Stable Life: Movie Review

At the 23rd Annual Cinequest Film Festival running Feb 26 through March 10

Films that give your mind & soul a boost!

Meet Dionicia, a mother of five, and her husband, Mario in the remarkable documentary, Stable Life by Director Sara MacPherson and Producer Tricia Creason-Valencia premiering Wednesday, February 27, 2013.

The Martinez’s life was stable while living and working at Bay Meadows of San Mateo, Calif. The family’s passion for the stable life, livelihood, and unity is cleverly projected in this documentary film, along with the unimaginable heartbreak that occurs afterwards. The racetrack is demolished, there is little work, the community is torn apart, and then the Martinez family is also separated.

By Eydie Mendoza

“A whole community that counts on it for a living,” reports the news anchor and 500-600 employees lost their job that day.

Leading up to the days of the Bay Meadow Racetrack closure on August 17, 2008, Stable Life a film by Director/Producer Sara MacPherson and Producer Tricia Creason-Valencia in (English and Spanish with English Subtitles) captures the life, hopes and dreams through the eyes of Dionicia Martinez, a stable hot walker a mother of five.

stable life premier 2.27.13

   Producer Sara MacPherson and Producer Tricia Creason-Valencia

In this documentary the passions and dreams of the stable workers are captured, welcoming the audience into the livelihood of the Martinez family and the community that nurtures the tracks.

Dionicia shares that her ultimate low was when she stole from a neighbor’s farm, back in Mexico, to cook for her family, and that she swore she did not want to live that way, or for her children to suffer as she did. She stresses that that’s no way to live, that a person can be a mother but it doesn’t mean a thing if you cannot feed your child.

Meet her husband Mario who works lives and works at the stables. Mario and Donicia came to the Unites States with hopes and dreams of a better life. They are skilled in caring for the horses. Their eldest son, Jose Luis was born in Mexico and crossed the border when he was a 12-year-old and becomes a horse jockey. Two of their sons Mario (Junior) and Homar are born in California, but Andres and Carlos stay behind with Mario parents.

Working conditions vary between tracks. At Bay Meadows they get room, board and $900 every 15 days. Dionicia and Mario share a room and the two boys have room, as well. While one might question these living conditions, the Martinez’s are grateful for to be together and for the basics, like running water.

JoséLuis-firstwin_web (1)

(Photo: Benoit Photography)

Experience the emotional heart break as Bay Meadows of San Mateo prepares to close and watch it crumble.

Just then a caller alerts the director, “Sarah … Dionicia and Mario were arrested and they might be deported very soon.”

What was stability for the Martinez family crumbles after the tracks close.

Producer Tricia Creason-Valencia quotes Dionicia, “The U.S. separates families.”

If you missed the premier of Stable Life on Wednesday, February 27, Cinequest Film Festival is scheduled to show on Sunday, March 3, 4pm and Tuesday, March 5, 7pm, but check the guide for updated times and location


Manuel Romero: El orgullo de ser Latino

Manuel Romero photos courtesy of Keepsake Photography Š

Manuel Romero singer, song writer, and guitarist expresses his Orgullo through his music and for his Latino roots and for Silicon Valley. He performs for local sports teams, the President of Mexico, as well a having performed for the Pope John Paul II in Mexico City.

Romero made his first recording at age nine. He adds, “Ever since I was just two years old … (his family) they have videos of me singing at the house with him (my father) playing at the house.”

Interview with Manuel Romero by Alex Ontiveros on traditional mariachi musical talent, vision, and proud heritage.

Written by Eydie Mendoza | Videos by Jose Posadas

Portraying the Celebration of Life and Death

Francisco Franco paintings | Photo by Patricia Ruiz

Juan Diego walked back down from the mountain in Mexico to share the image of La Virgen (Our Lady of Guadalupe) with his people.

Francisco Franco, a 39-year-old accomplished local artist, says, “My mother wanted me to be an artist. In kindergarten I won some award out of the whole elementary school; the teacher had a conversation with my mom and put me in art classes.”

As a 10-year-old child, he visited that same mountain in Mexico with his family but returned without his mother, who passed away while on vacation to the mother-country.

Francisco Franco in his studio | Photo by Patricia Ruiz

“Because the virgin is the mother to all of us, she is my surrogate mother in a way … I went through a lot, was raised in the hood with gangs, and many friends died. Death was so much a part of what guided me,” but in Modesto as a youth, Franco created no art. He adds, “From age 10 to 18. I never drew. I never painted,” although he was into graffiti.

