the past is in the past

Illustration by: Alvaro Hernandez

 

i look to the past 

far too much, 

this i know

i must give up

todo no es como lo era. y nunca volverá

 

yet i am helpless to resist

the kaleidoscope of memories that insist 

they pour incessantly:

inevitable and inescapable

todo no es como lo era. y nunca volverá

 

i remember the scuffed shoes

and scraped knees,

the dirt-stained jeans

plus the sweat-soaked shirts

todo no es como lo era. y nunca volverá

 

i remember the sun’s caress upon my skin

and the wind lapping at my face,

the grass grabbing wildly for my feet

while the concrete’s unforgiving hands want naught to do with me

todo no es como lo era. y nunca volverá

 

i remember my high-pitched laughs

and my brothers unfettered wide smiles,

our friends’ exclamations of victory and lament

followed by deep exhalations of breath

todo no es como lo era. y nunca volverá

 

i remember my mom’s call, timed at light’s descent

and my dad’s tiredness at a work day’s end,

our loud family gatherings at my tia’s

where my cousins and i were at play

todo no es como lo era. y nunca volverá 

 

but with these lens

i feel youth passing me by (it crawls and it runs)

and i’d rather not be the one 

to let life give me no other love 

todo no es como lo era. y nunca volverá

 

i’ll always look back with love (on this you can bet)

but now i must open my eyes,

to recognize all that i have

in this day and age

todo no es como lo era. y nunca volverá

 

for i still feel the sun’s stroke 

and listen to the wind’s whisperings, 

i lay among the grass on warm summer days

and dance upon the concrete that is my stage

todo no es como lo era. y nunca volverá

 

for i have friends i never saw coming

and they make me laugh endlessly,

their presence and support given freely when needed

as i do for them

todo no es como lo era. y nunca volverá

 

for my family is still alive and well

and though we have grown and have more to go,

this bond is ever-present 

and only deepens over time

todo no es como lo era. y nunca volverá

 

for i am growing and learning

and coming into my self, 

expanding my horizons

and sticking to my roots

todo no es como lo era. y nunca volverá

 

aceptaré las cosas como son y como vienen

y viviré en el ahora

el tiempo pasará, como siempre ha hecho

y quizás el cambio sí es por lo bueno 

todo no es como lo era. y jamás volverá

A Case for Television

Illustration by: Haven Morales

A dream I’ve kept under wraps, for the sake of not falling in love with it, is becoming a screenwriter. In high school, my answer to what I wanted to be was along the lines of a teacher or a lawyer because both had a clear step-by-step process that would ultimately result in that job.  When I first realized that I had a desire to create TV/Film, I was adamant about becoming a film buff.  After all, the few people who I knew that wanted to pursue a career in entertainment were very much into films and film history, which made me feel inadequate. Who was I to aspire to be a filmmaker without ever having watched a single De Niro movie or knowing who the hell Wes Anderson was? To live up to these expectations, I made the most extensive “must-watch” movie list ever. It had every single iconic film that you can imagine. After two screenings that I put myself through, I realized it wasn’t for me, which threw me for a loop.

As I fell out of love with the idea of filmmaking, I found myself drawn to television. For me, television has always been synonymous with “laziness” and not nearly as much glamour as films.  I had that concept ingrained but also found it hard to stray from my habit of watching television religiously. As a child, my first exposure to television was through telenovelas.  I used to watch them and my mind would take me in different directions regarding the storyline.  I’d make up arcs and new characters and act out —by myself—how it might look if I was the showrunner.  I thought I was being a kid playing games but to this day I still do it with every show that I watch.

What I’ve found is that films are simply not enough for me. I need more. I need to go through the characters’ journeys with them. I need to learn their slang. I need to grow with them. These are needs that films can not satisfy, even though I’ve tried very hard to make it happen. 

Schitt’s Creek and Euphoria both stand out to me. I finally got the chance to watch both shows during quarantine and they serve as an affirmation of my feelings towards television.

Despite its cliché premise, following the riches-to-rags story of the Rose family, Schitt’s Creek stands out for the heartwarming and real depiction of its characters as they adapt to their new environment. In the first episode, all one could see was a ridiculously wealthy (and somewhat naive) family land in the only place that would let them in: a motel in the town of Schitt’s Creek.  Over the first two seasons, viewers are able to see the Rose family navigate this new space: looking for jobs, trying to get along with the townspeople, and learning to accept that this was their reality. 

