stories through pictures!

Photo by: Mayra Vanessa Lopez

Altares at Grand Park

Header photo taken by Mayra Vanessa Lopez

Under the beautiful moonlight in Downtown Los Angeles, I strolled through Grand Park to see the various, dazzling altares/ofrendas set out in remembrance of lost relatives and ancestors. There was a display of fascinating, colorful calaveras painted on large wooden cutouts of traditional Día de los Muertos skulls.

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This captivating art installation took place on October 31st. Extending four blocks, this Día de los Muertos exhibition allowed community members to experience the traditional, as well as modern day, ways of celebrating those who have passed and memorializing the past. It is a day in which the curtain between our two realms—of the real, present world and of the afterlife—is lifted and so that we may share the day.

The Altares at Grand Park, held directly in front of City Hall, were decorated with various ofrendas, or offerings, both by the master altar makers of the exhibition as well as by community members. People were encouraged to bring photographs, write notes, and/or sign their names on some of the altares. Men and women dressed as catrinas/os visited the altares, dressed in traditional clothing with their faces elaborately painted.

I made sure to write a special note to my godmother who I lost several years ago; as I wrote her name, I automatically felt in touch with not only her spirit, but also to my culture.

The first altar I saw as I began my tour of the art exhibition was one dedicated to Trayvon Martin—a 17-year-old African-American male who was fatally shot and killed, yet received no justice for his murder. We see here the bridge between the Latinx community and African-American community, making a powerful statement of solidarity.

The statement becomes even more effective as you look over the altar and see Los Angeles City Hall helping illuminate the already vibrant memorial. Ten elegantly designed calaveras, five to each side of the altar, were displayed to illustrate another important piece of the Día de los Muertos’ tradition. The calaveras have come to symbolize the revival of an individual into the next stage of life. One calavera, in particular, grasped my attention almost immediately. It was one representing Brown Pride, which was initiated during the Chicano movement of the 1960s; with this skull we can see the connection between contemporary and traditional empowerment through the Latinx culture—contemporary in that it reflects a recent social movement for Chicanx pride and power, and traditional in that it reflects a long-established spiritualistic custom to convey the unity between the two very different, but still socially and culturally relevant ideologies.

Apart from altares and calaveras, there was a large art piece entitled “Till Death Do Us Part…”—symbolizing the classic wedding chapel scene decorated in wedding glass boxes. This scene is meant to portray eternal love, as the bride and groom are elegantly dressed calacas. The materials used to create this artistic installation were re-purposed plastic—an ode to the notion and belief that love lasts a lifetime and that the spirits of our passed loved ones will always be with us.

I have never felt so in touch with my culture and community; various men and women around me joined together by emotionally and physically engulfing themselves with the art exhibition. Witnessing the Altares at Grand park was an eye-opening experience. As Grand Park seemed to purposely place this installation of important aspect of Latino ritualism and culture within the heart of the city, it appeared to hold an underlying proclamation: the raza is present and we are not going anywhere.

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.


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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.


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Yuri’s Records Hold Intimate Summer Show

On August 31st, Yuri’s Records hosted its annual chalk contest and in-store performances of local bands to celebrate the local talent in the South East Los Angeles area.

Yuri’s has opened their doors to many local bands during their monthly showcase for the last two years.

“There is so much talent in South Gate. Even the cities that are neighboring us, they have so much talent but they have nowhere to play,” said Jacquie Farfan, owner of Yuri’s Records. “Especially groups that are younger that can’t play at bars. This is a free event where everyone is welcomed to come in.”

Alongside local performances, Yuri’s also showcases artists through their art galleries and opportunities like the chalk contest. These events are part of a larger plan to reopen the Allen Theatre for these public presentations. The Allen Theatre, located right next to Yuri’s, was primarily a movie theatre and turned to a venue for rock concerts. It has been closed for over seven years with no notice of opening soon.

“We’ve also organized, trying to bring what we are doing here back to the Allen,” said Farfan.

Throughout the hot Sunday evening, four local bands played for a small crowd inside the intimate record store. But, the overbearing heat did not stop the audience from dancing and hanging out with the band members.

“In South Gate there’s not many entertainment options, so the fact that they have this is great. There’s something for all ages,” said April Jimenez, from The Honey Tones.

With the support of small stores like Yuri’s, local bands are able to flourish and gain more attention.

“It’s always cool to have a music scene,” said Jonathan Rivera, from Curly Bear. “It’s a good outlet for me to play and for people to see other bands that are coming around. Not just go to Staple Center and see The Black Keys and shit. It’s cool. It’s alive and it’s happening.”

The bands that performed were: Paper Sails, The Honey Tones, Curly Bear, and Sun Craves. Like Yuri’s Records on Facebook for updates!


