Cumbia music festival kicks off in Austin on Saturday

Colombian American artist Kiko Villamizar brings a music festival exploring the folkloric roots of cumbia to Austin on June 9.

There’s nothing like cumbia to bring both elders and youth together. On June 9, the Wepa Cumbia Roots Festival returns to Austin with top musicians including Grammy award-winning folk masters Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto of Colombia.

What began as an inaugural festival last year has now expanded to several Texas cities with international stops in countries such as Spain and Germany. Featured Austin artists include Kiko Villamizar, who released his second album “Aguas Frias” in 2017, and Colombian funk band Superfónicos.

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The festival, which starts at 2 p.m. and wraps up at 11:30 p.m., offers Austinites a unique chance to understand the layers of cumbia and the genre’s original instrumentation such as the gaita, the indigenous flute of Colombia. Don’t miss the chance to see why modern cumbia has risen in recent years and found its way to a new generation of listeners.

Advance tickets cost $23.16. Festivalgoers at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard on 1106 E. 11th St. will also enjoy an art market by Las Ofrendas. Visit wepafestival.com for more information.

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Teatro Vivo presents free play for teens inspired by true story

 

Teatro Vivo presents “Sangre de un Ángel,” a play by Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, directed by Si Mon’ Emmett, and presented at the Oswaldo A.B. Cantu Panamerican Recreation Center. Photo contributed by Teatro Vivo

When East Austinite Adam L. Chapa Sr. was shot in his driveway in 1998 by a teen gang member, his family’s life forever changed. But Teatro Vivo’s latest production “Sangre de un Ángel” (Blood of an Angel) now aims to encourage young adults with Chapa’s story.

The play by Roxanne Schroeder-Arce of “Mariachi Girl” is directed by Chapa’s cousin Si Mon’ Emmett. The free performances June 1-3 at 8 p.m. with an additional 4 p.m. performance June 2 will be at the Hillside Theatre at the A.B. Cantu Pan American Recreation Center (2100 E. Third St, Austin, Texas), near Chapa’s home.

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Sangre de un Ángel tells the story of a rebellious teenager who seeks the approval of his troubled friends. But when his auto mechanics teacher gives him the opportunity to rebuild a classic 1957 Chevy, he’s encouraged to go back to school. Just as he’s looking forward to a hopeful future, trouble follows him home.

“Teenagers, teenagers of color most importantly, don’t often see themselves represented in professional theater in a way where we can see the multiple elements of their lives influencing their decisions,” Emmett says. “Their stories are important.”

For more information, visit teatrovivo.org.

Where to celebrate César Chávez Day in Austin

Cesar Chavez on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol on Labor Day 1966. Photo contributed by Phil Oakley

Civil rights activist César Chávez was no stranger to Austin. In 1966, he arrived to lend his support to agricultural workers who marched from the Rio Grande Valley to the Texas Capitol seeking a pay raise from about 40 to 60 cents an hour to $1.25.

Chávez met the marchers, who stayed at St. Edward’s University overnight, at the campus and joined them for what became a historic march — one that’s often credited with giving rise to the state’s Chicano movement.

On Chávez’ birthday March 31, celebrations across the country will honor his life and legacy. In Austin, don’t miss a free screening of the critically-acclaimed documentary “Dolores” at 7 p.m. March 29 at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.

The documentary, directed by Peter Bratt, tells the story of Dolores Huerta, whom the filmmaker describes as “among the most important yet least-known activists in American history.” Huerta co-founded the first farmworkers union with Chávez — all while raising her 11 children.

Stick around after the film for what’s sure to be an insightful conversation with some of Austin’s prominent community leaders including Lilia Rosas, caretaker of Resistencia Bookstore, and award-winning poet Ire’ne Lara Silva.

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On March 31, Austinites can also join the annual “Sí Se Puede” family-friendly march, which will feature speakers, music and dancers. This year’s theme centers around helping renters and homeowners of color remain in their homes as well as the continued fight for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to stay in the country.

Marchers will assemble at 10 a.m. at Terrazas library on 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St. and head to the A.B. Cantu/Pan American Recreation Center, where the community will gather from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. For more information, call march organizers People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources at 512-401-3311.

Here’s your chance to catch Little Joe y La Familia for free

Tejano music icon Little Joe Hernandez will perform at the Pan Americana Festival 2018. (Photo credit: Jorge Flores)

It’s not every day that you can check out a musical living legend for free, but tonight Little Joe y La Familia will headline the Pan Americana Festival at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (600 River St.).

