Review of Golden Globes Award to Gina Rodriguez

 

 

“This award is so much more than myself, it represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes” said Gina Rodriguez in her Golden Globes Award acceptance speech for Best TV Series Actress – Comedy or Musical. For me it was the most powerful acceptance speech of the evening and quite possible one of the best that I’ve ever heard because what it represents to our community.

I’ve been a fan of Gina Rodriguez for a few years now, she first came into my radar through a couple of features on INSPIRA (more about INSPIRA below) about her staring role in the feature film Filly Brown. After watching Filly Brown in the CINE+ Mas SF Film Festival I was hooked. She truly demonstrated then that she was going to be one of our rising stars. Once again her acceptance speech was very inspirational, to me, and so many other Latinos because we are tired of seeing Latinos in stereotypical roles in movies and television series. This statement truly resonates with us at Silicon Valley Latino as it perfectly described the WHY we started our social venture. So if we want to continue to see Latinos in non-stereotypical roles then we need to support the movies and series that feature them in these positive roles.

We at Silicon Valley Latino challenge you to go out and support these types of films as they are released and we ask you to start by going out this weekend to watch Spare Parts staring George Lopez and Esai Morales, – the movie is about four Latino high school students who form a robotics club. With no experience, 800 bucks, used car parts and a dream, this rag tag team goes up against the country’s reigning robotics champion, MIT. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3233418/ and Birdman – directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2562232/

Another movie to be released in February is McFarland, USA – this movie is about how a group of Latino would be athletes from a small town turn into championship contenders – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2097298/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_2

We specifically ask that you take photos of you and your family/friends at the theater and/or a photo of your movie ticket stub.

We also ask that you support our Cultura Ambassadors (Rick Najera, Tony Quintero, Mia Perez and Nancy Rosales as well as so many of friends like Gina Rodriguez, Esai Morales, Edward James Olmos, Rafael Agustin, Vannessa Vasquez, Francisco Ordonez, Rich Garcia, Rene Rosado and so many more) who work in the entertainment industry (Hollywood and beyond) and are working on having better representation of Latinos in media.

Lastly, we ask you to buy similar type DVDs like the Book of Life, Filly Brown, and the list goes as well tune into television series like Jane the Virgin, Cristela, Modern Family, etc.

We hope to see you in the movies!

Book Review: Rick Najera’s Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood

 

Latinos in Hollywood. A topic that is not new but that has received renewed attention in the media with the recent publication of Chris Rock’s essay for The Hollywood Reporter. In his essay, the comedian critiques the entertainment industry for not being “black enough,” but also for not being “Mexican enough.” Considering that L.A. has the second largest population of Mexicans after Mexico City, Rock finds it hard to believe that there aren’t more Mexicans or Mexican Americans working in Hollywood. “You’re in L.A, you’ve got to try not to hire Mexicans,” Rock jokes.

But what has it been like for the few Mexicans or Mexican Americans that did get hired? What is it like to be brown and to work for what many consider to be a “white industry”? Award-winning actor-writer-director-producer Rick Najera is someone who has built a successful career in Hollywood as a Mexican American and in his memoir, Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood (2013), he provides us with an insider’s view of what it means to be Latino in the entertainment industry.

With Almost White, Najera delivers a compelling account of how a kid from the bordertown of La Mesa, California transformed himself into one of the most recognizable Latino comedic voices in the entertainment industry. What started off as Najera’s desire to impress his Mexican American father by memorizing Shakespeare lines turned into a passion that led him to act in films and plays, as well as write for In Living Color and Mad TV, and eventually create and star in his own Broadway play, the award-winning Latinologues.

For readers curious about the glitz and glamour of working in the entertainment industry, Almost White provides plenty of page-turning stories. Najera travels with a Shakespeare theatre company, hangs out in George Clooney’s house and meets his pet potbellied pig, has lunch on set with Sidney Poitier, lives in Mexico City while working for Televisa, joins the executive ranks at LATV, and mentors new talent as the director of the CBS Diversity Showcase. Najera has been in the belly of the beast of the culture industry and he has the experiences to prove it. This is the kind of material that belongs in a memoir.

But Almost White is more than just a fun read. Najera arrives at insights about death, the culture industry, and the ever-perplexing question of what or who is a Latino. Indeed, it is Najera’s near-death experience in 2012 (he has a seizure at home which puts him in a coma) that inspires him to write Almost White. Describing the moment when he finds himself in a hospital bed, he writes: “In every story, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. More than anywhere else, in Hollywood, the story commences when you are defined and cast as a “type.” I was cast as the “Latino.” I always had to fight for my identity because, when you are Latino, to white America you’re not black and you’re not white. What you are is almost white. Now, lying in the hospital, I was almost dead.”

What kept me coming back to Najera’s memoir were these moments of introspection, delivered with self-awareness and light-hearted humor. The issue that inspires the most commentary for him is Hollywood’s complicity in creating stereotypical representations of Latinos. When beginning his career, for instance, Najera quickly realizes that Hollywood wanted him to play drug lords and gangsters. At one point, he has to darken his hair color and make his light-skinned complexion browner. The contradictions he encounters while trying to get his foot in the door are real and at times surreal, but Najera somehow manages to find humor in the absurdity of the situation. He writes, “I looked like a dark-skinned Mitt Romney on his famous Univision interview.”

