EVENSONG: YOU WILL NOT LOOK AT THE HOMELESS THE SAME AGAIN

From L to R: Daniel Prado, Chad Carstarphen# Marie Louise Guinier# #Member of Actor's Equity Association

From L to R: Daniel Prado, Chad Carstarphen# Marie Louise Guinier#
#Member of Actor’s Equity Association

photo credit: Michael Dekker

The vast majority of us live from paycheck to paycheck. If we were to lose our jobs, our soul source of security, most of us would be solvent for perhaps a month tops before savings start to drain to zero. Perhaps some of us would have to leave our apartments or homes, maybe end up in a shelter if help is not readily available.

In Christina Quintana’s play “Evensong” we learn that our view of the homeless, which is the one we know best, the one’s who sit or sleep on the sidewalks, disheveled, asking for dimes or nickels. We think we are not like them. We are wrong. We also carry hidden prejudices for people who are labeled with the homeless tag. “That is the central question in Evensong,” Christina said, “Where do we get these judgements that we make?” Directed by David Mendizabal, the ideas we hold are broken down for view into their smaller components, then splattered across the stage.

Statistically 44% percent of the homeless population actually hold jobs and pursue careers. It’s deceptive. Just such a person is explored through the main character Teo Aguilar, played vibrantly by Daniel Prado.

“The biggest thing about Teo in this play, he surprises us all,” Quintana explained, “He is not who you would imagine to be homeless.”

Daniel Prado (L) and Chad Carstarphen# (R) #Member of Actor's Equity Association
Daniel Prado (L) and Chad Carstarphen# (R)
#Member of Actor’s Equity Association

The first image of the play are the series of empty cots neatly arranged in rows and a buffet of food. We are introduced to Teo, who is a young, gay man from San Antonio, Texas who is fulfilling a dream of visiting New York City while in the shadows of personal setbacks that brings him, a guest, to the church homeless shelter. He is judged in triplicate and it takes it’s toll on his morale. “There is a lot of shame,” Christina points out, “As a man, not living up to his potential.”

He is a proud man who meets Bob, a volunteer, who emphathizes with Teo, but draws the line when he tries to make a move on him. Bob likes Teo and even refers to him as one of “The Good Ones.” Teo takes the rejection negatively. Chad Carstarphen was brillant in his role as an outsider who cares and his chemistry with Daniel Prado is the cornerstone relationship of the play, even without the type of payoff one would of expected after the fireworks that were launched after a couple of intimate kisses. This relationship is a variation on a real life experience Christina spoke about encountering a homeless woman who flirted with her during a volunteer stint. The question of whether she would date her opened up further thought on how as people, the homeless lose their humanity in our eyes. “I found I could be friends and hang out with someone who was homeless but to the point of having a relationship is a whole another level.”

Christina pointed out that though the lead character is Gay, that this is not to be assumed to be an LGBT story. “Yes, Teo is Gay, it’s not what the story is about,” Quintana explains, “It’s about a guy who has found himself homeless and it can be anyone.”

As one can surmise the intent of this play was to explore the inner pain of having had standing in a society and then, in Teo’s case, in an act of love, drain his resources to care for the health of his grandmother. In pursuing his dream, he is relegated by necessity to the underside of city life. He puts up a tremendous front, tries to work through the obstacles, but it is his own prejudices that initially place him above those that occupy what Bob refers to in the play as “The Rolls Royce of Shelters.”

Teo is too embarrassed to admit to family, in particular Beny, his cousin, that he is homeless. He tells his friend Hague and soon regrets it as he is equally pitied and shunned from the circles friends normally share. He has become the elephant in the room.

Daniel Prado (L) and Sai Somboon# #Member of Actor's Equity Association

Daniel Prado (L) and Sai Somboon#
#Member of Actor’s Equity Association

Here we must make a strong mention of Sai Somboon, who showed great vitality and flexibility in playing three roles. He was family member, friend, and lover. A actor who can hold degrees in diverse fields like Dance and Anthropology is just the type who can pull this off so well.

Teo is also put in his place by Gladys, played by Marie Louise Guinier who appears to be mentally off but we learn just has never adjusted to the drastic changes in her lifestyle and is quick to remind Teo that he is no better than her since they share the same situation. Guinier, an IRNE nominated actress who has been on ABC’sWhat Would You Do” showed great depth making Gladys funny but maddening at the same time.