The season 2 finale marked the first time the Rose family came to terms with their situation. Not only did this moment set the stage for the rest of the series, but it was the first time this family—that had been shown to have difficulty expressing their affection—finally shared how much they loved each other. They chose to immerse themselves in their new world rather than ostracizing themselves from it. This is what sealed the deal for me with this show. Prior to this, I hadn’t realized just how invested I was, but once I saw the last five minutes of everyone dancing to “Precious Love,” I was sold. I saw the heart of the show which lies in the sincerity of its characters and began to understand television’s power in engaging audiences.  After tireless efforts by the Roses to adapt, they finally get a moment of happiness and acceptance, which is projected onto whoever is watching. One is able to go through their ups and downs with them through lighthearted moments, which makes resolutions like this so cathartic to watch.

The most astounding work of art I have ever seen—including TV, film, and theater— is hands down Euphoria. The score—capturing the whirlwind of emotions felt in adolescence—has the power to make you feel many different emotions in the span of one minute. Not to mention the visual aspects of the show—intriguing shots, beautiful cinematography—that complement the aural sensations to establish a well-rounded, sensory experience throughout the series. There is no reliance on the dialogue alone, it is a culmination of many little things that lead up to the emotions of any given moment. For instance, each episode begins with Rue, the protagonist played by Zendaya, narrating one of the main characters’ background, from their childhood up until the present day. Given what we have already seen in previous episodes, viewers can connect the dots and grasp the complexity of these characters. 

One of the most talked about aspects of the show is the fashion and makeup. Euphoria’s use of both as a tool to develop their characters creates anticipation for how they will look and what their looks represent. For instance, Maddy’s more provocative looks are indicative of her confidence and security in who she is and her sexuality, while Kat’s shift in confidence has led her to don more daring looks.  Furthermore, the actual makeup—reminiscent of runway and editorial looks—has a lot to say about who these characters are. The most prominent look is Rue’s glitter tears which are a physical manifestation of her interior, mimicking crying. 

I have never seen a show have such an established sense of self before. Euphoria’s unwavering aesthetic and world makes it memorable and worthy of praise.  Just hearing “euphoria” evokes many feelings. Personally, I can’t help but have chills and feel excitement as I remember the show. From the cinematography to the makeup to the storylines, everything joins together to create that sense of euphoria that lingers way after watching.   

Television, as an art form, has so much potential to be as good or even better than film. The idea of having multiple episodes allows for further development in characters’ stories and establishing the world in which they exist.  As showcased by Schitt’s Creek and Euphoria, television can provoke an emotional response from viewers in differing ways. This makes television one of a kind.

Mexican Strike-Out

Illustration by Alvaro Hernandez

[CW: mentions of suicidal ideation and the adverse impact of displacement on mental health]

The Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series for the first time since 1988. The city erupted in fireworks and huge crowds to celebrate. In honor of this anticipated moment, it is worth remembering the families that once resided in the small barrio, Chavez Ravine. 

Chavez Ravine was a small town located a few miles away from Downtown Los Angeles. Generations of working class Mexican-American families occupied its main three neighborhoods: La Loma, Palo Verde, and Bishop. The residents of Chavez Ravine built their own homes, schools, and churches, and lived in peace, unbothered until the summer of 1950.

The American Housing Act of 1949 provided funds to construct 10,000 new public housing units in Chavez Ravine. Residents received letters from the city telling them to sell their homes to build Elysian Heights developments. They were promised access to these housing projects after their completion. Some residents refused to leave, while others relinquished their homes for a small amount of monetary compensation fearing they would get even less money if they opted out and trusting that the city would fulfill its original promise. Using eminent domain and forced evictions orders, the city successfully cleared the land, and Chavez Ravine became a ghost town

The housing development was then canceled, and the Dodgers’ owner, Walter O’Malley, made a deal with the city to build Dodger Stadium. Bulldozers and sheriff deputies invaded the community and kicked out the remaining families on May 9, 1959—a day known as Black Friday to the residents of Chavez Ravine.

In the documentary, Chávez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story, former resident Beto Elias reveals that he witnessed his school, Palos Verde Elementary, be torn apart by bulldozers. “In a thousand years, they are going to start digging and find a school down there,” he stated.

Dodger Stadium officially opened three years later on April 10, 1962. The Dodgers instantly developed a large fanbase, and the small town that once existed was long forgotten in all the fame. 

Thousands of people visit the Dodger Stadium annually since it first opened, but others, like the residents of Chavez Ravine, swore to never step foot in the stadium. Another former resident, Carol Jaques, states, “It’s like dancing on a grave,” since most of the town’s remains are buried underneath the stadium. 