Najera’s experience of being typecast as either a foreigner or as a criminal illuminates what he means by the term “Almost White,” which he playfully uses throughout the memoir to describe how Latinos are perceived in Hollywood. Even though Najera is a light-skinned Mexican American (which he recognizes brings its own privileges), he was never quite “white enough” to get the kinds of roles attained by other actors. “Being almost white,” he writes, “has sentenced me to a kind of dual identity as someone who walks between both worlds.” To be almost white, it seems, is to be in limbo—somewhere between being a foreigner and being a full-fledged American.

This episode marks one of the most relatable moments in Almost White since the phenomenon of being typecast happens both inside and outside the entertainment world. We all know that sometimes we have to play a role or a position we don’t like just so we can stay in the game. That’s just part of life. However, Najera’s story shows us that it is possible to eventually break out of those roles. He decides to become a writer and write his own roles after he has a fateful conversation with then up-and-coming comedian Whoopi Goldberg. “I was tired of acting in roles that reinforced stereotypes,” he confesses, “I decided to write myself free.” And he did.

With Almost White, Najera continues to write himself free by showing us his true, multi-faceted self; he can be both an “almost white” Mexican American who lives in the ‘burbs but also a self-described Latino entertainer committed to bringing more diversity to Hollywood as a mentor for new talent. By being true to who he is in his memoir, Najera in effect gives voice to other second- and third- generation Latinos who love their roots but find themselves leading very different lives from their parents’ generation. It is clear that Najera knows that we exist and that he is someone committed to getting Hollywood to notice us well.

 

Share your thoughts about the book if you have had a chance to read it.

La Llorona at Mexican Heritage Plaza

 

La Llorona at Mexican Heritage Center

An epic tale of love, betrayal and vengeance is told in La Llorona, a new operatic musical drama based on a well known folk legend in Mexico and the U.S. southwest. La Llorona / the Weeping Woman is premiering at San Jose’s Mexican Heritage Center later this month. The San Jose show marks the third production of the award winning operatic musical drama by composer Hector Armienta, a nationally recognized Mexican American composer, who focuses on creating work that explores the Mexican and Mexican-American cultural experience.

La Llorona

“Anyone who has ancestral roots in Mexico knows this epic legend that has been told and retold in diverse ways by many cultures and through generations of storytellers,” says composer Armienta. “Some would say that La Llorona is the Mexican Medea.” At its core La Llorona is a story of revenge as it tells the story of of a woman who forsakes her people and betrays the river by falling in love and marrying a man of Spanish lineage. She later takes the life of her child by drowning her in a river. Did the river torment her into the act?

La Llorona is the second in a trilogy of work, Aquas Ancestrales/Ancient Waters, by Hector Armienta. The trilogy’s central themes and story relate to the spiritual and magical element of water, the role of destiny and free will in our existence, and the lives of the women in Armienta’s family, including his Mexican grandmother, mother and sister. When completed, the trilogy will consist of a bilingual chamber opera (Rio de Mujeres/River of Women), an operatic musical drama (La Llorona/The Weeping Woman), and a full-blown opera (La Muerte/The Murder).

La Llorona Mexican Heritage Plaza

 

About Opera Cultura

MISSION

Our mission is to explore the Latino – Hispanic cultural experience through music theater and opera and provide opportunities for the community to participate as creators, learners, and performers. We accomplish this mission by supporting and producing the work of composer Hector Armienta, showcasing music by opera composers of Latino/Hispanic descent, and training young people through various educational programs. Further, it is Mr. Armienta’s vision and that of the organization to develop a core of work that serves as a cultural bridge between communities. In doing so, Opera Cultura extends the boundaries and definition of the art form.

School of Arts and Culture at MHP video

 

Vision:

Guided by an eighteen-month community planning process designed to re-imagine Mexican Heritage Plaza’s future, a new vision for a School of Arts and Culture at MHP was created, embraced by the community and adopted by the City of San Jose in Spring 2011.

Our vision is to create a vibrant place of learning, culture and community that nurtures the soul and brings joy, skill building and a sense of belonging to children, families and all who participate.

Beliefs:

Creativity and innovation are the lifeblood of our economy.
Arts and creative experiences help children develop critical thinking, communication and collaborative skills
Arts and creative experiences enhance children’s self esteem, cross cultural understanding, empathy and connection to their community and each other.
Our children have inequitable access to arts and creative experiences and no child should be turned away for lack of resources.
Goals:

To narrow the opportunity gap in arts education and learning, nurture the joy, creativity and well being of our children and unleash the talent of our next generation of students, leaders, artists and consumers of culture.

Strategy:

We are leveraging a $32M cultural facility by providing unique and culturally relevant educational offerings of value to the children and families while creating a “community container” for arts programming with a network of multicultural arts partners.