The diverse points of societal punishment Teo encounters reflects the duality challenges of the playwright. Christina was raised in Louisiana and is of Cuban heritage. It certainly had an impact. “It’s a huge part of me. They both inform me as a writer,” Christina recalls,

“New Orleans, Pre-Katrina is a black and white place. Because of that and being Latina, in that environment, I experienced a lot of micro-aggression.”

Christina described herself as obsessed the idea of the American Dream and what it means. She displays this through story examples. For Randy, later Tragedy (Doug Rossi), the homeless subway hobo who spouts poetry and enjoys harassing our lead throughout the play, it was about him and his wife getting out of the shelter system together. Her death ended the dream but his advice, though given while applying a submission hold, brings Teo some clarity.

Rosa and Ricardo, were very much like a modern “I Love Lucy” view of life. Ricardo (Francis Mateo) and Rosa (Arlene Chico-Lugo) displayed a great interaction delving well into how couples struggle when they don’t quite rely on each other. Arlene also did a nice double impressively playing not only a young wife but Teo’s abuela. The contrast was quite believable.

Daniel Prado (L) and Arlene Chico-Lugo # (R) #Member of Actor's Equity Association

Daniel Prado (L) and Arlene Chico-Lugo # (R)
#Member of Actor’s Equity Association

Teo wanted the New York dream. But he has lost his faith along the way and settles for one night stands with guys like “Len” who were physically attractive but little else outside of providing a place with a hot shower. His knowledge of his grandmother’s passing has removed his lone anchor. Bob finds Teo on a sleeping on a park bench while jogging a day after they fought. He offers Teo a chance of a shower before going to the bank teller job he is slaving over, he refuses.

A look at meanings for a moment. The word evensong was chosen when she came about deciding the setting of this play. When you look it up it is defined as “a service of evening prayers, psalms, and canticles, conducted to a set form.” In certain churches it is conducted through song.

“I had an idea of a chorus underscoring what would happen,” Christina shared this insight,

“What is the pulse of the city that connects us and isolates us at the same time? I found that in a sanctuary that had rehearsals which fit what I was looking for.”

Teo hears the singing of just such a service. He likes it. It seems to remind him of his grandmother who even in death appears in his dreams watching over him. He experiences temporary solace.

A box is sent to the wrong address. The couple spoken of earlier has had a personal issue haunt them. Rosa lost a child while pregnant. The name was similiar to the one on the package. She sees this as fate to be fulfilled. She finds Teo at the bank she goes to and puts two and two together.

Teo is quite rude with her but she convinces him to vent his problems with her, a stranger. He is suspicious of her motives but surprisingly complies. “It’a part of this play,” Quintana explained, “I am always amazed how strangers look out for each other here. There are these crazy connections, somehow they happen.” He opens the box and takes out the gloves that his grandmother sent to keep his hands warm. He smiles. Symbolically they seem to represent the helping hand Bob talked about earlier and weaved itself throughout the play.

He tells Bob about a possible job lead. Bob is pleased to hear it. Teo has his faith restored now and as he holds his abuela’s gift, he is reminded that he is loved no matter how he is tagged by society. As Christina was told by one who read the play. “I went outside and looked at everybody differently.” Though each of us take our unique views from what we view, the playright also hopes that the audience can identify hers for a production like this that is quite personal. What did Christina want people to take from this?

“I would like us to be a little aware, open, and more compassionate. What more can you ask for?”

Christina summerizes. Evensong is the first production of the 2016 season of APAC, who is now in their 16th season. The show continues to run at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Astoria, NY until November 19th, 2016.

Christina, who volunteered at The Friends Shelter whose base is the Friends Meeting House and Seminary in lower Manhattan wants you to know that volunteers are always needed. For those interested you may contact volunteer coordinator Katy Homans at katy@katyhomans.com or via the website www.friendsshelter.org.

Donald Trump Cards Take The Presidential Pot From Hilary Clinton

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It’s early morning and the announcement that the Republican candidate Donald Trump became the 45th President last night, will be sitting in the White House chair is symbolic. A whitewash of the walls of America took place on Election Night 2016 and very few saw it coming, especially Democratic hopeful Hilary Clinton. What hand did the Donald have that made this possible?

