healing, writing, and more. And I was privileged to introduce Amy Goodman on Sunday to another packed audience at the Mesilla Community Center. Amy is a riveting speaker with true stories about arrests and even humorous efforts she's had in bringing out the truth and pressing news of the day.

Years ago I was fortunate to be on "Democracy Now!" with Amy and her colleague, Juan Gonzalez, at their renowned firehouse studios in New York City.

The Border Book Festival is the brainchild of my good friend, and amazing Chicana writer, Denise Chavez. I have been here at least three times, once winning the Premio Fronterizo (The Border Prize) for my writing. Denise is the heart and soul of border literature. Her books have won acclaim and awards, including "Face of an Angel," "Loving Pedro Infante," and "A Taco Testimony," among others. But it's also her spirit of community building that she must be recognized for. With the Border Book Festival, books, ideas, vision, dreams, poems, and stories come together to teach and honor community. This year, Denise also organized a silent auction with prints from artists like Diego Rivera. And she made sure, as in past years, that schools and young people benefited from having distinguished writers, artists, and musicians as her guests.

Benjamin's presentations were also right on--he's my age and also one of those renaissance writers (a marvelous poet, but also a novelist, children's book writer, young adult writer, and screenwriter) and one of the University of Texas at El Paso's most renowned professors.

I was proud to talk about Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore--we are forever linked with Denise and the Border Book Festival since the first major fundraiser for our fledging cultural space took place more than seven years ago in Las Cruces. Also to be thanked is John Randall, another great friend and supporter, who organized the Chicano classic book auction to benefit the Border Book Festival and Tia Chucha's. This goes to show that for us, there are no borders. We have similar goals, aims, and direction.

John Randall, rightly so, was this year's recipient of the Premio Fronterizo--he's done more than most people to respect and promote Chicano writers from the earliest to the most recent.

I'm truly honored to have friends like Denise and John--and Denise's husband, Daniel, who was my mosca, my chauffeur and all-around caretaker during my stay this year. I have many good friends in the Las Cruces/Mesilla area--close also to my birthplace of El Paso, Texas. Whenever I come here, I'm reminded how fortunate I am to be from La Frontera.

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Bruce Springsteen: Poet-Bard of the Obama Age

Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural was honored last Wednesday as one of two nonprofits Bruce Springsteen mentioned onstage to some 15,000 plus fans at the LA Sport Arena. We were also able to have a table and donation buckets in which many of Springsteen's fans graciously donated. And, Trini and I had primo seats (just behind Tom Morello) and a chance to visit briefly with Bruce backstage. He greeted us like old friends--and I have to say I have more respect for him as a performer, activist, and person. The last time I saw Bruce with the E Street Band was twenty five years ago (Trini and I did see Bruce two years ago at his one-man show at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood). This was during his "Born in the USA" tour. Then like now, Bruce allowed nonprofits to solicit funds during his concert, mostly food banks and those assisting the many victims of the deindustrialization during the Reagan Administration that led to millions of jobs lost. I was volunteering for the United Steelworkers Local 1845 Food Bank--one of the largest in the country, feeding 6,000 to 10,000 families a week. This union local served for decades the steelworkers at Bethlehem Steel. I worked at Bethlehem in their millwright's unit for four years. After the mill closed, I helped with the Local's efforts, including taking part in theater/poetry workshops, led by my good friend Susan Franklin Tanner. Then Local president George Cole, the master mind behind such amazing actions, is still a good friend and supporter--without him, the paths of Bruce and Luis Rodriguez may not have crossed. I first met Bruce during one of our poetry/theater workshops. He came to take part, with the LA Times in tow. I read a poem that I dedicated to him called "Bethlehem No More." He was attentive and when I finished reading, he looked at me and said, "only you could have written that poem." I have had some amazing experiences meeting important performers and impacters of popular culture like Bruce, but that is one of the all time highlights of my life. Luckily the LA Times captured it in an article that appeared soon after our meeting. I must also say what an amazing concert Bruce and the E Street Band presented to the fans this past April 15. The energy was high, more of a revival of hopes, big dreams, and the connections we all need to make today as this country battles its way through economic, social and spiritual morass. Bruce's songs have always been about breaking the mold, about not accepting the small lives many of us were born into, to go where the creative roads take us, to push further into a fuller life, but also into a much more democratic, expansive and encompassing country. In this age of change, in this age of a new imaginations, the Obama age, he is truly the poet-bard most aligning with the necessary ideas, and necessary justices, equities, fullness, that we need to regenerate and progress. I'm honored to call Bruce a friend. He's also been a financial supporter of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural for a few years now. He joins other amazing personalities who've assisted Tia Chucha's like John Densmore of the Doors, Lou Adler, Adrienne Rich, Jack Kornfield, Richard Foos, Dave Marsh, Jesus Trevino, Cheech Marin, Tom Hayden, among others. Giving to an independent cultural space and bookstore like Tia Chucha's is giving to the developing imagination, expression and empowerment of poor and working class communities. I truly believe the arts is the most effective means to renew and revive communities hit by economic uncertainties and social neglect. We have helped do this in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, a large community of some 450,000 people. For more than seven years in Sylmar, Lake View Terrace, and back in Sylmar, the community has had arts workshops (music, dance, theater, writing, painting, and more), a weekly Open Mic, film nights, author readings, and community dialogues. We also established the first and only literacy & performing arts festival there called "Celebrating Words," which we will hold this year on June 27 at Mission College. And we'll hold again our annual benefit event at the Ford Amphitheater this August 2 with poets, our Aztec Dance group, Temachtia Quetzacoatl, Filipino performance and dance, and bands like La Santa Cecelia and Very Be Careful. You can find out more as always at www.tiachucha.com. Again, it's people like Bruce that help make this happen. I'm so grateful that time, distance, and even celebrity has not severed these ties that loss and hard times helped forge. c/s
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Spingstreen Concert Ticket Auction to Benefit Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural: Greater LA residents only

