Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore is a dream of community empowerment. It is the intersection of grassroots community building — drawing on the talents, visions, capacities, and imaginations of the culturally rich Northeast San Fernando Valley — within the framework of a nonprofit institution. This effort requires both feminine and masculine energies. Both expansive freedoms and restrictive necessities. Dreaming and working. Chicano/Central American/Mexican at its core, but open to everyone of any background or community. Tia Chucha’s is also a story of struggle and triumph against great odds. Trini and I, along with countless others, have withstood many challenges to keep this dream alive. We have moved to three different spaces in twelve years. The first move was because of a drastic rent increase that forced us to put our expensive coffee shop equipment, books, CDs and other supplies into storage, only to have our valuable inventory burglarized and damaged. Our second move was necessary to find a more community-friendly location for our endeavor. We have also had to endure opposition from various local political entities, and the debilitating absence of a comprehensive policy of support for community-based arts in every neighborhood. The weight of these many challenges have been difficult to carry. In fact, when we were pushed out of our first space I found myself contemplating having to close down Tia Chucha’s. Saddened, I showed up at a Tia Chucha’s Open Mic. The spirit of the poets, spoken word artists, singers, and guitarists lifted my spirits. At one point that evening a young girl, about nine years old, got on stage to speak. She just wanted to share her day in school. I was mesmerized by her clear words, comforted that she felt safe and open at this gathering of community of all ages, glad that there was a place where her voice and story could be heard. This convinced me that we had to keep going. Yes, safeguarding Tia Chucha’s has been difficult, but we have not wasted time focusing on fighting anyone who pushed us away, or on setbacks, or on crying—even though there has been tears. Instead, we put our all into continuing to create a full-fledged arts cultural space, based on the cosmologies of our indigenous peoples, but also celebrating the power of visual arts, music, dance, theater, digital media, writing, healing arts, puppetry, photography, and books and more books. As a result, many would agree we have established one of the best community gathering and learning centers in the whole Los Angeles basin. Now we celebrate twelve years with dignity and respect. But also with much love for our patrons, participants and partners. With much love for our wonderful staff and board of directors. With much love for our growing volunteer base and our generous and talented facilitators. And with endless appreciation of the many funders and donors that have helped keep us alive and relevant. We can’t do this without you. In honor of this struggle for a dream anchored in the love of community, we invite you to celebrate with us on February 23rd from 1 to 6 pm. I will be at Tia Chucha’s to sign books, along with Salvadoran children’s book author René Colato Laínez who will do the same. The day will be full of wonderful things to see, do and enjoy.Please join me in celebrating twelve years of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in the Northwest San Fernando Valley, and the many more years to come. –Luis J. Rodriguez, cofounder and president of the Board, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural.
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