What we can take from this evening is an education that goes beyond simply casting a vote in a privacy box. The media portrayed Trump and Clinton as the two-most unpopular candidates for U.S President in recent memory. Trump played the heel but Hilary was not convincing as the alternative. Her campaign against Bernie Sanders showed cracks of credibility. The voters established that they were not comfortable with the tried and true. Trump was different. Maybe not better, but refreshing.

Rural America can never be discounted in elections. They are easily led but once they support you, it’s usually in bulk. President-Elect Trump captured more than half the white vote and won states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Wisconsin, which traditionally vote Democratic. A look at the map showed the United States Midwest and deep South as solidly Trump. And why not. A businessman who actually told truths between his racist rhetoric only served to impress a still powerful majority. The United States, who has seen business go overseas, their own jobs shrivel, and every product made that we consume produced by countries we are egged on to believe are our enemies rang loud and Trump was the sounding horn. His “Make America Great Again” appeals to many Americans still.

The Hispanic and women voters were supposed to stop Trump in his tracks. We know former Miss Universe Alicia Machado did, but where was the rest of the supposedly emerging Latino political presence. According to breakdowns one-third did not vote Hilary. It was not present to help Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio beat Trump in the Republican primaries. Celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony tried in the final hours to push Hilary over. President Obama came in to direct attacks against Trump. Latinos came out voting in droves in the State of Florida but Trump won the state anyway. He also took Texas. What did that imply that polls could never measure?

Donald Trump, as much as he was hated for what he said or his views made this election something it has not been in years, entertaining. Maybe it’s why he flew under the radar until everyone realized too late. But in honesty it confirms that this is a large country and that no single view of a demographic can swing an entire election or assume other areas are in compliance. We cannot always get it the way we want. And polls do not, repeat, do not predict but only gauge. Note that the BBC had Clinton winning by 4 percent before the voting. These things should reinforce the notion that we as Latinos, are still political babies as not only did Trump win the election but the first check and measure was swept as well.

The Republicans rule the House. They snuck in and took the Senate as well. The third and final check is judicial. There are two justice appointments up in the air. Trump has extra cards he has not yet shown and he now has the hammer. For Hilary, the dream is dead and the realization that America is not ready for a Madame President will remain, at least for the foreseeable future, a movie fantasy.

For those who fear deportation and walls as borders do not have to run just yet. As the election got closer to the endgame, Trump already retracted some of his statements and showed flexibility in areas he seemed so sure not to budge on previously. No law will go through through Congress without tradeoffs. It will not simply be a matter of his statements followed by immediate enforcement. Besides, one has to be more afraid of the remaining executive orders being written in plethora by the outgoing Obama. He already spoke of unity with a humility that may have exposed the truer man under that hard campaign veneer.

“I pledge to be president for all Americans,” Trump said, “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

president-donald-trump

Will foreign powers respect the United States more with Trump in office? Russian President Vladimir Putin has already sent his congratulations. Is terrorism a lesser threat with the intent of this new Commander-In-Chief on record? Can Trump actually reverse the drain of the U.S economy with his acute business acumen and ideas? Those remain to be seen. International interests rule the Fed and that is the only gauge of true Presidential independence.

Regardless of whether he will or just be another puppet of money interests will play out the next four years, or most likely within the first four months of his administration. But the citizens of the United States have spoken and they are willing to take a look at a longshot.

JESSY MELENDEZ BRINGS PRO TOUCH TO BRONX ACADEMY

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The Bronx has a shining light and the sport of baseball is the center of it all. The reason it exists for many is the TM Baseball Academy, named after Tony Melendez, a pro baseball player in Puerto Rico, who adds his 25 years in the sport as player and trainer. But in opening this academy seven years ago, its his wife Jesse Rodriguez-Melendez, who runs the administrative end of this venture.

Jesse, of Cuban and Puerto Rican parents, is a baseball fan. But her education from Lehman College has been a valuable asset as she keeps the Academy organized. “I’m responsible for overseeing the kids that we bring in, the coaches and trainers, and finances.” Jesse explained.

“I keep the appointment book full and schedule our various teams tournaments and practices.”

She also is in charge of uniforms as the academy supplies them. “I oversee the supply of our teams which we do in house. Ordering the uniforms and embroidery, accuracy of names, among other things.”

Jesse is a Bronx lady from Castle Hill. She has the background culturally to draw from the communities those who would normally not have opportunities of this sort. “We look out for the well-being of the kids, we focus on education through follow-ups and help them become more academically inclined.” Jesse reflects.

