Night of the Blaxican

Now that we got yo undivided attention 📷:@murderhim #TheUnderworld #WHORUNTHEUNDERGROUND

A photo posted by AFRO INDIGENOUS ON TONGVA LAND (@elmemoblaxicano) on

 

The vinyl sits in a crate on a table next to the disc jockey’s LP player. Speakers on each side exert a forceful sound which reverberates through the swaying bodies wishing to remember—to dance like no other for this night.

This is the Night of the Blaxican.

Also named the “Kickback for the Ghetto,” the proclaimed party movement that occurs on select Friday and Saturday nights — with locations announced through Instagram — has had an exponential rising in both popularity and relevance for the generations of Raza wanting to experience a lost era spanning from the 60’s to the early 90’s. A time where our parents and their parents lived for themselves, this party was una noche de recuerdo in the City of Watts on Grape Street.

People roll in nonstop, dressed to impress, the style a mixture and in limbo between Pachuca/o and contemporary fashion.

These lost souls, la Raza, occupy this space filled with color. Its music is oldies, but goodies; it’s nostalgic of a time where Rucas y Vatos partied the night away—the Brown and Black energies coalesce for a sense of community, of a space for Chicana/o oldies memory.

Entering through an alley, the disco rainbow lights penetrating in all directions in ecstatic motions, the sounds of surface noise from spinning records, you get the warm feeling of home. In the Soul, Funk, and Doowop, from the G-Funk of Snoop Doggy Dog to “Lookout Weekend” by Debbie Deb, the music is the conduit to a transcendental sense of belonging—all of us Brown and Black folk belong in this space.

El Memo Blaxicano—a growing community activist of South Central, Los Angeles, self-identified Afro-Indigenous—is the creator and head of Night of the Blaxican. The life of the party, Memo is a colorful personality as he has a deep love for both his community and gente.

As a social media personality, the growth of this House Party has reached unprecedented numbers, giving fame to this local community organizer as he provides a space for anyone willing to dance. He is passionate for his gente, and he speaks of the streets in a fervor of spiritual connection to Brown and Black unity.

Night of the Blaxican, Memo’s cultivated project, voices the emotional attachments to the hoods some of us grew up in, but more the life some of us never lived and choose to remember—we consider the barrio life, the life of Vatos and Rucas, and we dig deep in community memory a life still here along side us.

And when will this house party movement stop? When will the DJs stop spinning 45s and long LPs? When will the bottles stop cracking, the smoke start clearing, and the sweat begin drying? Will the Night of the Blaxican ever stop? Will it continue forever, as we reminisce of the past for a daring present, for a future filled with oldies?

Who’s to say when this party movement will stop? All we can draw from it are the powerful energies hoping to create something from nothing, to provide an accessible space for gente of all ages and economic standings.

Night of the Blaxican is a testament to Brown and Black familia in Communities of Color, and it will remain in local history as a night to remember, always.

 

UCLA Students Keep Dia de los Muertos Tradition Alive

Bad weather conditions did not stop UCLA students from celebrating Dia de Los Muertos.

UCLA Professor Martha Ramirez-Operaza, in collaboration with UCLA’s Chicana and Chicano Studies students, organized a Dia de Los Muertos event that took place this past Sunday, October 30th, at the Social and Public Art Resource Center historic headquarters in Venice Beach, California.

“Dia de Los Muertos” is a festive holiday celebrated in Mexico and in various parts of the United States where there is a strong sense of Mexican heritage. For many, November second is often viewed as a day of celebrating–rather than mourning–the dearly departed. It is believed that on this day the spirits of the ancestors will visit the altars and enjoy the ofrendas, which consist of food and other objects with sentimental value that they enjoyed during their lifetime.

More than ten colorful altars representing different regions of Mexico surrounded the Social and Public Art Resource Center. Pictures of the departed, sugar skulls, papel picado and flores de cempasuchil (Mexican Marigold) were some of the various ornamental elements used to decorate the altars.

The event began with a ceremony traditionally carried out to invoke the spirits to join the celebration followed by ten minute presentations by UCLA students at the altars, where they explained the significance of Dia de Los Muertos and other special traditions.

The attendees were able to enjoy the traditional pan de muerto, champurrado, and ponche, among other typical Mexican dishes.

For many, Dia de Los Muertos highlights the idea of community. Hector Sanchez-Perez, a fifth-year Biology student at UCLA, cherishes the strong sense of community that such a significant celebration brings, which is strongly encouraged by Professor Ramirez-Operanza. “[Professor Ramirez-Operanza has] is really driving home the theme of the community.” Professor Ramirez-Operanza is often called “temachtiani,” which according to Sanchez-Perez, means “teacher of great things”—a testament to the respect and admiration she has garnered from her students and the wider UCLA community.

