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Upcoming Events Celebrating Selena

She will always be etched into the fabric of our culture, even after twenty years since her murder.

Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, the queen of Tejano music, was considerably the most influential Latina within the music and fashion worlds. She paved the way for Latina artists in an especially male dominated musical genre and redefined fashion in her many sequenced bustiers. Her life was tragically cut short on March 31st, 1995, from a fatal gun shot.

As the anniversary of Selena’s death approaches, many have devoted events that honor her memory. Here are some events in California that pay tribute to her and her music.

     1. A Tribute to Selena

Located at LA Plaza de Cultura, this public event will hold art workshops, performances from Betty’s Mustache and La Reina de Aztlán, and paletas that you can eat while watching Selena, which begins at 8:00pm. Event is free.
When: Friday, March 27th at 6:00pm
Where: LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes
501 N Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

     2.  “Anything for Salinas!” A Tribute to Selena

Being held at The Frida Cinema, this movie screening of Selena will raise proceeds to support the local high school Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) and the Zoraida Reyes Scholarship fund that assists local transgender individuals. There will be appetizers, music, and costume contests, so bring your best bustiers! General entrance is $15; For Frida Cinema Members, entrance is $12.
When: Tuesday, March 31st at 7:00pm
Where: The Frida Cinema
305 E 4th St, Santa Ana, CA 92701

     3. #SelenaFanGathering 2015

The second annual fan gathering will be held at Plaza de la Raza. There will be many performances and giveaways, as well as a special guest appearance from Selena Mural Artist Levi Fonz Ponce. Event is free.
When: Saturday, March 28 at 2:00pm
Where: Plaza de la Raza
3540 N Mission Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90031

     4. Como La Flor – A Tribute to Selena Quintanilla

Held at Club 21, there will be music commemorating Selena and all her contributions to tejano music. No cover charge before 11pm.
When: Friday, March 27th at 9:00pm
Where: Club 21
2111 Franklin St, Oakland, CA 94612

If you have other events that you want to highlight, comment below!

Flyer image produced by LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes.

Educational beacon of light in Boyle Heights

People United to Enrich our Neighborhood Through Education (PUENTE) learning center is a not-for-profit organization located in Boyle Heights that focuses on the improvement of its community by providing educational resources to predominantly first-generation students and immigrants.

Sister Jennie Lechtenberg was the pioneer of the organization. Sister Jennie began her mission when she discovered that the students who struggled most in school came from households that lacked English proficiency, which resulted in “establishing the foundation for PUENTE as a family-oriented, multi-generational educational organization.” ­

I took a first-hand look at PUENTE as an organization where I was able to interact with the multi-surface composure of the learning facility. PUENTE underlines the organization’s goal of providing primary or supplementary educational program to improve graduation, literacy and employment rates of their students. Boyle Heights is predominantly composed of Latino residents, where the average median household income is about $33,325, which is low for the city of Los Angeles and the county. The low-income has a lot to do with the minimal educational attainment of constituents in Boyle Heights. In a community where less than 5% of its residents who are of the age 25 and older have a four year degree, and less than 33,620 out of 99,243 have a high school diploma there is a representation of how learning facilities like PUENTE serve to combat against the alarming statistics.

The first day I stepped into PUENTE, I was marveled by the architecture of the building, which stands out compared to the surrounding buildings. The crisp glass-like building is two-stories tall with several classrooms and a charter kindergarten. The structure of the learning center’s program is tailored to help families by allowing them to leave their children downstairs in school, while they participate in the English Second Language (ESL) classes upstairs. I was able to alternate between both groups and I found that they both embraced the opportunity of education, regardless of their age. I interacted with students who were only four years of age but they demonstrated a sense of willingness to learn.

Upstairs there were retired people learning English. One of the students was a retired cafeteria worker, who worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District for about thirty years. She told me that all her life she wanted to learn English but since she had to provide for her family she never had the opportunity, and now that her kids were all grown up she finally pursued her dream.

PUENTE also incorporates other programs to their facility such as after-school enrichment programs, high-school tutoring, SAT preparation, adult high school diploma preparation, job training preparation, job referrals, computer repair A+ certification and even programs to help veterans.

In total, they have served over 85,000 students since their inception in 1985. The administrative staff that runs the organization are all dedicated to serve others through education, which highlights a principal problem in the Boyle Heights area. Puente in the Puente in spanish means bridge in English which is exactly what the learning center is doing, slowly diminishing the gap between the lack of education in low-income communities and the achievement of students.