Hi All:

Tia Chucha's invites you to place a bid on tickets to see BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E STREET BAND, performing live in concert at the Los Angeles Sports Arena 3939 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90037 on Wednesday, APRIL 15, 2009 at 7:30pm. This is a great opportunity to see an exciting show and support Tia Chucha’s at the same time!

TICKETS: These tickets were donated to our organization by Bruce's management company, and we have been assured they are among the finest seats in the house. We have 4 tickets in total to auction off, and are entertaining bids for 2-ticket blocks. Starting bid for the auction is $1500 for a set of two tickets. Bidding closes at 12 noon (Pacific Time) on Monday, April 13th. Tickets will be picked up at the Artist Will Call window at the venue Box office from 6:30pm onwards, day of show.

SEATING OPTIONS: Auction winners have a choice as to whether their tickets are for seats in the LOGE section (first tier above the floor, within the first five rows, either to the left or the right of the stage) or for access to the Pit (general admission, standing room only area on the floor, directly in front of the stage. Pit passes are first come, first serve, and placement in the Pit is not guaranteed, so be sure to be in line early enough to ensure admission).

LOUNGE PASS: Each of our tickets include an E Street Lounge pass, which enables the ticket holder to go backstage to relax and have a drink (the Lounge has a cash bar) before the show. There is no backstage access after or during the show.


NOTE: Bidding is restricted to residents of the Greater Los Angeles metropolitan area only.

Visit Tia Chucha's website at www.tiachucha.com News Page, simply send an email to [email protected] with the subject line "TC Springsteen Tickets Bid". In that email, include the following:

--your full name
--your residence mailing address
--your email address
--the best phone number to contact you
--your bid amount for the set of 2 tickets (minimum bid is $1500)
--names of ticket holders
--seating preference (seats in the LOGE section, or standing room in the Pit).
--your credit/debit card number & expiration date, (payment will be processed only if you are the winning bidder.)

The current high bid for each category will be posted on Tia Chucha’s website.

The winner is the highest bid. Your bid is not official until you receive a confirmation email from Tia Chucha’s staff. You will also receive an email if someone outbid you. All bids are processed in the order received. Auction closes at 12 noon (Pacific Time) on Monday, April 13th; no bids received after that point will be accepted.

In the event that your bid is the winning bid, a Tia Chucha's staff member will contact you on Monday April 13th to inform you that we will process your payment. Tickets must be paid for on Monday April 13th by credit/debit card. If payment cannot be successfully processed and we are unable to reach you, we will contact the next highest bidder.