“We have a reputation for being trustworthy, what we say, we do.”

This allows kids to gain empowerment. The facility is small but does contain batting cages and a well stocked weight room. The numerous framed photos on the walls contain friends of the family like Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran. Hector Berrios, a pitching instructor for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is one example of baseball professionals who come to the academy to assist. “These players and organizations like the New York Yankees, who provide tickets and on one occasion memorabilia for a fundraiser has been extremely important.”

The results have seen an expansion of the academy to Houston, Texas and Orlando, Florida. But its the trips to Puerto Rico, where they play teams on the island, that ring closer to home. “Most of our team is Puerto Rican or of Puerto Rican descent.” Jesse said. ”

We took two teams there and exposed them to the culture, the food, and the beauty of the homeland.

Its the greatest baseball experience to me, especially for the kids who have never visited the island.”

Baseball is making a comeback to the areas of the cities that used to provide the talent of the past but have since declined as baseball has looked outside the U.S.for its talent. Jesse sees the emphasis to look deeper there. ”

There is an interest to revive baseball in the inner cities.”

Jesse finds this as the foundation of her joy in doing this. A sport she loves and a feeling of accomplishment in bringing kids opportunities to go higher who may not have seen themselves in such places. “I love working with the youth of this community as they aspire to greater things.”

TM Academy is not just for the boys. They also have girls who join the program. But an area of improvement they are looking to rectify is in response to the rise of softball as an option.

“There are better schlorship opportunities in softball than baseball when our girls go to high school. Next summer we will build more softball teams.”

The best thing about the academy is building futures for many young kids in the program. The numbers say 50 players went on to achieve scholarship opportunities. Jesse is most proud of this.

“The boys play for fun but as they get older, it gets more serious.

Our tournaments become showcases where they can be seen by universities and colleges and have opportunities to gain an education and continue their careers.”

Jesse Melendez appointment book sits on her heavy wooden desk filled beyond its limits. And TM Baseball Academy, with help from their friends and contacts through the years, is expanding just as fast. Its all really about respect and her work ethic demands it. It has not gone unnoticed.

EVA LONGORIA- WOMAN FOR SENATE?

eva-longoria-democratic-national-convention

The upcoming elections once again have moved its spotlight on an actress who is very active in the political field going back to 1992 and her work with the Clinton campaign, going door to door. She is a desperate housewife, well on television. At 39, Eva Longoria continues to be outspoken on the issues of Latinos and elections.

In response to the apathy of Latino voters who feel that no voting is a message within itself she is quick to disagree.

“You can’t elect the President, then sit and stay at home and not elect the people that the President has to work with.”

Longoria implored.

She has impressed Senators such as Democrat of New Jersey, Cory Booker. As a Democrat herself she shares a more people oriented view. Booker sees her abilities as a strategist, along with knowledge of the issues as the key.

“She is willing to sacrifice popularity for her larger sense of purpose.” Booker explained.

Speaking at a summit for women on behalf of the Obama campaign started the talk about the US Senate not having a Latina in such a position. Coming from Texas, politics is old hat. But Eva, who claims that most of her time is devoted to her Eva Longoria Foundation, whose purpose is to assist Latinas through educational programs, is already doing the type of work that would make her attractive for office even though Eva says different.

Would I ever run for something?” she wrote in The Hollywood Reporter in 2012. “God, no. I have more power as a citizen. ”

Once you become a politician, your hands are tied. I’d rather have a voice.”

What do you as a Latino voter in 2014 think? Is Eva Longoria more valuable politically in office or grassroots?

Tattooing on Heads?

Rob Ferrel TattooWhy is art such a mysterious thing that only the artist can understand? Because they express themselves for what they see and not what the naked eye sees. They see something in a plain format, which is then translated into a sculptor, painting or some other effect.

This idea is parallel to a writer’s way of thinking where they start with a blank sheet of paper and begin to form words that are not only poetic, but take you into a different word and as a result, authors are created.

Take tattooing for example. It is a form of art created on the body where the object or in this case, a portrait, is inked on a person’s body.

In Texas, artist Rob Ferrel, also known as “Rob the Original”, from Los Angeles is a barber and stylist. As a hairstylist, you not only have to keep up you reputation, but also come up with new styles. In Ferrel’s case, he makes portraits on the customers head.

