Tribute to Barrio Hollywood
Barrio Hollywood may be more united in its activism and Chicanismo than any of the others west of the Santa Cruz River, and has a long history to back it up. They maintain their ability to organize against powers that allow gentrification and development-- it decimated their neighbors in Barrio Viejo back in the 60s, and continues to chew up the West and South sides. Old wounds run deep, and are still raw in Tucson's original neighborhoods -- and rightly so. Overall, we gavachos (unflattering term for gringos), despite our best efforts (myself included) either haven't got a clue, or struggle to get one. (My old family hometown of Santa Fe, NM was sold out long ago by its local government, then run by old Hispano families. Rudolfo Acuña mentions it in his book, Occupied America.) The American Market drives everything. People sink or swim according to its whims, and rewards those who weaponize their shares to gain more. Neighborhoods in the margins are kept in poverty by design. The people of Barrio Hollywood are clear about what they have, and are wise to self-serving maneuvers by outsiders and politicians supposedly elected to represent them.
This painting attempts to integrate neighborhood icons with a splash of historical timelessness. I also try to honor the power of family in Tucson's barrios. Lowrider Culture is one of those, and is especially strong in Barrio Hollywood. This piece sparked my own memories growing up in LA's multi-racial harbor and south-central Lowrider Culture in the turbulent 60s -- and I remain a fan of classic low-rider cars and its original music genre to this day.
I think renown Tucson author and historian, Patricia Preciado Martin mentioned she grew up in Barrio Hollywood. Her many books about Southern Arizona's people, history and culture have been an inspiration me. I believe it is also where Tucson's cherished mosaic muralist and teacher, Carlos Valenzuela of Las Artes Student Education Center, grew up. I'm just an old gavacha now, so I'm not entirely sure....
The cultural loss to Tucson, first with the Southside's Norteño Festival, then Fiesta Grande, is a real tragedy to me. Fiesta Grande was the biggest and finest showcase of Mexican-American Culture with a dose of Yaqui Pride in the Southwest, IMHO. Not to mention the money it raised for much-needed community programs towards youth development and crime prevention. FG brought more visitors to local businesses in 3 days than what they could get in 6 months. Outside of LA, where can one go for such a community effort focused on Chicano life anymore? Tucson is blessed with an eclectic and proud mix of brown and black talent coming out its ears.
An oldie but goodie: I have an original, when they first came out. There is a map of the Westside barrios in the center that is stunning. Barrio Hollywood, Looking Into the Westside - Untold Stories of the People, now published on-line.
Angelita Ochoa (below), (holding baby in the 1941 family portrait included in the painting), saw her 97th birthday in 1995.
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A blog of inspirations, interpretations-- things that move me in this place where I'm planted.