Latino authors shine: Cultura en Austin’s Top 2015 Moments

We’re counting down memorable cultural moments in 2015. So far some of my favorite Austin moments this year have included honoring Selena during the 20th anniversary of her death and celebrating 15 years of Grupo Fantasma’s launch. But there was one more moment that I enjoyed witnessing that helps shed some light on Austin’s Latino community.

Pat Mora receives 2015 Texas Writer's Award. Photo by Nancy Flores
Pat Mora received 2015 Texas Writer’s Award. Photo by Nancy Flores

Latino authors shine at Texas Book Festival

At a time when readers are demanding more diversity in books from all genres, it’s important to watch how our own Texas Book Festival seeks ways to boost the festival’s diversity. The popularity of the We Need Diverse Books movement, which was launched last year, keeps growing and has sparked conversations about everything from inclusion of diverse characters in books to a lack of diversity in publishing.

At this year’s Texas Book Festival, it was meaningful to see the festival’s top honor, the Texas Writer’s Award, recognize the work of Pat Mora. As a prolific author and founder of the children’s literacy program Día de los Libros/Día de los Niños, Mora has been breaking barriers for decades. She shared some lessons with the crowd including how we need to value bilingualism, the importance of perseverance, and the growing need for diverse role models.

Author Sandra Cisneros echoed Mora’s sentiments about not giving up in a separate Texas Book Festival presentation that packed the Central Presbyterian Church. Cisneros began writing her popular “The House on Mango Street” book when she was 22 and finished it at 28. Earlier this year, Cisneros’ literary archive was acquired by the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University for $800,000.

Various other featured Latino authors, including Carmen Tafolla and Luis Alberto Urrea, spoke about everything from poetry to boxing. As festival organizers aim to increase diversity at the festival, it’ll be interesting to see how the event evolves.

 

Grupo Fantasma turns 15: Cultura en Austin’s Top 2015 Moments

Austinites experienced many memorable cultural moments in 2015. As a features reporter, I’m privileged to witness and write about many culturally significant events in Austin. From now through Dec. 31, I’ll share three of my favorite 2015 moments. All of them give a unique insight into Austin’s Latino community.

Grupo Fantasma released its fifth studio album, "Problemas," which was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. The Grammy award-winning band celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.
Grupo Fantasma celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. Contributed photo

Grupo Fantasma turns 15

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 15 years since Grupo Fantasma’s first show at the old Empanada Parlour on Sixth Street. The Grammy award-winning band, which put a spotlight on Austin’s Latin music scene, celebrated its quinceañera this year and released a fifth studio album, “Problemas.”

After more than a decade in the ever-changing music business, Grupo Fantasma wants to use all the lessons learned to pay it forward and mentor up-and-coming artists.

“We’ve seen the Austin music scene change so much, and it’s been very good to us and helped us survive this long,” co-founder Greg González said in a recent interview. “We don’t want that to fall apart. We don’t want this city to lose its soul, and whatever part of this story of Austin music that we play, we want to share that with other people and help keep it going.”

Remembering Selena: Cultura en Austin’s Top 2015 Moments

Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman
Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman

Austinites experienced many memorable cultural moments in 2015. We saw Paul Chávez, the son of civil rights and labor leader César Chávez, join the community in the annual citywide march in his father’s honor. We saw the Harry Ransom Center open the literary archive of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez.

As a features reporter, I’m privileged to witness and write about many culturally significant events in Austin. From now through Dec. 31, I’ll share three of my favorite 2015 moments. All of them give a unique insight into Austin’s Latino community.

 A mural dedicated to Selena, the late Tejano star and cultural icon, is located along the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail in South Austin. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

A mural dedicated to Selena, the late Tejano star and cultural icon, is located along the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail in South Austin. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

Austin remembers Selena

When Tejano music star and pop culture icon Selena Quintanilla Pérez was shot in 1995, it changed Texas music forever. Like many Selena fans, I still remember the moment when I learned of the tragic news from a junior high school classmate in my hometown of Eagle Pass.

After reporting on the 20th anniversary of Selena’s death this March and seeing all the local tributes in her honor, it was clear to me that Selena’s music lives on not just among those who remember her, but also with new generations of Selena fans. Many of them weren’t even alive when Selena reached superstardom, but those fans will now help ensure that she won’t be forgotten.

I was fascinated to learn just how much Selena’s death influenced media and marketing. After People’s commemorative Selena issue sold out, the publication launched People en Español. Many other publications began noticing the untapped market as well, and magazines like Latina magazine soon launched. Texas Monthly put Selena on its cover, making it the first time that a Latina had been featured in that spot.

From festivals to tribute bands that honor her, Selena’s legacy continues to touch people from all walks of life.

 

Video: Tish Hinojosa “From Texas to a Christmas Night”

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Photo by Kelly West/American-Statesman

It may not be a winter wonderland, but Christmastime in Texas still evokes fond holiday memories for native Texan and singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa. As the youngest of 13 siblings, she remembers her family making tamales on warm but festive days in San Antonio.

Throughout her musical career, which spans more than 20 years, Hinojosa recorded a couple of bilingual Christmas albums including “From Texas to a Christmas Night.” The music highlights the uniquely bicultural holiday season that many Texans celebrate.

She didn’t always have a Tex-Mex Christmas, though. In 2005, Hinojosa moved to Germany, where she lived for nearly a decade before recently returning to the Lone Star State. Now, the veteran singer-songwriter has immersed herself back into Austin’s live music scene. Hinojosa’s upcoming shows are listed on her website mundotish.com.