Saturday’s concert, which starts at 5 p.m., will wrap up four days of free Tejano music at the cultural center presented by the Mexican American Experience Wednesday and Thursday and the Pan Americana Festival Friday and Saturday during South by Southwest week.

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Before Little Joe y La Familia hits the stage, festivalgoers can also catch Tejano music giant David Marez, past Tejano Idol winner Ashley Borrero and former Los Texas Wranglers vocalist Nikki Lopez.

Aside from free admission, the Pan Americana Festival offers free parking at Fiesta Gardens.  Shuttles for attendees will run to and from the MACC from 5 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. when the concert ends.

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‘Chavela,’ doc highlights tequila-drinking, rebel music icon

Legendary musical icon Chavela Vargas. Photo ©Maj Lindström

The raw passion and profound suffering that came through in the songs she sang could easily cleanse the soul. Those who attended the performances of Mexican music legend Chavela Vargas often described her concerts like a therapy session. So it’s no wonder that the documentary “Chavela” chronicling her life has the same power as she once did.

Vargas, a world renowned, Grammy-winning icon, tore down barriers for women in the late 1940s with her gut-wrenching ranchera music. By the 1950s, she was a staple in Mexico City’s bohemian club scene romancing the likes of Frida Kahlo. Vargas challenged the mainstream by wearing pants instead of dresses and refused to change the pronouns in songs intended for men to woo women.

“Chavela,” which screens at the AFS Cinema through Dec. 28, brings to life never-before-seen footage shot by co-director Catherine Gund in the 1990s. “For me, Chavela’s life is not a cautionary tale, but rather, a rich subterranean dimension of our own living,” Gund wrote in her director’s statement. “She is not a role model, but a muse. Not only an elder, but a frame for our contemporary desires.”

Chavela spent more than a decade outside of the limelight as she struggled with a drinking addiction, then had a remarkable comeback late in life. Renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who helped relaunch her career, is also featured in the moving documentary.

Don’t miss the opportunity to watch the film. Cine Las Americas members receive $2 off admission of tickets purchased at the AFS box office. On Jan. 2, the film will be available on DVD and digital. To pre-order, visit

The documentary “Chavela” highlights the life of iconoclastic, game-changing artist Chavela Vargas. Photo ©Ysunza

Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera photo exhibit offers inside look into couple’s relationship

Theirs was a tumultuous relationship, filled with melodramatic scandals mixed with post-revolutionary Mexican politics. But what artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo gifted the world has been a legacy of work that continues to influence artistic movements, educate, and inspire.

“Diego and Frida: A Smile in the Middle of the Way” exhibit is at the Mexic-Arte Museum. Contributed

Walking into their shared home studio in the Mexico City neighborhood of San Ángel years ago, I remember seeing the separate buildings where they each resided and the bridge that connected them. Although each artist shaped the art world in their own unique ways, it’s hard to deny how together they influenced more than just muralism and surrealism but Mexican culture.

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Celebrate the famous couple at the special photo exhibit “Diego y Frida: A Smile in the Middle of the Wa

Frida Kahlo (Mexican, 1907 1954), Diego y yo (Diego and I), 1930. Charcoal and ink on paper, 29.5 x 21.5 cm. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center. 2017 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

y” at Austin’s Mexic-Arte Museum (419 Congress Ave.). The exhibition, which runs through Nov. 26, is part of the 110th anniversary celebration of Kahlo and also features an altar and silkscreens of the artist.

Photographs of the art giants were made by Kahlo’s father Guillermo, Hungarian-American photographer Nickolas Muray (who had a love affair with Kahlo that lasted about a decade), and one of the founders of modern photography Manuel Álvarez Bravo.

Admission is free every Sunday. All other days, tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and students, and $1 for children 12 and under. Visit mexic-artemuseum.org for more details.

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Rancho Alegre Radio launches Tejano, Conjunto weekly music series at One-2-One Bar

Conjunto Puro Corazón will be featured in the latest Rancho Alegre Radio and Austin Vida weekly music series.

After breaking significant musical barriers this spring by launching a two-day conjunto music festival in downtown Austin, Rancho Alegre Radio continues its mission to make the roots music accessible to all audiences.

The nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to promoting and preserving Tejano and Conjunto music, has teamed up with Latin music promoters Austin Vida to launch a weekly Sunday music series at the One-2-One Bar on South Lamar Boulevard. On July 23, music lovers can check out Conjunto Puro Corazón, a San Antonio-based group featuring at least six accordionists. The tardeada (afternoon or early evening social) kicks off at 6 p.m.

