We also found a new place in Lake View Terrace, about 10 minutes from our old location. We are now fully operational with workshops, regular events, and author readings. We have also maintained the bookstore and Tia Chucha Press. Unfortunately, the new space is much smaller and we don't have our cafe. However, we are in negotiations with the city and developers — as part of a Community Benefits Agreement — to try and get a new Tia Chucha's in the barrio of Pacoima. Even if we succeed, it will be three to four years down the line — but it will also be a much bigger, better, and more permanent Tia Chucha's. Our major fundraiser for the year will be held on July 29 from 6 to 8 PM at the Ford Amphitheater in Hollywood. We plan to fill the 1200 seats of this theater. For more information and to obtain tickets, please go to www.tiachucha.com.
How would you describe the significance of the Center in regard to Latino literacy, community access to the arts, and visibility for Latino arts in the current anti-immigrant climate?
We are losing neighborhood arts spaces throughout the LA area — and in most major cities of the country. LA is concentrating the arts west of downtown, Hollywood and certain gallery districts. But in most local neighborhoods, especially in poor Mexican and African American communities, there are no bookstores, art galleries, or cultural spaces. Tia Chucha's was an important contribution to bringing the arts back to the barrio, to the neighborhood, to areas that are rife with poverty, gangs, drugs, and unemployment. We have found that the arts — music, painting, dance, theater, film, writing, and more — are vital to community spirit, economic development, and social health. This is why we have decided to continue our mission and to find a larger space for our programming, books, and workshops. In particular, we have created a space where immigrants can feel at home, can gain skills and knowledge, and can express themselves. Our Noche Bohemias, a weekly mostly Spanish-speaking open mic for guitarists, poets, and singers, is one of our most popular evenings at Tia Chucha's. And our dialogues and films on the issues of the day help bring consciousness and strategic awareness to this vulnerable and repeatedly attacked community.
Speaking of the term currently in use, 'anti-immigrant,' I personally feel it's code for 'anti-Mexican.' I don't see a groundswell of media coverage, for example on Polish, Irish or Serbian immigrants without papers. Could you comment?
Yes, it's based on the fact that Mexicans are the heart of the least paid and most exploited sections of the working class in this country. Mexicans have come to this country due to the dire poverty and hunger in Mexico. People don't realize that the GNP of Los Angeles is greater than all of Mexico. That the 10 million Mexican nationals in the U.S. make more money than all of the 100 million still in Mexico. The fact we are people of color — mostly indigenous to this land — and that we have a long history of conquest and colonialism with the U.S. also informs our special status among immigrants today. This is not to say that other immigrants won't be affected by any upcoming immigration law, or that they are not organizing and protesting the anti-immigrant sentiments and actions along with Mexicans. We all benefit if a humane, holistic, and truly encompassing immigration policy gets enacted in this country. Right now, neither the Democrats or Republicans know what to do with this issue. We're going to need the help of other immigrants, and citizens as well, if we are to move beyond the narrow-minded, xenophobic, anti-Mexican hysteria gripping parts of this country and some lawmakers.