Our sustainable business model is based on containing fixed costs and funding 1) community access and engagement through gross profit from market based rentals such as weddings and quinceañeras; 2) class offerings through tuition and donor supported scholarships; and 3) facility related expenses through City of San Jose operational support.

Lila Downs at Montalvo Arts Center

 

Fans love Mexican-American singer-songwriter Lila Downs for her smoky voice and her innovative mingling of rock, hip-hop, blues and traditional Mexican sounds.

Lila Downs SARATOGA Flyer English

Her most recent album release, 2011’s Pecados y Milagros (Sins and Miracles), debuted at No. 1 onBillboard’s Latin music charts. Now experience her music live as she makes a tour stop at Montalvo Arts Center. Drawing on the religious traditions of her ancestors, the Mixtec and Zapotec people, Downs creates a vision with her music that is both exotic and familiar. With a look that’s a bit like Frida Kahlo and a sound that’s a bit like Laurie Anderson, Downs brings a musical experience strongly rooted in both Mexico and America.

San José Summer Jazz Fest 2014

 

San Jose Jazz invites you celebrate its 25th Anniversary with them at their San Jose Summer Jazz Fest 2014.  They have another impressive line-up with truly amazing performers.  This year’s San Jose Summer Jazz Fest will feature over 100 bands and performers which include Poncho Sanchez, Ledisi, Pacific Bambo Orchestra, Con Funk Shun, Jimmy Bosch Sextet, Chris Bowers, Sake One (The CME), Futuro Picante and Orchestra Borinquen to name a few!  Silicon Valley Latino hopes to see you out there enjoying this wonderful event and shaking your grove thing!

San Jose Jazz Summer Fest

Recap Dia de Los Muertos at National Hispanic University

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Teatro Visión’s MACARIO: A Visual Spectacle

Teatro Visión’s MACARIO: A Visual Spectacle

Written by Peter Allen

 

Teatro Visión is about to embark on the most ambitious production in its 29-year history. Working in collaboration with nationally renowned playwright and screenwriter Evelina Fernández, esteemed composer Russell Rodríguez, and Los Lupeños choreographer María De La Rosa, the Latino/Chicano theater company based in San José will unveil a world premiere bilingual theatrical adaptation of the classic Mexican novel and film, MACARIO.

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As envisioned by Artistic and Production Director Elisa Marina Alvarado, Co-Director Rodrigo García, and a stellar team of commissioned artists, Teatro Visión’s MACARIO will incorporate culturally vibrant music and dance to create a visually exciting spectacle and celebration of el Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Bringing MACARIO to the stage has been a decade-long goal for Alvarado, who worked for over three years to secure the rights to adapt this story to the stage and was granted exclusive permission by the author’s family to do so. The result is a bilingual work that Teatro Visión expects to resonate with diverse audiences and could become a local Día de los Muertos tradition.

 

MACARIO is set in the late 1700s, pre-independence era of Mexico. Often compared to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the parable-like story features three spirits who attempt to persuade a poor working man (Macario) to reflect on his choices when he comes into the fortune of having a full turkey to eat. It is a work steeped in magic and history that has become part of the fabric of Mexican culture. The play is set in old Mexico, but its themes are universal and just as relevant in the United States today — especially in these tough economic times.

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Originally written by the mysterious B. Traven — who also authored Treasure of the Sierra Madre — MACARIO was made into a film, released in 1960, which won 12 international awards, including festival prizes at Edinburg and Cannes. It was also the first Mexican film to be nominated for an Academy Award. To this day, it is considered a classic of Mexican cinema.

 

In this time of growing awareness of the vast injustice of inequality between the rich and the poor, MACARIO is a poignant story of the wit, cleverness, and determination of those who live “hand to mouth.”

 

Teatro Visión’s MACARIO debuts October 10-20, 2013, at the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Avenue in San José. Performances will be in Spanish with English supertitles. Tickets are available online at www.TeatroVision.org and are priced between $10 and $40.

 

About Teatrovision:

Teatro Visión is a Chicano theater company with nearly three decades of service to the community. The main stage productions amplify the voices of Latinos, create a dignified and empowering sense of identity, inspire action, build respect and understanding, and explore the social and psychological experiences of Latinos.

Over 29 years, Teatro Visión has commissioned, developed, and produced over 50 works for an audience of more than 110,000 patrons. These works include the World Premiere production of Silvia Gonzalez’s EL VAGON (Boxcar), which won the 2004 Repertorio Espanol’s NuestraVoces national playwriting competition, and the 2011 West Coast Premiere production of Rudolfo Anaya’s BLESS ME, ULTIMA.

Teatro Visión regularly provides free performances via partnerships with more than 100 local schools and organizations. as well as teatro training programs for artists, service providers, and educators. The education programming engages students to strengthen their critical thinking, self-confidence, communication, and problem-solving skills. This, together with the open pricing structure and bilingual presentations, ensures that the work remains accessible to a broad community.

 

Interview with Sheriff Munks of San Mateo County

MACLA

MACLA is an inclusive contemporary arts space grounded in the Chicano/Latino experience that incubates new visual, literary, and performance art in order to engage people in civic dialogue and community transformation.

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