Ferrel had a passion for art and hair because when he was younger, he used to cut his own hair. By combining the two passions, he was able to create these portraits. One of his very first portraits was on his brother and it was of the rapper Tupac Shakur.

Additionally, the types of portraits that he does are of music artists and San Antonio Spurs players and now with the World Cup playing, inspiration has gone to now soccer players.

The process of making the portrait starts with a picture of the person off of his phone. Then, he uses trimmer, straight razors, non-toxic eyeliner, and lip liner pencils to fill in the details and complete the drawing. Afterwards, he uses hair spray as a protective layer over the tattoo.

In addition to this tattooing, there are also 3D tattoos and on the down side, there is a law that is banning the tattooing of animals.

State Facts That You May Not Already Know

Map of United StatesEvery state is so unique by having its own identity and lingo to it, only the people from that state may understand it. Since we have readers all over the country, it is only fitting that we give you one fact of many that are weird but true to that state. Did you know about the fact from your state?

Alabama Audemus jura nostra defendere is the official state motto; translated it means “we dare defend our rights”.
Alaska The state of Rhode Island could fit into Alaska 425 times.
ArizonaThe original London Bridge was shipped stone-by-stone and reconstructed in Lake Havasu City.
Arkansas Pine Bluff is known as the world center of archery bow production.
California Alpine County is the eighth smallest of California’s 58 counties. It has no high school, ATMs, dentists, banks, or traffic lights.
ColoradoThe 13th step of the state capital building in Denver is exactly one mile high above sea level.
Connecticut PEZ® Candy is made in the city of Orange.
Delaware The 87-foot Fenwick Island Lighthouse was painted in 1880 for a total cost of about $5.00.
Florida The Florida Museum of Hispanic and Latin American Art in Coral Gables, is the first and only museum in the United States dedicated to the preservation, diffusion, and promotion of Hispanic and Latin American Art.
Georgia is the nation’s number one producer of the three Ps–peanuts, pecans, and peaches.
Hawaii There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet. The vowels: A, E, I, O, U and the consonants: H, K, L, M, N, P, W.
Idaho The Lewis & Clark Highway (United State Highway 12), is the shortest route from the Midwest to the Pacific Coast and the longest highway within a national forest in the nation.
Illinois’ state dance is square dancing.
Indiana’s shoreline with Lake Michigan is only 40 miles long, but Indiana is still considered a Great Lakes State.
Iowa is the only state name that starts with two vowels.
Kansas won the award for most beautiful license plate for the wheat plate design issued in 1981.
Kentucky’s Chevrolet Corvettes are manufactured in Bowling Green.
Louisiana is the only state in the union that does not have counties; its political subdivisions are called parishes.
Maine is the only state that shares its border with only one other state.
Maryland 16 of the 23 Maryland counties border on tidal water. The combined length of tidal shoreline, including islands, is 4,431 miles.
Massachusetts The first U.S. Postal zip code in Massachusetts is 01001 at Agawam.
Michigan has the longest freshwater shoreline in the world.
Minnesota The Mall of America in Bloomington is the size of 78 football fields — 9.5 million square feet.
Mississippi Root beer was invented in Biloxi in 1898 by Edward Adolf Barq, Sr.
Missouri Kansas City has more miles of boulevards than Paris and more fountains than any city except Rome.
Montana In Montana, the elk, deer and antelope populations outnumber the humans.
Nebraska The largest porch swing in the world is located in Hebron, Nebraska and it can seat 25 adults.
Nevada The state’s Highway 50, known as the Loneliest Highway in America, received its name from “Life” magazine in 1986. There are a few road stops in the 287 mile stretch between Ely and Fernley.
New Hampshire It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make approximately one gallon of maple syrup.
New Mexico has far more sheep and cattle than people. There are only about 12 people per square mile.
New YorkNew York City has 722 miles of subway track.
New Jersey has the most diners in the world and is sometimes referred to as the diner capital of the world.
North Carolina The State Motto is Esse quam videri (To be rather than to seem).
North Dakota When Dakota Territory was created in 1861 it was named for the Dakota Indian tribe. Dakota is a Sioux word meaning friends or allies.
Ohio Some well-known personalities were born in Ohio including Steven Spielberg, Paul Newman, Annie Oakley, Arsenio Hall and Clark Gable.
Oklahoma is one of only two states whose capital cities name includes the state name. The other is Indianapolis, Indiana.
Oregon’s state birthday is on February 14th, Valentine’s Day.
Pennsylvania Hershey is considered the Chocolate Capital of the United States.
Rhode Island shares a state water border with New York.
South Carolina The Upper Whitewater Falls is the highest cascade in eastern America; it descends for nearly 411 feet.
South Dakota The faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln are sculpted into Mount Rushmore the world’s greatest mountain carving.
Tennessee The name “Tennessee” originated from the old Yuchi Indian word, “Tana-see,” meaning “The Meeting Place.”
Texas Dr Pepper was invented in Waco in 1885. The Dublin Dr Pepper, 85 miles west of Waco, still uses pure imperial cane sugar in its product. There is no period after the Dr in Dr Pepper.
Utah is the only state whose capital’s name is made of three words. All three words in Salt Lake City have four letters each.
Vermont Montpelier, Vermont is the only U.S. state capital without a McDonalds.
VirginiaThe state motto is “Sic Semper Tyrannis”. (Thus always to tyrants)
Washington Popular games Pictionary, Pickle-ball, and Cranium were all invented in Washington.
West Virginia has the oldest population of any state. The median age is 40.
Wisconsin The falls in Niagara has the same geological feature as Niagara Falls, New York.
Wyoming has the lowest population of all 50 United States.