To find out more about the PUENTE learning center and their mission to help students, feel free to check out their website: http://www.PUENTE.org

“Con Confianza!”: Inside Compañia de Café

Compañia de Café is a coffee shop that opened about a year ago in the San Fernando Valley. It is located in El Centro, a collection of local shops, restaurants, and fast food places. Amongst these small locales, Compañia provides an original space and delicious treats. The Mexican-inspired shop has large display windows that reveal popping eyefuls of colorful and bright decorations, such as a bright, white table by the storefront window, a wall full of pastel-colored bird cages, and dark blue tiles that fade into white as they stretch through to the end of the wall.

Neida Rodriguez, who works at the café since it opened, explains that all the decorations have a meaning behind them.

“Everything has a concept. There’s a reason why everything is in a certain location. It is supposed to represent what it is to be Mexican American, and we strove for the feel of grandma’s house, but with a modern twist,” she said.

The modern twist applies to the pastries and drinks, as well. Traditional pieces such as a chocolate cupcake are innovated by the inclusion of ingredients such as tequila and chipotle, adding a change to the taste that is still subtle enough to enjoy its familiar flair. Cookies are turned into edible tiles, complete with painstakingly detailed art in differing designs. Compañia’s specialty drink plays with different variations on the renowned Chocolate Abuelita, available in both warm and over-ice options.

San Fernando resident, Stephanie Rivera, cannot help proclaim her excitement for the new shop.

“There’s never been anything like this in the valley,” Rivera says. “It’s like those kind of places that you see in LA, but never here. It’s great to have a local place now that combines cute aesthetic and sweet treats.”

The shop’s appeal has drawn a large audience, from people who come to study, people who wish to sit and chat, and entire families who want to enjoy some downtime munching on a delicious treat.

Compañia’s appeal and success is undeniable. Though less than a year old, its services are now extended to the people in South Gate with the recent opening of a second location.

Here is to hoping that Compañia continues to grow and touch others with its unique and savory take on Mexican-American culture.

Hole in the Wall: Jorge Lopez

Jorge Lopez, originally from East Palo Alto, recently moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of his educational and artistic goals.  He studies Sociology at Santa Monica Community College and hopes to transfer into the University of California, Los Angeles. Jorge developed a deeper appreciation for education after leaving high school, as one of his songs “Standardizing Creativity” illustrates. This song reveals Jorge’s desire to really explore his own creativity through writing rather than just regurgitating irrelevant information to pass an exam. In his high school he became known as the rapper and he recorded his first song at age 14 with his older brother, Freddy Lopez. From then on he continues to write in hopes that others will connect with his flows.

“I like writing, so might as well try to rap,” said Jorge. “[My lyrics are] really just myself, what I’m feeling or thinking.”

Click here for more of Jorge Lopez’s music!


Hole in the Wall became a series of La Gente Newsmagazine, hoping to feature musicians and artists of color. Artists of color do not receive much praise or recognition despite overwhelming talent. This segment’s main purpose is to alleviate that by becoming a platform for artists of color. If you are interested in being part of the series, please email lagente@media.ucla.edu. 

Self-represented People of Color in Family Court

Low income people of color do not have the opportunities to suitably represent themselves in the court room. From my own experiences volunteering at a court’s self help center, I’ve seen the burden that self-represented people of color have to endure when dealing with family court cases.

There are free resources available to obtain legal help, which are primarily used by people of color, but these resources are scarce. If you don’t have access to services within the judicial/court system, you do not have the opportunity to represent yourself the best possible way.

Many of the people who require assistance do not speak English but are referred to legal services that are in English. This language barrier is not limited to the courtroom; the need for language assistance extends to all areas of the legal system. The paperwork needs to be filled out in English and in trial the judge communicates in English. There is paperwork that is translated in other languages, like Spanish, however the legal terminology is not easy to understand. This system was not built so that an average person could maneuver it, especially someone who only received primary schooling, like many of the litigants. Additionally, there are difficulties in communication because, many of the people of color that come in cannot write or read. Yet they are expected to engage in civil litigation regarding matters that are often legally and factually complex, such as child custody, child and spousal support, and property division.

How are people supposed to be self-represented if they cannot communicate effectively with the court?

Many litigants who try to receive services at free service centers are there because a friend or family member referred them about the center, not the court. Still, when a case gets complicated it is difficult for people to attain free legal help and much of it needs to be dealt with by attorneys. Attorneys are expensive and there are few who offer services at low cost, which means that one way or another you still have to pay.

Self-represented individuals are often dealing with emotional and financial stress and further issues but they have no other choice than to represent themselves The majority of people of color who need free legal services are being affected by other racial structural issues. Some people need free services because they do not have jobs. Some people do not have jobs because they are undocumented and cannot get hired. Some people do not have money to pay because they just got out of jail or prison.