Once your payment is successfully processed, Tia Chucha's will give the names and seating preferences to Bruce's management representative, and your tickets will be available at the venue Artist Will Call window from 6:30pm onwards, day of show. The concert will take place at the Los Angeles Sports Arena 3939 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90037 on Wednesday, APRIL 15, 2009 at 7:30pm.

Good luck, and thank you for supporting Tia Chucha's!!

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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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Tia Chucha's Grand Opening of our New Space in Sylmar, CA--March 28 from 4 to 9 PM

Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore will have a Grand Opening at our new space in the Sylmar Plaza located in Sylmar, CA. The date is Saturday, March 28 from 4 PM to 9 PM. Our theme is "Renewing Community through Arts and Culture."

We are honored to be back in our original community--when we started more than seven years ago, we were in the Glenoaks Village in Sylmar with a full coffee bar, bookstore, performance space, art gallery, and workshop center.

Although we don't have the same size space as this, we will continue with workshops in painting, murals, music, Aztec Dance, Son Jarocho Mexican tradition, theater, writing, natural healing, indigenous cosmology, Nahuatl language, and more. Our weekly Open Mics have already begun every Friday night. And we plan to host film nights, author readings, community dialogues, art exhibits, among other amazing events.

We invite the public to visit Tia Chucha's at 13197-A Gladstone Avenue, Sylmar, CA 91342. Our new phone number is 818-528-4511. Our new fax is 818-367-5600. We continue to have the email address of [email protected] and our website at www.tiachucha.com

For our Grand Opening, we'll have the acclaimed Mexican/Latino experimental band, La Santa Cecilia. Also Conscious Hip Hop Emcee Olmeca will be there as well as experimental reggae/rock group Fosforo; Mexican indigenous music ensemble Nahuatlaka (with Juan Pueblo and Jaime Ayala), female poets and singers, the Ahwomb Collective, Las Cafeteras, and the spoken performance duo of Funkahuatl (Ruben Guevara) and John Densmore of the Doors.

Hosts are Neri Boche and Luis Rodriguez.

In addition, we'll have a monthly pledge drive so please join in this newest fundraising effort.

And on hand will be food and local vendors. Please bring your friends and family--the Grand Opening will be unforgettable, fun, and truly community-inspired and driven. Go to www.tiachucha.com for more information.

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Eulogy for Tony Hernandez

Read March 20, 2009 at Forest Lawn, Covina Hills, CA by Luis J. Rodriguez.

A laugh, a smile, a touch, a word—Tony opened up the world with simple things, gestures, intonations. There wasn't a room that didn't light up, get brighter or wider as soon as Tony entered. Tony impacted in small but significant ways. Ways that you'd remember for a lifetime.

I have to say the funniest moment I had in years was when Tony and our mutual friend Rulies were supposedly trying out Aikido moves at a Mosaic men's conference one summer—I won't get into it here but they were clowning around and I was practically rolling on the ground.

Tony was also serious. He loved to read. He had books on subjects of substance that we talked about, shared, and related. He was a sensitive soul. Every injustice moved him. He often raged against the pains, oppressions, and sufferings in the world. He seemed to take them all in, the weight of this on his face, his shoulders, his walk.

Tony also brought joy when there was none. Once in Rosarito Beach in Mexico I saw Tony run and flip into the breaking ocean waves, like a boy, laughing and truly present. I saw the same smile and wonder when we took him to Peru, because he had done so much to better himself in ten years and I wanted to honor the changes he had made by then.

Tony was loyal, to a fault perhaps, but if I were to go into any battle I'd want Tony on my side. Tony cared about his friends, his family, his daughters, his brother, cousin, girlfriend, his books, his tools, his ideas, the foods he loved to eat—like the chicken soup at the Dom Pachana Thai restaurant in Sylmar or the chicken & waffles of Roscoe's in LA.

Tony also suffered—spending seventeen years in juvenile lockups and adult prisons, a heroin addict for more than twenty years, as an undocumented man who had to get another identity because his real identity could lead to his arrest and possible deportation.

He was Chicano, raised in the Chicano culture, in the Buena Parque barrio, but the truth is he was born in Guatemala and spirited to Mexico as a baby. His family obtained Mexican birth certificates that eventually went with his mother and siblings to the United States.

Tony was really borderless—a soul of the whole world, a Mayan, an indigenous man, who took part in native ceremonies in LA and the Navajo reservation and in Peru. His native soul belonged everywhere, even though a legal social order denied him a name, a place, a personage.