The HISPA Role Model Program

Ivonne Diaz Claisse HISPABeing or becoming a role model does not happen overnight. Like anything, it takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and motivation to keep the momentum going. Great leaders start with the youth that are inspired by others in some way to achieve great things and having programs that can jumpstart it, makes this possible. One such program is the Hispanic Role Model Program where founder and President, Dr. Ivonne Diaz-Claisse was able to sit down with Latin Trends to talk more about this program.

LatinTrends (LT): What is your role within the Hispanic Role Model Program?
Ivonne Diaz-Claisse (IDC): I am the President and CEO of the non-profit organization HISPA, which stands for Hispanics Inspiring Students’ Performance and Achievement. As our name suggests, we are dedicated to contributing to America’s future by inspiring Latino students’ academic success. With our HISPA Role Model Program, we have built a network of Latino professionals who serve as active Role Models in the classrooms of the communities where they live and work.

LT: Why was the Hispanic Role Model Program started and how long has the program been running?
IDC: The official program started in 2008 as a way for professionals to give back to the community and the goal at the time was to get 100 volunteers in 100 hours, which was reached. We just recently had our 5th kick-off event in New York City in September 2013.

LT: Are there certain requirements for becoming a role model?
IDC: Role models join us through our partnerships with Employee Resource Groups, Alumni Networks and Professional Associations. The requirements to become a role model are professional development, have a high level of employment, academic achievement and involvement with government. It is about mobilizing people that can educate and tell their professional story with the youth.

LT: In what states can prospects find your program and what youth group does the program target?
IDC: Our program targets students that are in middle school and we are located in New Jersey, San Antonio, Texas, and most recently, New York (New York City). Overall there are about 1,000 registered volunteers.

LT: Why are you extending the program to New York? Are you targeting any specific areas?
IDC: Approximately 40% of students in the NYC Public School system are of Hispanic background so the need for Hispanic role models is great. Many of our role models are in STEM careers so they will share their educational and professional stories in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. As funding allows and is secured, we will be expanding to more areas.

To find out more information about the program check out HISPA.

Featuring: Artist Adriana M. Garcia

MURAL

LatinTRENDS featured Adriana M. Garcia, the winner of The Jose Cuervo Traditional Mural Project for our Artist Spotlight page and now we sit with her for an interview.

LT: When did you realize you were an artist?

AG: I’ve always felt like I was an artist. I mean when people would ask me when I was a little girl what I wanted to be when I grew up I’d always answer, “I want to be an artist.” I remember seeing my uncle Diamond paint and I thought it was amazing and whenever he finished a painting the whole family went over to go see—it was an event. I thought that is what I want to do.

It wasn’t until the first time I sold a painting for $2000 dollars to University of San Antonio Texas did I feel “okay maybe people like what I do and perhaps I’m good at this.”

But above all the moment I felt like I could call myself an artist or more importantly a muralist was when the organization San Anto Cultural Arts asked me to lead a 2000 sq ft mural on the facade of a mental health clinic on the west-side of San Antonio, Texas, in the neighborhood I grew up in a block away from my grandfathers old house.