Furthermore, many legal self help centers are composed of volunteers, this is an issue because some of them are low income too. This is essentially reproducing the same system of oppression and poverty. The argument can be made that volunteer services are nearly putting a bandaid over a very big wound and do not serve as a long term solution. Courts need to invest in or be given the funding to hire actual workers to do the job that volunteers are doing of assisting self represented people of color. This will also increase the number of people that are being assisted. Because services are not often provided by lawyers many people are more likely to lose claims and pay for stuff they could have avoided with a lawyer at their side.

Additionally, people who are already struggling to pay fees have to take time off their jobs to go to a center to receive assistance.

These are reasons to why there is so much distrust for this legal system. Some people rather avoid going to court to fight for custody/visitation than be in an environment that makes them feel uncomfortable and unsafe. This is not equal justice and we cannot call this a “justice” system if people do not have accessibility to the same representation.

Immigration Update and The Birth of a Collective

As a fine mist of rain fell on the corner of Albany Street and Pico Boulevard, there was a small collection of twenty-somethings running up and down the street with a strange mix of excitement and anxiety. The symphony of cars kicking up water as they beat down West Pico Boulevard played an appropriate backdrop for signs reading “Immigration Legal Update;” everyone was determined to reach their destination despite the danger in traversing their path.

The event known as the Legal Immigration Update was held on an overcast Saturday morning, January 10th, 2015, inside the First Evangelical Free Church in Pico Union. The event was the brainchild of a collective of UCLA students with various affiliations like Gamma Zeta Alpha and Union Salvadoreña de Estudiantes Universitarios (USEU).

The formation of the collective was uniquely interesting in that the organization affiliations were, for the most part, white noise since it was a community organization, Jesus For Revolutionaries, that opened up the space for organizing. Started by UCLA Chican@ Studies, Professor Robert Chao-Romero, Jesus For Revolutionaries is a non-profit organization that works on intersection of race, social justice, and Christianity.

This group, however, focused on a more specific goal, as elaborated by UCLA student and organizer Jeylee Quiroz, “We came together because we were concerned about the lack of information about the previous executive orders and the recent upsurge in migrants escaping rampant violence in Central America.”

On the day of the event, a handful of community members were drawn by the presence of executive members of CARECEN, a local organization that works to empower Central Americans by defending human and civil rights, for legal guidance.

After discussing the history of Central American immigration, the significance of the current status of immigration reform, and intersectionality between immigration and the Asian-Pacific Islander (API) community, attendees were encouraged to participate in a group dialogue about the next steps for action. The ideas shared were diverse in their approaches. One member called for the creation of a podcast to inform and interact with the community. A member of CARECEN suggested a program to train students to assist with Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) applications once the application opens to the public.

In this hour-long discussion, facilitated by students in USEU, lawyers, students, and community members engaged one another in hopes of generating a clear plan of action. While time constraints prevented a consensus from manifesting, the organizers of the event expressed their gratitude and reenergized commitment to their original problematic (further elucidated by the dialogue.)

As the organizers helped to clean up after the event, there was a palpable sense of exhaustion and yet, ironically enough, a hunger for more. In taking down the signs on the corner of Pico and Albany, the organizers could not help but remark that while the clouds were still looming overhead, at least the rain stopped.

Readers looking for more information or a way to be involved in the work of this innovative collective can contact the collective by e-mail at legalimmigration2014@gmail.com.

Parents Challenge Language Barriers in Parents’ Weekend

Expressing support for their children, Latino, monolingual parents eagerly attended UCLA’s 2014 Parents’ Weekend. While filling lecture halls and beaming with pride over their college students, Spanish-speaking parents proved the language barrier was not a hurdle.

UCLA’s 15th annual Parents’ Weekend, held from October 31st through November 2nd, is a family event that draws in thousands of families from around the world. Unfortunately, this three-day event offers lectures and workshops exclusively in English.

Despite the language barriers of Parents’ Weekend, Latino, monolingual parents make a point to attend the annual event.

Among such parents are Hector Hernandez and Jovita Hernandez, both of whom originate from Michoacán, Mexico. Despite a limited understanding of English, they make an effort to attend the event.

For the Hernandez family, Parents’ Weekend allows them to rally behind their daughters Alia Hernandez, a second year human biology and society major, and Elena Hernandez, a UCLA alumna with a degree in history.

Because their daughters are first generation college students, they feel the need to go above and beyond to express support for their children.

“Es importante alimentar al bebe, hasta en los 24 años,” said Hernandez.

Originally from El Salvador, Pedro Alarcon Quijada and Rosa Alarcon Granadeño also make sure to participate in Parents’ Weekend to support their son, also a first generation college student. They note that parents’ support is crucial for graduation and retention rates.

“El tiempo de calidad con nuestro hijo es muy importante. El se tiene que sentir soportado por nosotros para que no sienta que no se va a graduar,” said Pedro Alarcon Quijada.