After they lost their homes, the residents were forced to settle in the surrounding neighborhoods where they faced a new set of challenges. For example, Silver Lake— a white majority community at the time— was anti-Mexican, signs read “Mexicans get out.” They made it extremely difficult for Mexican families to live in the area by enforcing redlining and other discriminatory practices to maintain residential segregation. 

Carol Jaques and her family were among the first Mexicans to live in Silver Lake. Carol reveals that the transition to an all-white community was a culture shock, and racism took a toll on her self-esteem as she grieved the loss of her old home. 

Selena Ortega, a scholar who studies Chicano Studies, researched Mexican displacement and conducted an interview: Chávez Ravine and Boyle Heights: 20th and 21st Century Displacement of Mexican Communities. In the interview, former Chavez Ravine resident,  Carol states: “First you get that immediate shock of where you are that is so different. Then, it’s the loss of your friends, the loss of what you do every day… I really think I just wanted to die, I became very self-destructive.” 

Chavez Ravine provided a safe place where Mexican families like Carol’s felt like they belonged, and when it was taken away, they lost a part of their identity. 

Today, many people have no clue that this town existed. Amid the Dodger’s Championship, we must pay tribute to the communities of Chavez Ravine that made it possible for us to enjoy baseball games. The team brought the city together, but it came at a very high price that can’t repair the damage done to the former residents of Chavez Ravine. All that remains are their untold stories that lay buried along with their town. 

Keep this story alive and preserve this history, by watching Jordan Mechner’s documentary: Chávez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story to gain a better understanding of how Mexican families have been historically displaced and continue to be today.

Caught in a Loop: An Appropriation of Hoops

Illustration by Jessica Martinez

Gold, silver, large, small, tassels, and decorations: hoop earrings come in a variety of unique representations and colorful motifs. 

Rooted in Latinx culture, hoops represent the “sazón” of minority groups that wear these accessories to signify and represent their solidarity to their cultural identity. Once seen as low-class and distasteful, hoop earrings have now surfaced as a popular trend among celebrities and fashion shows. The fashion elite has cultivated hoops as edgy, stylish, and trendy while minorities were patronized for their distasteful fashion choices. 

From Hailey Bieber to Taylor Swift, these celebrities have partaken in the hoop trend and have been labeled as “stylish” as a result. Considering those who are revered for participating in the new trend (mostly white women), one must ask the question: why is it acceptable for them to wear hoops, while minority groups are scrutinized for their hoops? 

In an article by Refinery 29, the history of the hoop earring is unveiled to date back to 1500 BC Egypt, continuing to a “golden age” of piracy where pirates adorned themselves with hoops. However, more recently, hoop earrings have been associated with Latinx ”chola” subculture. The “chola” subculture was born from the working-class, Mexican neighborhoods in Southern California and incorporated hoops as an identity; it was also an essential part of other working-class communities, such as those of Latinx and Black communities. Across time, hoop earrings have engraved their significance throughout underrepresented groups, cementing their presence in history by demonstrating that they have been around long before they were a “trend.”  

In her article in the New York Times, Sandra Garcia tells a similar story. Garcia recounts how she felt empowered with hoop earrings, “Gold hoops — thick, wide, bamboo-style, small or thin — were an extension of our sass, our style and us.” In a unique twist, Garcia would often lose a hoop and carried a collection of sole hoop earrings she would wear mismatched. She believed that during the 90s the mismatched hoop earrings “were in.” Although, as she grew older she ceased to wear hoops. Her decision stemmed from the fear that hoops painted Garcia as, “too loud, too visible, too ghetto, too black.” The dichotomy between Garcia feeling empowered versus self-conscious about hoops demonstrates how society casts a negative light on cultural identities. 

The obvious questions that present themselves are then: Why is it not acceptable for minority women to practice and project their identities through hoop earrings? Why is it that when white women wear hoops they are made to be cool, hip, or trendy?

Ruby Pivet, a Latinx writer, echoed these questions in her article for Vice. Pivet mentions Vogue magazine declaring up-dos and hoops as the “‘ultimate summer pairing,’” while mostly crediting white models. Pivet says, “White girls did not start the ‘trend’ of over-sized hoop earrings and yet they’re the ones being praised for donning the ‘edgy’ style.” In contrast, women of color face apprehension and racial stereotypes for portraying their identities in the form of hoops. 