In 2006 I got involved with the organization, San Anto Cultural Arts Center. Here was an organization dedicated to creating murals for the beautification and betterment of the West Side of San Antonio. I was asked to participate in a mural that was lead by Valerie Aranda, to paint my Uncle Diamond who was one of the founding members of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, who had recently past away. My grandfather had recently passed as well and I took the opportunity to honor their memory. Sitting on the scaffold 15ft from the ground baking in the sun painting the likeness of my ancestry I found a peace a love a calling.

San Anto Cultural Arts then asked me to be lead artist on a mural that was to be on the 2000sq ft facade of a mental health clinic in the west side on Zarzamora St. a block away from the house we’d visit my grandfather when he was alive. I quit my job and spent the next 8 months interviewing mental health professional’s clients, friends and family anybody willing and wanting to express and talk about their experiences with mental health. I drew compositions, took pictures, redrew compositions, had community meetings, met artist willing to volunteer time to paint, and encouraged youth to participate in the mural’s creation. I worked closely to widely talented artistas like the mural coordinator of San Anto at the time, Geraldo Garcia and Cardee Garcia. In the end “Brighter Days” was erected and I was reborn a muralist. Thank you San Anto Cultural Arts.

LT: Where did you learn to paint?

AG: From my heart it’s what beats and incites me to act to make real these floating images in my head.

I could say that I learned how to paint when I was part of a mural program in high school that was lead by Jackie Von Honts. She taught us to think big and to use the grid system to enlarge images. She taught us about the golden mean the “secret geometry” of great artist. She introduced me to the los tres grandes muralist of Mexico Diego Rivera, Siqueros, Orozco. But how to paint? No. Composition is what I learned from her. That and black is not a color.

I could also say that I learned to paint while in college. While an art student at Carnegie Mellon University we were exposed to so many wonderful museums and artist and resources—oh the resources. The students were posed with so many questions. Why are you painting? What is its purpose? Why not use other materials or nothing at all? But how to paint? No. Concept is what I learned at school. And they gave us the space to conceptualize.

I can’t remember anyone telling me to “mix this paint with that one” or to “apply it like that” or “hold your brush like this.” I learned to paint cause I kept playing with anything that would make color until I liked the result.

What taught me to paint was opportunity and will. Once there was an opportunity to show my work somewhere or to paint a wall or help someone paint then there was no choice in the matter. If I wanted to create it I’d had to find a way of making it look like I wanted it to. It was part will and part experimentation.

But now that I think about it was probably Bob Ross’s “happy trees” and Bill Cosby magic marker.

LT: What materials do you use when creating art?

AG: Whatever is around. I mostly use acrylic paint with a lot of medium. And I will plaster that on anything that has a surface. But it really depends on the project. I create sets for theater and help build floats so you tend to use what ever is at hand.

I’ve painted on clothes, on bodies, on books, on floors, on sides of buildings, on doors on windows as well as on trash. I love to paint I feel its my go to thing but I will always be willing to explore other mediums like wood or clay or bronze. I’d like more opportunity to create sculpture. I like working with other artist to see what we collectively come up with.

LT: Where do you find inspiration to create art?

AG: I find inspiration from so many places. From the emotions I’m feeling to the wonderment I experience when investigating the shedding skin of a locus and from the faces of all the people I know.

I draw inspiration from my ancestry and history of my city. My heritage is rooted in activism and art and theater. I remember block walking with my mom to gather signatures to pave the street we lived on. My parents would come home telling stories of injustice and how they tried to help weather it was giving medical aid or directing gente to services. I also loved hearing the stories of “los carperos” from my grandfather, “el gran comico, el bato suave, un applauso para DON FITO de La Carpa Hermanos Garcia!” I sat in wonderment listening to how his whole family traveled along the border following the migrant workers erecting “la carpa” and performing acrobatics, skits, parodies, dance, and much more.

I draw inspiration from the streets of San Anto. There are these murals at the Cassiano courts in my neighborhood. They were created in the late 70’s and early 80’s and are amazing! The community came together to paint their history on the walls where they live to take pride from where we come from. I draw influences from the great Mexican muralist and of course from Frida Kahlo but also the muralist from California like Judy Baca.