After attending lectures and expressing gratefulness for UCLA, both families expressed desire for Spanish presentations, “o por lo menos aparatos de traducción,” said Quijada.

Despite a limited understanding of English, both families enjoyed the kind environment created by UCLA, where parents from numerous backgrounds stand united in support of their students.

“Es una gran experiencia poder conocer a profesores tan educados. Estoy muy agradecido por lo que UCLA ha hecho por mis hijas,” said Hector Hernandez.

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Boyle Heights Dia de los Muertos Festivities

On November 2, 2014, the community of Boyle Heights honored those who have passed in spaces like Espacio 1839, Mariachi Plaza and Self Help Graphics.

At the store and autonomous radio station, Espacio 1839, various altars decorated its sidewalk, giving life to the street as the dead were commemorated.   One of the altars was set up by students of Roosevelt High School and their teacher, Jorge Lopez.  The students decided to honor various revolutionaries who have died fighting for justice.

Inside the store there were performances by various artists, such as Son de Centro and El-Haru Kuroi, to name a few.  In addition, there was a space dedicated for an altar that displayed the faces of the 43 students who were disappeared in Guerrero, Mexico.  On the wall right from the altar, a row of posters with Black and Brown faces whose lives were taken by police brutality, were lined up across the room.

At Mariachi Plaza, there were vendors and cumbia that made a large crowd dance.  And just down that same street, Self Help Graphics was hosting their 41st annual Dia de los Muertos celebration at their neighboring Mendez High School.  The area was filled with more vendors, altars, photo booths, food, and a stage for performances by artists such as Las Cafeteras.


Created with flickr slideshow.
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Dia de los Muertos at Grand Park, Los Angeles

On November 1, 2014 Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles hosted a free Dia de los Muertos celebration, with live music, art and food!  An entire space was dedicated for the display of various community altars, with participating organizations such as Inner-City Struggle.  Some performances included Los Angeles-based band, La Chamba and from Colombia, Palenke Soultribe.  This event was extremely family-friendly and it gave people a space to gather and celebrate those who have passed.


Created with flickr slideshow.
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Latino Subjectivity: Contemporary Artistic Convergences and El Velorio Celebration

On November 8th, Plaza de la Raza will host El Velorio’s 4th annual Day of the Dead celebration. El Velorio is a multicultural event celebrating the Mexican traditions of the Day of the Dead by featuring an art exhibition, live music, an altar installation and much more. Every year, thousands of people come together at El Velorio to celebrate the aesthetic convergence of Latino culture and heritage.

El Velorio began in 2010 with the sole purpose of creating a platform for emerging artists to exhibit their work. It quickly transcended into an event that has benefited various non-profit organizations. In 2014, El Velorio choose to donate a portion of the proceeds to  Plaza De la Raza, Los Angeles’ only multidisciplinary community arts venue dedicated to serving the Eastside neighborhoods of Los Angeles

This year’s exhibition was curated by Erika Hirugami, a recent UCLA graduate who focused on Art History and Chicano Studies. It will feature a wide selection of works in a variety of  two-dimensional media that range from painting to photography, in an array of genres relating to the Day of the Dead and its subjectivity as interpreted by contemporary artists of the greater Los Angeles area.

The exhibition will feature the hyperrealist depictions of Otto Stürcke’s paintings, alongside the suprarrealism of Isaac Pelayo’s drawings. There will also be Steve Grody’s historical view of the city’s gang culture via photographs and Miguel Angel Mejia’s modern Mexican issues in mixed media via photograph, colliding and conversing about the myriad of ways in which the Latino community is affected on both sides of the border.

Antonio Pelayo, founder of El Velorio, will display an introspection about his own aesthetic development and the footprint he leaves behind as an artist in his own community. Nikko Hurtado and Mark Mahoney, tattoo artists by trade, give us a glimpse into a wider range of art forms and converge with UCLA Chicano Master’s own Alma Lopez, Frank Romero, and Patssi Valdez to bring together an array of instances and subjectivities towards discussing greater Chicano, Latino, and Mexican American concerns of the people in Los Angeles.

El Velorio seeks to generate an alternative space where artists from different backgrounds can come together and aesthetically converse Day of the Dead and modern concerns of Latino society and heritage. By showcasing emerging artists, El Velorio seeks to celebrate the Day of the Dead in a transcendental way that allows visitors to contemplate locally produced aesthetic developments. Also, featuring some renown artists alongside these emergent artists creates a space to converse aesthetically about the Latino subjectivity within the confines of the Latino experience, free of borders and limitations, generating an artistic convergence capable of transcending the local borders of the city, time and space.

For tickets, location, and all other details visit www.elvelorio.com

Images courtesy of Ralph Guzman