“I see myself as Juan Diego…” He smiles and explains that he loves to use the metaphor of someone who climbed to the top of this hill and was enlightened, got to see the world from a higher vantage, and saw the light. “So I see The Virgen is just The Light; his tunic is a painting, so if you think about it Juan Diego was painter.”

Today in his naturally sky-lit studio, with a large flat screen displayed high in one corner, house music playing in surround sound, Franco, known for his murals and calacas paintings says, “My art evolved, developed symbiotically and started with what they (commissioned employers) wanted. I was lead in a direction that gave me a chance to explore my own heritage.”

He continues, “I did not want to be a quote-un-quote Chicano artist and resisted it. Now I am realizing that I was pulled into it.” His art is collected by a diverse group of collectors of various ethnicities and backgrounds.

“There was a void there. I speak for mi gente as Americans, as a unique American experience.” His father is from Chihuahua, Mexico and immigrated here when he was around 14 years-old. His mother was Native American and Mexican, so both parents spoke English and Spanish fluently. “I am Native Californian and Mexican.”

“I did not want to be the Day of Dead painter but I embraced it. Now it’s natural I could have fun with it. It has made me more of a whole person,” explains Franco, as he paints two vibrant art pieces; one of singing icon Selena using peoples and another of a vixen (Especially created for the January 19, 2012 Grand Opening at Chacho’s Restaurant in San Jose, Calif.) painted in luscious reds.

Franco’s ties to iconography also extend through his travels and higher education. Not only was he born el dia de San Francisco (his Saint’s day), but by some landmark occurrences. He attended Modesto Junior College after high school, traveled with his mentor to 27 major cities in Europe just to look at art, was accepted to University of California at Berkeley’s undergraduate program with a full ride (tuition scholarship), studied anatomy at the Ruskin School of Drawing  & Fine Art at Oxford University, and New York Academy of Art for his Master’s. At the age of thirty and just out of grad school, he developed gluten intolerance and for two years he thought he was dying because the doctors could not diagnose his illness. Naturally, he questioned life.

“Not only that…, I was in New York when the Twin Towers fell … I saw them fall. I became mortal all of a sudden and it bothered me. Life took on a meaningless thing. Before that, life had an order; there was a destiny for me.” He dwelled on the topic of death.

“I came to the conclusion … You can’t have life without death. We are the walking dead, the living dead. Let’s have a party. Let’s enjoy life. Eat, drink, dance, and know that it’s short and sweet. And it became a philosophy.” Franco declares, “Live a good life and leave something behind.”

To learn more about Fancisco Franco’s exhibits, workshops, and how to purchase his art visit:

Voces Del Desierto

Voces Del Desierto is a musical composition and performance debut by Quinteto Latino, a Silicon Valley based quintet, and exhibit of fused musical traditional instruments with objects found in the dessert border of Texas and Mexico, brought to audiences at MACLA this March 2012 (Sunday, March 18, 2012, 2pm).

Don’t miss this performance that “utilizes video, traditional wind instruments, and hand-made instruments created from immigrants’ personal belongings found at the border.”

Enjoy video performances by the quintet  and an SVL exclusive inter view with Armando Castellano here.

Voces del Desierto: Performance 1 by Quintato Latino

Voces del Desirto: Performance 2 by Quintato Latino

Interview with Armando Castellano about Quintato Latino (A chamber ensemble made up of a clarinet, flute, French horn, oboe and bassoon) and howVoces Del Desierto gives voice to anyone crossing borders in search of a better life. Castellano tells about his musical journey and the collaborative  ensemble  by Composer Guillermo Galindo who created the instruments and wrote a piece for Castellano’s quintet.

Written by Eydie Mendoza | Videos by Jose Posadas

For more performance information visit Quinteto Latino Voces Del Deseirto.

Nortec Makes Me Happy

Photo courtesy of Nacional Records

If you haven’t heard Nortec Collective Bostich + Fussible‘s (Nortec Collective) music yet, it is time to adjust the dial on your internal soundtrack of the Mexican borderlands. This is not your papi’s norteño. Nortec is based on the unmistakable banda, tambora, norteño sounds common to northern Mexico. They build on these traditions and mix it with electronica to create music that crosses cultural boundaries, producing a sound that is as just as norteño as it is techno (Nor+tec).