Check out more Austin holiday music videos in our Seasonal Serenades feature on statesman.com.

Memorial service for singer-songwriter David Rodriguez on Jan. 1

Photo contributed by Leticia Rodriguez.
Photo contributed by Leticia Rodriguez.

A memorial service for singer-songwriter David Rodriguez, who gained popularity in Austin and throughout Central Texas during the 1980s-1990s, will be held at 2 p.m. on Jan. 1 at the Sahara Lounge in East Austin.

Rodriguez, 63, died on Oct. 26 in the Netherlands, where he lived for more than two decades.

Since his death, several radio stations both in Austin and Holland have dedicated programs in his memory, says his sister and multi-disciplinary artist Leticia Rodriguez. Plans for a tribute concert in his honor are in the works for 2016.

Read his full obituary in English here and in Spanish here. For more information on the memorial service, email davidsmemorial63@gmail.com.

 

Peligrosa DJ collective turns 8

 Julia Robinson/ FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN (Left to right) DJ's Pagame, El Dusty, Manolo Black, VJ 4th Wall and photographer Marcos Molina.
Julia Robinson/ FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN
(Left to right) DJ’s Pagame, El Dusty, Manolo Black, VJ 4th Wall and photographer Marcos Molina.

Austin-based DJ collective Peligrosa celebrates its eighth anniversary this week, and the music mashers will perform at the Empire Control Room on Friday with a slew of friends who will no doubt energize the dance floor starting at 8 p.m.

The line-up includes Latin alternative rising stars such as Oakland-based Panamanian hip-hop duo, Los Rakas and New York-based Brazilian performer Zuzuka Poderosa. Other scheduled artists include DJ Playero, Que Bajo?!, Happy Colors, Kiko Villamizar, La Frenetika and Austin Samba.

Peligrosa, which launched in 2007, is comprised of a group of accomplished DJs who brought the popular Latino dance party movement to Austin. “On any given day, the Peligrosa sound can be any variety of different styles, from the most rudimentary traditional instrumental to a heavy club banging remix of a more well-known Celso Piña track, and this goes for each individual in the crew, so imagine six DJs together!” co-founder Orión García said in a 2012 Austin360 interview.

The free show, courtesy of Red Bull Music Academy, requires an RSVP at redbull.com/peligrosa8. You can also catch Peligrosa in Corpus Christi on Dec. 19 at the Aria Sky Terrace.

Read about the show in Spanish here.

 

Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance musical opens Dec. 5

Photo contributed by Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance.
Photo contributed by Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance.

Don’t miss another uniquely Austin theater tradition — the Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance’s annual Sembrando Herencia production. “Mi Tierra Boricua,” written by the group’s executive and artistic director Ana María Tekina-eirú Maynard with help from community elders in Puerto Rico, brings oral history to the stage through music, dance and theater.

“Mi Tierra Boricua” tells the dramatic, adventurous tale of what happens when people of a mountain tobacco community leave in search of a better life. The production features the poetry of Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos and is written in English, Spanish and Taíno.

“Mi Tierra Boricua” runs Dec. 5-6 at the George Washington Carver Museum’s Boyd Vance Theatre. Opening night starts at 6:30 p.m.; Dec. 6 show is at 3 p.m. Advance tickets can be purchased online at casita.prfdance.org/sembrando2015 and are $15 for adults and $5 for children 3-12 years old. For more information, visit prfdance.org.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Austin celebrations

 

During a 2014 procession to celebrate the Virgen de Guadalupe, Elias Sanchez, left, and Alberto Garcia, right, carried her image through the streets of East Austin. Photo by Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman
During a 2014 procession to celebrate the Virgen de Guadalupe, Elias Sanchez, left, and Alberto Garcia, right, carried her image through the streets of East Austin. Photo by Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman

I remember one December day, in my childhood home on the Texas border, when it sounded as if rain were approaching. I walked outside with my mother and discovered that the sound wasn’t coming from the sky, but from a beautiful procession that was approaching our street to honor the Virgen de Guadalupe.

Traditional religious dancers, called matachines, wore leather-like ankle bands with dried ayoyote shells that rattled rhythmically with each of the dance steps. As a young girl, I was captivated.

Every year on Dec. 12, Catholics honor the Virgen de Guadalupe with everything from Masses to processions and mariachis. The Virgen de Guadalupe, legend says, appeared to an indigenous man, who was later baptized as Juan Diego, in 1531 in what’s now northern Mexico City.

Catholic churches across Central Texas will join the international celebrations for the Virgen de Guadalupe, who has also become a symbol of Mexican identity and culture. While many area churches are preparing for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe next month, parishioners at St. Austin Catholic Parish near the University of Texas have been celebrating since early this fall.

Artist Fidencio Duran teaches a painting workshop based on the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Austin Catholic Parish. Photo contributed by Charles Roeckle
Artist Fidencio Duran teaches a painting workshop based on the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Austin Catholic Parish. Photo contributed by Charles Roeckle

They’ve led book discussions on “The Treasure of Guadalupe.” They’ve held art classes and exhibits based on the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe. All of this has led up to their December celebrations, which includes a presentation by UT senior lecturer and Our Lady of Guadalupe specialist Cristina Cabello de Martinez. She’ll share her insights on the symbolism of the image of La Virgen at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at St. Austin’s Hecker Hall. A special Mass will bring faithful together at 11 a.m. Dec. 12.

Here’s a list of more Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations. Check your neighborhood Catholic church for other services and celebrations near you.