Similarly, Sra. Maria Conde, a participant of the event, believes that community is very important. “Visitar a los amigos que tienen sus ofrendas puestas, poner la mia y visitarnos unos con otros es mi tradición favorita,” Sra. Conde said.

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Individuals of all ages, who commemorate the spirits, have traditions that make this day even more special. Some people like setting up the altar and ofrendas, others making sugar skulls, or simply the idea of honoring their loved ones.

For third grade  Broadway Elementary student Karla Gonzalez and fourth-year UCLA student Veronica Martinez, the experience of setting up an altar is at the top of their favorite Dia de los Muertos traditions. “The best thing about making an altar is honoring the person that has passed away and most importantly, making this event be about the celebration of life, and having a happy connotation to death rather than the darkness [and] sadness typically associated with death, ” said Martinez.

“My favorite tradition of Dia de Los Muertos is when you make the altar, because I like setting up pictures of people who passed away and setting up the food,” said Gonzalez.

In many cultures, the skull represents a sign of death. For Dia de los Muertos, this holiday symbol can turn into a fun and creative activity. For Zac Reyes, a second-year political science major at UCLA, face painting of the half-skull continues to be his favorite tradition.

“[The half-skull] is supposed to show the quick transition between life and death,” said Reyes.

Likewise, Rosa Contreras, a second-year student at UCLA, enjoys the sugar skull and face painting aspect of the festivities because she “really likes being creative.”

UCLA educators and students understand the importance of maintaining tradition alive. By conducting the celebration of Dia de los Muertos every year, they continue to preserve the memory of their beloved while informing others about the beautiful customs of this significant day.

Poverty in Mexico

Dear America, Mexico doesn’t send its worst; it sends its most desperate.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency, 52.3% of the Mexican population is living in poverty. Currently, the Comisión Nacional de los Salarios Mínimos has set the minimum wage at $73.04 pesos (or 3.85 USD). The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development calculated that the average Mexican Laborer works about 2,228 hours a year; this means that they earn about 8,577.80 USD annually.

The CIA, however, reported Mexico’s per capita GDP to be 18,000 USD, meaning that the average laborer should be making 10,000 USD more than they currently are.

How can anyone expect Mexico to survive and undergo social development when over 64 million people are living in poverty? With a CIA reported unemployment rate of 4.4%—slightly lower than the current US unemployment rate of 4.9%—the increasing rate of poverty seems inescapable.

Though the Comisión Nacional de los Salarios Mínimos has agreed that the minimum wage will be raised to at least 4.00 USD by the end of this year, it isn’t enough. The Mexican working class works the most hours yet receives one of the lowest incomes.

Income inequality and poverty rates are only increasing, causing a gross division between the 1% and the entire population. Univision reported that the richest 1% received 21% of the entire country’s income, quintupling their original fortune last year. Though there are over 5,000 government programs in place to try to decrease poverty rates and increase social development, they aren’t working.

The Indice Estatal de Capacidades Para el Desarrollo Social reports 18 out of the 32 Mexican states are incapable of actually putting into practice the various social programs, emphasizing the urgency of transparency and availability of them. The minimum wage, both proposed and set, isn’t enough to erase Mexico’s income inequality. Neither are the established social programs enough to decrease the growing poverty rate.

Poverty is the consequence of social conformity in respect to economic demands. When a country doesn’t require enough compensation for overworked, everyday jobs, citizens begin to fear for their future and the future of their loved ones. In an attempt to escape these parameters, many are forced into migrating to America.

The migration to America is dangerous. Both the Chihuahuan Desert and the Sonoran desert, which run along the border, span for miles in each direction.The heat coupled with dangerous animals, criminals, and border control only add to the uncertainty. Al Jazeera reported that over 2,000 dead immigrants have been found within these deserts. Even so, immigrants would rather face these conditions and the uncertainty that comes afterward than face poverty. With the upcoming presidency, however, neither America nor Mexico would be a livable option.

Trump has guaranteed the deportation of 3 million mothers, fathers, brothers, etc. The deportation of 3 million people would significantly increase the already high poverty rate, inducing an exponential growth of uninhabitable conditions as it has in other countries. Despite the fact that America’s GDP would significantly decrease at the sudden loss of 3 million people, the first 3 million have all been classified as “criminals.” They are not given the appropriate conditions to survive when they have returned to their homelands. This means unemployment rates and homelessness in Mexico will increase.

This is no longer about “job security.” This is about a serious crisis involving the security of food, of shelter, of survival, and of human rights.

Dia de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever

On Saturday October 29, many gathered at Hollywood Forever Cemetery to celebrate its 17th annual Día de los Muertos festival.