Photo courtesy of Nacional Records

Nortec Collective began in late 1990s when Ramón Amezcua (aka Bostich) founded the record label Mil Records,with Pepe Mogt (Fussible). Members of the collective have gone on to produce various musical projects under the names Clorofila, Hiboreal, Bostich and Fussible. Some of their earlier works brought together their electronic dance grooves with a musical identity firmly rooted in Tijuana. Their tune Tijuana Makes Me Happy begins with “Some people call it the happiest place on earth,” captures their essential idea of honoring their hometown.

Nortec‘s 2010 Grammy nominated album, Bulevar 2000 (Nacional Records) builds a longer bridge across the border. The album is lyrically stronger than previous works and one gets the sense that they are narrating a journey. The title track, Bulevar 2000 is haunting and enchanting where the tuba sounds like a heart-beat while driving along a highway trying to forget your lost love. It is “not a love song,” but it really is. Many of the lyrics on Bulevar are in English, including Centinela, which tells the story of star-crossed lovers that can only meet once a year on Día de Los Muertos. Nortec also teamed up with San Francisco based Loquat on the track I Count the Ways.

A Nortec Collective Bostich + Fussible show is a multi-sensory event and offers the best avenue to experience their distinct intersection of the contemporary and traditional Mexican music. On stage, DJs Bostich + Fussible are accompanied by musicians playing the sousaphone (tuba), accordion and trumpet. Their self-created DJ station has a futuristic 1960s look to it and the duo alternates between iPads and Tenori-on (a tablet of LED switches that create sounds). They complete their illustrated soundscape by projecting color-rich images of Tijuana behind the stage. Watching Nortec, you get the sense that they are creating music not only for their audience, but with their audience, as the relationship between the musicians, the sound, images and lights work in tandem to raise the energy of the crowd to a dancing frenzy.

Nortec have been outspoken critics of internet censorship. You can get many of their remixes free on SoundCloud, where they reached a million downloads of their tracks by the beginning of February 2012.

If you never thought you would be getting down to norteño and electronica, now is the time to try it. Nortec Collective Bostich + Fussible are performing at the New Parish in Oakland, Calif. on March 13th.

¡No te lo pierdas! 

Written by Michelle Siprut

The Return of Chacho’s

Chacho's Grand Reopening | Photo By Eydie Mendoza

It is perhaps fitting that on September 16, seasoned business owner George (Jorge) Sanchez finally got the keys to the building that will soon be the second coming of Chacho’s restaurant in downtown San Jose. That date of course is the anniversary of Mexico’s Independence. For George it is his independence of sorts as he re-opens a business that many long time San Jose diners remember fondly.

The original Chacho’s, located across the street from San Pedro Square, was opened by the Sanchez family in 1994. But with this new venture George is partnered with Mauricio Mejia, another long time downtown business owner and promoter. Now located at 87 E. San Fernando, near the Martin Luther King Jr. Library, George is making plans for a mid-December grand opening.

Chacho's wall displays photos, arte de Mexico, local art and works by Francisco Franco | Photo By Jose Posadas

Diners will be met with a restyled look for Chacho’s. The interior boosts many historic photos of Mexico’s cultural and revolutionary past courtesy of George’s many trips to his native country over the years. But in keeping with the new generation of Latinos that live in the Silicon Valley the walls of restaurant also showcase works from local artists like painter Francisco Franco.

When asked why re-open in downtown George replies, “Downtown has always been in our heart, it’s where we started, our family business was here for 14 years.”

Chacho’s menu will feature once again favorites like Enchiladas Suizas topped with creamy white sauce, Steak a la Chicana, Blue Monkey Tacos, mole imported from Toluca in the State of Mexico and of course the always popular Margaritas. “It will be good to hear the clatter of drinking glasses again,” he jokes as he mentions that Chacho’s will be open seven days a week offering breakfast, lunch and dinner in addition to the catering currently available.

With many years of experience as a business owner under his belt George offers the following advice to other Latinos seeking to start their own venture whether it is a restaurant or not: “First, ask questions, lots of them, ask experts in the field that interests you, learn from them. Second, do your homework, there are no simple directions for opening your business, find out who can help you in the city, for example, with getting permits and approvals for getting your business started. Third, resources, find them, tap into them, get to know those who can help you. I am always eager to help somebody, for me the more Latinos in business the better, I’m willing to share my resources.”

Congratulations George Sanchez and Mauricio Mejia for the Grand Opening on January 19, 2012.

George Sanchez looks on to Chacho's durring the grand opening | Photo By Eydie Mendoza