In 2015, the Givenchy spring collection consisted of models adorned in facial piercings, hoops, and baby hairs. In a review by Vogue magazine, the fashion show was referred to as a “Chola Victorian” inspiration. Yet, none of the models identified as Latinx, and most of them were white women. The show lacked representation from the so-called inspiration they based their show around. In reference to the baby hairs used by the fashion show, Philip Picardi mentions that, “the message this sends, even though it is hopefully inadvertent, is that baby hairs can look ‘chic’ on white girls, but are still ‘hood’ on Latina and Black girls.” The same ideology can be applied to hoop earrings in the sense that hoops on women of color are seen as “ghetto,” while on white women they are “in style.” 

The Latinx fashion culture, strongly misunderstood by privileged dominant groups,  has been dissected to root out the original sources of the fashion items.  Francis Solá-Santiago expressed in her Glamour article that she previously saw hoop earrings as a rite of passage and as relics handed down by generations. However, it became apparent that in order to appear “polished” or taken seriously she would have to dress down her accessories. This misconception was defied by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Puerto Rican Democrat from the Bronx,  as she was sworn into congress. Ocasio-Cortez wore bright red lipstick, a white pantsuit, and her hoops. Through this act she reverted back the stigma behind hoops by owning her heritage and conveying the message that hoop earrings are powerful. In a Twitter statement Ocasio-Cortez said, “Next time you tell Bronx girls to take off their hoop earrings, they can just say they are dressing like a congresswoman.” As mentioned by Solà-Santiago, Ocasio-Cortez defying the status quo, demonstrates that Latinx women “shouldn’t sacrifice their identity for the sake of professional success.” Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez represents that Latinx women can have positions of power without sacrificing their culture regardless of diverging from what is conventionally seen as professional. 

Hoop earrings may appear insignificant, but they represent more than a simple trend. The culture behind them comes from a history of oppression and exclusion for women of color who wear them. Hoops stand for resistance against appropriation that converts cultural expression into fashion. Regardless, the mainstream fashion culture will move on to the next item to appropriate, but it is up to the women that wear hoops to reclaim the culture that shapes their identities. 

Lil Foo Coffee: Culture, Coffee, South Central Pride

Lil Foo Coffee logo created by Jonathan Funes

Frankie Martinez, a trans non-binary Latinx male, born and raised in South Central LA, owns Lil Foo Coffee, a coffee pop-up stationed in Echo Park. Much like Spider-Man’s ability to swing from building-to-building to help his community, Frankie works in the same way: swinging from coffee shop to coffee shop refining his passion for the drink and his passion for his community.

Four years into the coffee scene, Frankie began his coffee endeavors at Starbucks, but resenting the corporate environment that Starbucks created, he moved on to a mom-and-pop shop, Tierra Mia, a downtown location where he created a bulk of his artistic connections. 

Working at the Tierra Mia in Downtown Los Angeles, Frankie says he loved the environment and the people that he met. “The area helped me gain followers,” he says, “and connect with artsy folk that followed me to Echo Park.” Always striving to work more with coffee and the community, Frankie ended up working at Little Amsterdam, a Black-owned coffee shop in Mid-City where within a month of working there, he became the manager.

Frankie has a willingness and passion for the community and coffee, making him the perfect candidate to be Little Amsterdam’s prodigy. The shop owners pushed him and guided him into starting his own coffee business. Not only is Little Amsterdam the catalyst to Lil Foo Coffee’s inceptions, but the reason why Frankie is stationed in Echo Park, a gentrifier’s utopia and the gentrified dystopia.

“[Little Amsterdam] is located in Mid-City because they knew they would get their bread more in Mid-City than in the hood, you feel me?” They guided him because of his willingness and passion for not only coffee but his devotion to his community. 

Knowing that he needed to create a following before he could open up his actual shop, Frankie settled on making his “bread” in Echo Park, the junction where Latinx culture and gentrification lie. “The majority of coffee loving people are white people,” he says, “unfortunately, the mentality is that, and they’ll pay anything.”

Lil Foo Coffee Stand in Echo Park taken by Frankie, the owner himself.

While discussing his pricing, Frankie mentions that this coffee is priced between 4-5 dollars, and consumers can add a shot of CBD for 1 dollar, “which is rare” he says. “This older generation of Latinos/as/x love coffee and it’s not just white folk. I know that being in Echo Park, my prices are generally very low.”

Funneling the money he makes into the community is Frankie’s main goal, saying, “Make my money and my bread from coffee-loving white folk, and bring that money back to the hood.” Frankie’s current aspiration is to create a coffee shop where people, presumably like him, can just come chill and feel safe.  

