Tia Chucha's Cafe Cultural: Four Years and Going

To celebrate means to solemnize, to commemorate, but it also has connection with accelerate, which means to speed up. To celebrate is to brake something in motion, as in “holding fast,” as a time to stop the speed of the world and pay attention, acknowledge and honor a moment, a place, a person, a people, or a thing.

Tia Chucha's Cafe Cultural started more than four years ago in the working class community of Sylmar, CA—one of many communities in the mostly Mexican/Central American populated Northeast San Fernando Valley. Founded by my wife Trini; my brother-in-law, Enrique Sanchez; and myself we have been going strong ever since, with barely a moment of rest, of long reflection or of “holding fast.” By celebrating our birth and our continued existence, we held the breath of our being to honor the community, the staff, resident artists and groups, the volunteers, and all those who have stepped up with their art, their ideas, their labor, and creativity to make Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural the amazing cultural/political/social and spiritual gathering place it has become.

Around 200 to 300 people made their way to Tia Chucha’s on the evening of February 18. We started with several dances by Cuauhtemachtotecayotl, our resident Aztec Dance group, and blessings from our indigenous spiritual guide in the Northeast Valley, Hector Herrera. We had poetry, primarily through the performance of Poets of the Round Table, including Mike the Poet, the Bus Stop Prophet, Phillharmonic, and Blackbird. We had the Nahuatl-chanting voices of XochitlQuetzalli, whose songs in the indigenous tongue of the Mexika people awoke something ancient and deep in all of us. We had a spirited performance by the conscious Mexika Hip Hop group, El Vuh.

We also had an amazing performance of Son Jarocho music (originally of Veracruz, Mexico) with members of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural’s Son Jarocho workshop (taught by Master musician Cesar Castro, formerly of the Son Jarocho group Mono Blanco) as well as Son del Centro (of Santa Ana, CA) and others. We had a local band from Pacoima (a major poor barrio in the Northeast San Fernando Valley) called Hijos de la Tierra that played amazing Mexican and South American traditional songs (and, man, did we dance).

And we honored our staff (Alicia, Esperanza, Joaquin, Melissa, Ray, Vanessa) and the women’s natural healing group, the Huehuetlatolli Xochitl Tonan Foundation, for providing natural juices as well as the various businesses, including the Chiropractor’s and the Dental Group businesses in our strip mall for donations of money and raffle items.

Most of all, I wanted to honor Trini Rodriguez, my wife and companion, and our family (my daughter Andrea, my granddaughter Catalina, and my sons, Ruben and Luis) for helping make Tia Chucha’s an organic, ancestral home of learning and expression.

Some of the important people who graced our place that evening included John Densmore of the Doors, Charles Wright (of the Charles Wright Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band), Alex Sanchez of Homies Unidos, Fabian Montez of Homeboy Industries, Enrique Perez of Inner-City Struggle, David Sandoval of Cal State LA, Councilman Alex Padilla (who also honored us with a proclamation from the City of Los Angeles), Mari Riddle of the Liberty Hill Foundation, and many others (forgive me for not being able to name you all) who came by to celebrate with us.

It was a sweet and wonderful time, full of great words and blessings, great song and spirit.

While Tia Chucha’s Café,and its not-for-profit sister organization, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, is open to everyone of all races, nationalities, tongues, and artistic practices, we also make sure to focus and honor our roots in the indigenous peoples of this land, the first peoples, the original peoples, from one end of the hemisphere to the other.

I want to express my most heartfelt thanks to the incredibly creative community in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, but also throughout the LA area, who have visited our space; bought books and artwork; learned from our workshops; attended our theater, music, author, comedy, forums, and film events; and who have enjoyed our specialty coffee drinks or tamales. Tlazhokamati, gracias, thank you.

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