But more importantly draw my inspiration from the thriving art and activist scene in San Antonio from the local artist in my community. I remember see artwork from Alex Rubio (a mentor), Agosto Cuellar, Terri Ibanez, Debra Vazquez, Agosto Cuellar, and Vincent Valdez. Theirs was an arte with a certain flavor and heart so sincere I haven’t seen anywhere else.

I also draw inspiration from Carl Sagan, and PBS and NOVA, Stephen Hawkins, from Copernicus, and teachings from Krishna consciousness.

But most of all I draw inspiration from the people I meet and their stories mainly from the incredibly strong fierce women whom I call friends and family. It amazes me how many stories we tell each other in secret ones that aren’t meant to be heard but instead felt. It is that which I try to honor and paint, that journey inward that leads outward to liberation.

Featuring New Artist: Carrie Rodriguez

Photos by: Sarah Wilson

Acclaimed singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Carrie Rodriguez will embark on an extensive U.S. tour in support of her fifth full-length solo album Give Me All You Got, set for release January 22 on Ninth Street Opus. The LP is the follow-up to 2010’s Love and Circumstance, which No Depression hailed as “an album you do not want to miss.” In anticipation Rodriguez recently stopped by West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s “Mountain Stage” to record a set that is scheduled to begin airing nationwide March 15. Check local listings or http://mountainstage.org/ for details. A list of confirmed tour dates—including a stop at SXSW 2013.

Produced by Lee Townsend (Bill Frisell, Loudon Wainwright III, Kelly Joe Phelps) at Berkeley’s Fantasy Studios and mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound NYC, the record also features frequent collaborator Chip Taylor in a set that marries Rodriguez’s Texas background with a decade spent in Brooklyn, NY. “These new original tunes run the gamut of intense emotions, from heartache to budding new love, from betrayal to resigned acceptance, and finally to the sheer joy of simply being alive,” she says. “For the first time, I feel that the passionate spirit of my live show has truly been captured in a studio album.”

Born in Austin, TX and raised on a broad range of pop, traditional and classical music, Rodriguez began training on the violin at age five while simultaneously developing a taste for fiddling under the influence of her father, singer/songwriter David Rodriguez. She was awarded a scholarship to Oberlin Conservatory of Music and moved on to graduate from the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Chip Taylor (of “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning” fame) discovered Rodriguez at the 2001 SXSW music conference and invited her to play fiddle with him, asking her soon after to join him as both a singer and collaborator. She has recorded with John Mayer, Patty Griffin and Los Lonely Boys, and performed live with Lyle Lovett, John Prine, Bill Frisell, Alejandro Escovedo, Los Lobos and Ricki Lee Jones, among others. Last year she toured the U.S. with Jeff Bridges, with whom she also appeared on “Austin City Limits,” “TODAY,” “LIVE with Regis and Kelly,” “The Colbert Report” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

GIVE ME ALL YOU GOT TRACK LIST
1. Devil In Mind
2. Sad Joy
3. I Cry For Love
4. Lake Harriet
5. Get Back In Love
6. Tragic
7. Cut Me Now
8. Whiskey Runs Thicker Than Blood
9. Devil In Mind (Instrumental)
10. Brooklyn
11. I Don’t Mind Waiting

The Secrets of Selena’s “Amor Prohibido” Revealed!

Selena Qunitanilla-Perez, or better known as Selena, was a sensational Mexican pop icon, or as said by some, the queen of Tex-Mex and the Madonna of Latin music. From playing small gigs all over her home state of Texas since the age of 12, to making it big on the airwaves on both sides of the border, and winning a Grammy, Selena was a true trendsetter. But, sadly, as we all know, this leyenda came to an end too soon. After confronting her fan club president, Yolanda Saldívar, about missing financial records, one morning in March of 1995, Selena was shot by Yolanda and died in the hospital later that afternoon, at age 23.

Recently, as reported on Univision’s Primer Impacto, Dr Ricardo Martinez came forward with details he’s been hiding for 17 years. The reason? He allegedly had a secret affair with Selena, while both were married to their own spouse, and Ms. Saldívar had been planning on exposing it to the public for some time, via blackmail. Ms. Saldívar claims that in a safety deposit box in some bank in Mexico, lays a sex tape of Dr. Martinez and Selena! According to Dr. Martinez, who was Selena’s plastic surgeon, it’s all mentiras when it comes to Saldívar. He even stated in the interview that she’s been called “un angel de muerte”! Saldívar is currently serving life in prison, with the possibility of parole in 30 years.