With a big and bold Leo personality, Frankie wanted the coffee pop-up to have the same energy as him. Having a clear path of how he wanted to represent the shop, Frankie teamed up with Latino artist Jonathan Funes to create an official emblem. Lil Foo Coffee’s emblem blends Frankie’s love for both graffiti and, iconic New York rap artist, MF DOOM, saying, “the bubble letters are [MF DOOM’s] brand, it’s his logo. Me loving MF Doom just makes the [shop’s image] more me.” 

Conscious of the space he is inhibiting, no matter the success, South Central runs deep in one Frankie Martinez, “I’m from the hood, I’m from South-Central, and I’m going to bring that wherever I go.”

Catch Lil Foo Coffee in Echo Park Thursdays from 9 AM – 5 PM  and Fridays-Sundays 12 PM – 8PM.  Be sure to check their Instagram for any schedule changes.

 

An Iced Latte and an Iced Mocha from Lil Foo Coffee taken by Frankie

Capturing the Brown Experience Through Photography

A Profile on Latina Photographer, Andrea Flores

Demonstrated through the lack of equality in commissioning, publication, and exhibition, the photography industry has dissuaded women from picking up the camera for decades while men are offered most of the opportunities to succeed. But new generations have been pushing for platforms to be given to all perspectives instead of the few, privileged voices that hold the limelight. 

Andrea Flores’s photography has grown from a favorite pastime into an instrument that challenges the boundaries set up by the white, male-dominated photography industry. The first-year business student has been involved in past organizations such as Word Agency, LACMA, LA84, The Children’s Clinic, and more. But the one she looks back on the most fondly is Las Fotos Project, a non-profit organization centered around giving young girls of color the opportunity to express themselves through photography and mentorship. “With LFP, I’ve had my own solo exhibition titled ‘Growing Up’ which is based on the relationships I have with people and what it is like to be me,” Flores said over the phone.

“I survived the night without dying, (we were talking about hot cheetos).” Image credit: Andrea Flores

Flores uses film photography to capture the moments of flickering youth, focusing on her friends, the places she grew up, her community, and the spatial mobility of Los Angeles. She utilizes the sense of freedom and rebellion that comes alongside adolescence and uses this to challenge the obstacles of an industry filled with people who work to keep underrepresented perspectives unseen. 

Flores was initially introduced to photography by her mother. As a child, she was always fascinated by the photography her mother did for fun, which ultimately led to her own fascination in the world behind the lens. 

“Feels like mid90s.” Image credit: Andrea Flores

“I’m what they call a darkroom photographer,” she explains. Originally involved in digital photography, Flores decided to partake in LFP’s darkroom semester two years ago and fell in love with it ever since. “Film photography is also an interesting medium because you never see your results until after the process.” 

The process of film photography and development plays an essential role in Flores’s creative process. She claims, “[I] go with the flow. I get my camera one day, I get an idea and I just do it.” Flores isn’t interested in capturing the still, sterile moments of her life. Instead, she focuses on movement, skating, the subcultures hidden within Los Angeles, and the everchanging fluidity of youth. 

“We should make an LFP vlog.” Image credit: Andrea Flores

She also focuses on showing the beauty of brown skin. She actively challenges the exclusion of models of color by encouraging them to embrace and absorb not just their own identities but the identities of those around them in the spaces we all inhabit. 

Flores sees photography as more than a way to showcase her perspective to the world; it is also her safe space, a place to express her creativity with no judgment. “Photography is a journal, it is something I carry with myself,” Flores stated. Despite the weight of its expectations and restrictions, she doesn’t carry it as a burden. Instead, it is something she bears proudly, confronting the limitations imposed upon her by going directly against them.

In the future, Flores hopes to gain widespread recognition for her work, not just as a photographer, but as the person of multiple identities behind the camera. She wants people to understand the world through different perspectives, and she wants them to appreciate and embrace these different trains of thought. However, above all else she wants young girls of color to be able to dream beyond what previous generations could. 

“Jasper Bones V-Day show.” Image credit: Andrea Flores

And how does she hope to accomplish this? “The long term goals I have are to be an in-house photographer for a band or work with a magazine,” Flores declares, passion thick in her voice. “I would really like to work with my dear friends Romina Estrada, Natalia Angeles, and Jackie Rosas. Our styles are different but still go hand in hand.” 

Not only does Flores strive to be inclusive in what she photographs, but in the methods she incorporates to the process behind it as well. Flores understands that expanding beyond the constraints of a white, male-dominated industry is a learning process that she is willing to navigate in order to pave the way for others.