Because of Tony I wrote to his brother Omar when he was in prison, and tried to help him as soon as he got released and ended up in Mexico. They were brothers who cared for each other, like brothers should care, although far too often brothers don't.

I'll tell you now—Tony was a revolutionary. He criticized the economic and political system for all the pain it has brought humanity. Tony wanted a world in which cooperation, caring, coherency and community truly reigned.

Was Tony a dreamer? Yes, and, man, could he dream. We talked about this quite often. Tony and I shared a lot of the same ideas—we both wanted a better world, of deeper relationships, to save our communities, this country, this world.

Tony had answers, too. If only someone who could do something about them, if only some politician or powerful personality, shaker & mover, would have known Tony. He didn't just gripe, he imagined. He didn't just dream, my friends, he dreamed big.

And because of this he was my best friend in LA, my compa, mi carnal, my homie. Tony, in fact, was my biggest fan—he came to many readings and talks I did in schools, galleries, libraries, bookstores. He would sit in the front roll, attentive, as if he was hearing me for the first time. And he contributed insightful comments to discussions when moved to speak.

Tony and I talked in caloorale, Crow, ay te wacho. He called me Chin—he was Crow—our placasos from the streets that we picked up again and re-shined, now more grown up, wiser, smarter, but also kinder.

Yes, Tony could fight with the best of them, but he was also generous and big hearted. I truly believe he couldn't find a big enough world for his big heart to feel at home.

I want to read a poem by Rumi, one of Tony's favorite poets from the Mosaic Men's Conferences in Mendocino:

On the day I die, when I'm being carried
toward the grave, don't weep. Don't say,

He's gone, he's gone. Death has nothing
to do with going away. The sun sets and

the moon sets, but they're not gone.
Death is coming together. The tomb

looks like a prison, but it's really
release into union. The human seed goes

down in the ground like a bucket into
the well where Joseph is. It grows and

comes up full of some unimagined beauty.
Your mouth closes HERE and immediately

opens with a shout of joy over THERE.

Now, in spirit, among the cosmos and the vastness of the ancestors, accessing the power of the other world, Tony Hernandez is home.

Cuidate, carnal—al rato.

Antonio E. Hernandez, born June 10, 1967 in Guatemala; Passed away March 8, 2009 in Culver City, CA.

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Tony Hernandez--Rest in Peace

It is my sad responsibility to report that my good friend Tony Hernandez, carnal, father, brother, and spiritual partner in our work with gangs, recovery, and building community, is confirmed to have passed on. His body was discovered today at an industrial park in Culver City, not far from his home in Los Angeles. A gardener discovered the body inside his pick up truck after missing for around twelve days.

Tony left one note--that who ever finds him to contact me. The coroner's office says they also found bottles of pills and beer cans in the cab. It's clear he took the pills to find the peace he has sought for so long.

I'm humbly honored to say he was my best friend here in LA. We connected strongly. I appreciated his big heart, his humor, his stories, and even the painful things he has gone through in his life. He brought much joy to the people at Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural, the San Fernando Sweat Lodge Circle, the Mosaic Men's Conferences, Youth Mentoring Connection, and at Homeboy Industries.

Tony was originally from Guatemala, but spent a good part of his boyhood in Mexico. He ended up in the United States at age eleven. Although he was extremely smart, articulate, and compassionate, his life was a rough time, eventually getting involved in gangs, heroin, and prison.

For the past ten years or so he was part of our recovery group, and eventually found a wonderful companion in the artist Caroline Maxwell. But the dark places he would go to were often places nobody could reach.

I know Tony loved Caroline very much and he told me more than once how privileged he was to have her in his life. He also loved his friends, his daughter Zoe, and many who came to know him. He just couldn't have the right amount of love for himself.

Tony was recently laid off from work as a construction worker. For someone with felonies and addictions, this affected him very much. It is indeed hard times and Tony was having a hard time finding work. Although we kept him busy when we could, I know this played heavily in his mind--I'm sure he wanted to come through as well.

We hope to claim his body and make arrangements for a proper burial and memorial. We'll let people know. Already the word has gone out and many people are deeply saddened. I appreciate all the calls and messages.

Que descanses en paz, mi carnal.

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