Dia de los Muertos originates from indigenous cultures and continues to be practiced today within families and across communities. It is a day in which both death and life are simultaneously celebrated, exhibited perfectly with the setting and celebrations that took place at the venue.

Hollywood Forever is the only cemetery that allows for a Día de los Muertos festival to occur on its grounds. This yearly festival began as a way to celebrate the holiday while bringing communities together. Modern visuals and traditional altars created by the Latina/o community bring tradition and the contemporary together.

This year’s theme, “El Arbol de la Vida,” filled the venue with excitement and vitality.

The day began at noon with altar exhibits, folklorico, Aztec dances and rituals, arts and crafts, and an abundance of musical performances. The event was filled with a multitude of people dressed in their very best costumes and Catrina attire to celebrate, remember, admire and enjoy Día de los Muertos, their ancestors, and loved ones.

As people entered the event, they were greeted by a multitude of food, flowers and other excited patrons. Alongside the cempazuchitl filled pathways were altars created in remembrance of family members, friends, and poets.

Among the musical performances was a special tribute to the late singer, Jenni Rivera. The musical tribute to Jenni Rivera created anticipation among the crowd as the stage was closed off from the public’s view to prepare for the surprise. The crowd waited anxiously as the screen revealed a hologram of the singer performing “Cuando muera una dama.” Fans revelled in surprise as they Jenni Rivera’s voice.

As the night continued, the beautiful Tree of Life performance by Long Red Feather narrated traditions of Dia de los Muertos. The performance depicted Aztec mythology of the underworld and life through dance.

Mexican singer Julieta Venegas arrived to an excited crowd. The singer, known for her bold accordion, took the stage alongside her band. The set opened up with “Esperaba,” a song off their latest album Algo Sucede. Julieta Venegas’ contagious charisma and dance moves moved through the crowd. The singer’s setlist consisted of other new songs, among them “Ese Camino” and “Buenas Noches, Desolacion.” Old favorites such as “Limón y Sal,” “Eres para Mí,” and “Amores Platónicos” were also performed. Julieta Venegas’ funky folk tunes resonated throughout the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

As the singer and musicians walked away at the end of their set, the crowd chanted in unison for an encore. After a couple of minutes filled with praises and chants, the musicians appeared on stage for a final song. The singer finished off her set in an upbeat tone with a fan favorite, “Andar Conmigo,” a single off of her Grammy nominated album, Si. All across, fans joined in singing along with the artist.

After the last verses were sung, Julieta Venegas and her band gathered at center stage to take a final bow marking the end of Hollywood Forever’s musically infused Día de los Muertos festival.

On The Hill: Dia de los Muertos

Hand crafted paper mache flowers, yummy sugar skulls, and numerous altars of deceased celebrities adorned Covel Grand Horizon on The Hill Sunday, October 30th.

The event was in celebration of Dia de los Muertos. Organized by the Chicano/a residential floor, they showcased student artwork and hosted live entertainment with their overall theme of Day of the Dead.

According to Catholic beliefs, Dia de los Muertos kicks off the month of November that is dedicated to the souls of purgatory where believers pray for their dead.

Dia de los Muertos is influenced by Mexican indigenous culture and Spanish Catholicism. The holiday is observed on November 2nd and it provides an opportunity for family and friends to honor and commemorate their deceased loved ones.

The holiday is not one marked by sadness but is filled with joy as people remember their loved ones with music and food. Families often remember their dead by setting up altars with offerings of the dead’s favorite objects. People celebrate by making sugar skulls and decorating graves with colorful flowers and by spending time with their deceased loved ones.

Despite being held early, the Dia de los Muertos on event on the Hill, was a complete success. Attendees had the option of making sugar skulls, paper-mache flowers, or just sitting down and enjoying pan de muerto.

There were also altars of deceased celebrities, such as singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez and actor Cantinflas, and paintings related to el Dia de los Muertos for people to admire.

Additionally, there was was a Day of the Dead themed photo booth for people to have their pictures taken. This gave many the opportunity to model the festive face paint offered at the event.

After an hour, UCLA’s Grupo Folklorico took the stage and performed for 30 minutes. They danced beautifully to traditional Mexican songs.

Mariachi de Uclatlan followed Grupo Folklorico. They filled the room with their vibrant music and wooed the audience.

Among the UCLA students attending the event was second year biology major Eveline Garcia. She said her favorite part of the event was watching the performances because the dance performances “depict how the celebration itself brings an uplifting mood rather than a sad mourning one.”

The event created a sense of community on the Hill and welcomed students to celebrate their loved ones while learning about Dia de los Muertos.