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UCLA’s 29th Annual Pow Wow

Last weekend, the American Indian Student Association (AISA) at UCLA presented their 29th annual Pow Wow. Members from the Los Angeles community and around the country gathered around to celebrate the culture and diversity of nations of native communities. The event included everything from food, vendors, singing and dance competitions.

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Maria Varela

La Gente gets “wacky” at Festival Latino

 

Saturday April 5th UCLA’s Latin American Student Association (LASA) invited students, campus organizations, and community members and musicians for its 16th annual Festival Latino. Held at Wilson Plaza, the event celebrates the diversity of the Latina/o community through food, music and art. La Gente was here with wacky, hand-made photo booth props. Below are some photos. Please click the photo to expand it.

 

 

Vagina Monologues 2014

If your vagina could talk, what would it say? If it could dress, what would it wear?

Cast Members of the Vagina Monologues tell you everything there is to know about vaginas!

Hosted by UCLA’s very own Social Awareness Network for Activism through Art (SANAA), the Vagina Monologues works to promote and embrace everything that comes along with being a woman. What started off as a celebration for women is now seen as a movement to help combat gender inequalities and raise awareness against gender violence. Cast members engage the audience to feel happy, angry, sad, and even awe by presenting different aspects of feminine experiences. Their ultimate goal: deconstruct the conceiving notion that vaginas are taboo and embrace it as a tool of women empowerment.

Faith Kearns shows the audience a painting of her “unique, beautiful, fabulous vagina” from her monologue, “The Vagina Workshop”

Faith Kearns shows the audience a painting of her “unique, beautiful, fabulous vagina” from her monologue, “The Vagina Workshop.”

Sara Beil is all smiles after sharing with the audience how she comes to love her vagina in “Because He Liked to Look At It”.

Sara Beil is all smiles after sharing with the audience how she comes to love her vagina in “Because He Liked to Look At It.”

Jen Lainez gets the crowd warmed up with her monologue, “My Angry Vagina”. Does anyone else feel heated?

Jen Lainez gets the crowd warmed up with her monologue, “My Angry Vagina”. Does anyone else feel heated?

Performed by Mitali Gupta and Laura Savage, “My Vagina Was My Village”, tells the untold and devastating experiences of Bosnian women refugees.

Performed by Mitali Gupta and Laura Savage, “My Vagina Was My Village”, tells the untold and devastating experiences of Bosnian women refugees.

 

Genevieve Zimmerman gets the audience worked up with her different tones in moans. Her performance, “The Woman Who Loved to Make Other Vaginas Happy” included its very own UCLA moan!

Genevieve Zimmerman gets the audience worked up with her different tones in moans. Her performance, “The Woman Who Loved to Make Other Vaginas Happy” included its very own UCLA moan!

 

In, “I Was There in the Room,” Julia Saunders expresses awe and appreciation for what a vagina is capable of doing: reproducing human life.

In, “I Was There in the Room,” Julia Saunders expresses awe and appreciation for what a vagina is capable of doing: reproducing human life.

Lea Guillory leaves the crowd with a last impactful note, “until we refuse to accept anything that does not include all, one billion will rise for justice.”

Lea Guillory leaves the crowd with a last impactful note, “until we refuse to accept anything that does not include all, one billion will rise for justice.”

 

Maria Varela

 

 

Los Callejones (L.A. Alleys)

When we think of touring L.A., the first thing that usually comes to mind are museums, the pier, 3rd Street Promenade and Rodeo Drive, but that can’t be all of L.A. right?
I decided to tour L.A. and find places that are worth visiting, in specific, places with a high Latino population. Although going to downtown may be intimidating for many, L.A.’s alleys -well known as “Los Callejones” for us Latinos- is certainly a place that you need to visit at least once while in L.A. Enjoy a place where you can literally find anything you need from clothes, to shoes and especially food. Personally, it reminds me of the many markets in Mexico where I used to shop as a kid, the music definitely brings that feeling to life.
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Sundance 2014 in images

 

Gentista Oscar Magallanes attended the first few days of the Sundance Film Festival. He captured his experiences with iPhone images, one of which was watching “Cesar’s Last Fast,” which captures moments from Cesar Chavez’s 36-day water-only hunger strike. Another was watching “Concerning Violence,” narrated by singer Lauryn Hill, which looks at the African liberation struggles of the 60s and 70s and that draws from Frantz Fanon’s anti-colonial text The Wretched of the Earth. Click the images for expanded views.

 

 

Dia de Los Muertos: UCLA Grupo de Folklorico

Grupo Folklorico de UCLA hosted its annual Dia de Los Muertos celebration on campus in Ackerman Grand Ballroom. The event featured dance performances, a community altar, face painting, arts & crafts, and Pan de Muerto. Special guest performers included Conjunto Tenocelomeh, Cabeza de Vaca Cultural School, and Ballet Folklorico Alma de Oro de Carson. Photos by Mayra Jones, Melissa Merrill, and Erika Ramirez