“(The series is) a perfect fit for us and for fans of these pure Texas music genres,” said Rancho Alegre Radio’s Piper LeMoine. The nonprofit recently won a WeWork Creator Award, which honored innovators, entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations and individuals creating inspiring work with an $18,000 grant. The award will allow the organization “to continue growing and advocating for this pure Texas music,” LeMoine said.

Cover for the Sunday tardeada show will be $5. To learn about upcoming Sunday performances, visit ranchoalegreradio.org.

MORE CULTURAL ARTS: Check out the Cultura en Austin blog 

Where to celebrate Day of the Dead in Austin

Festive items are sold at the 32nd annual Viva La Vida Festival celebrating Dia de los Muertos, The Day Of The Dead, on Saturday, October 31, 2015. Erika Rich/Special to American-Statesman
Festive items were sold at the 32nd annual Viva La Vida Festival celebrating Day of the Dead in 2015. 
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

Day of the Dead isn’t a spooky holiday. It celebrates the life of loved ones who we still miss with offerings, altars, food and music. In Austin, the Day of the Dead spirit strengthens each year with bigger festivals and celebrations honoring the dearly departed.

Although the holiday is celebrated from Nov. 1-2, the festivities in Austin start early. Here’s a look at some of the city’s biggest Day of the Dead celebrations.

The Día de los Muertos Festival, presented by the Easter Seals of Central Texas, is quickly becoming a festival to watch. Since its launch in 2013, it’s been consistently boosting its musical offerings, bringing high-caliber Latin acts including the late Tejano legend Emilio Navaira as well as Venezuelan rockers and Latin Grammy winners La Vida Bohème. On Oct. 15, trailblazing Latin music mashers Ozomatli headlines the festival at Fiesta Gardens.

The family-friendly fest includes a crafts and activities area for children, and fest-goers can bring lawn chairs and blankets. General admission tickets cost $30; VIP costs $150. Children younger than 6 party for free. Proceeds benefit the Easter Seals of Central Texas, a nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for people with disabilities. Check out more details at austindiadelosmuertos.com.

Isabella Vail, 5, looks at the art at the 31st annual Viva la Vida Festival in downtown Austin on Saturday October 18, 2014. The Viva la Vida Festival is Austin's largest and longest-running Day of the Dead celebration.  The event had a parade, Latino entertainment and food, art activities and community altars.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
 The Viva la Vida Festival is Austin’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead celebration.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead event, the Viva la Vida festival, expands this year with more event venues including the Frost Bank Tower Plaza for art activities and Brazos Hall for a member’s cocktail lounge, food trucks, lowriders, performances, face painting and more.

After more than 30 years, Viva la Vida knows how to throw a party. The sprawling downtown celebration on Oct. 29 from noon-8 p.m. includes a lively procession with a keep it weird attitude. Don’t be surprised to see everything from portable altars to samba dancers en route.

Mojigangas, props made of paper mache, are  marched through the 32nd annual Viva La Vida Festival & Parade celebrating Dia de los Muertos, The Day Of The Dead, Saturday, October 31, 2015.
Mojigangas, props made of paper mache, are part of the Viva La Vida festival parade. 

The procession begins at noon at Fifth Street between Interstate 35 and Waller Street and ends at the festival location at Fourth Street and Congress Avenue, where live music, vendors and costume contests will await. Visit mexic-artemuseumevents.org for more details.

Continue celebrating on Oct. 29 from 1-6 p.m. at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center with food, live music, children’s activities, artisans and dancing. The free event also includes a classic car and bike show. For updates, visit austintexas.gov/esbmacc.

U.S.-Mexico border imagery shines in ‘Icons & Symbols of the Borderland’ exhibit

Artwork by Richard Armendariz is among the pieces featured at the "Icons & Symbols of the Borderland" exhibit.
Artwork by Richard Armendariz is among the pieces featured at the “Icons & Symbols of the Borderland” exhibit. Photo contributed by Mexic-Arte Museum

When I close my eyes and think of the Texas borderlands, my home, I see snapshots of the symbols I’ve carried throughout my life — the elaborate images on a soft San Marcos blanket or the street vendor peddling garapiñadas — the bright red sugar-coated peanuts — on the international bridge.

The borderlands, the fluid place between two giant worlds, inform everything about my identity. Often, it’s the icons and symbols of a place you connect with that can offer glimpses into your own life.

The Mexic-Arte Museum’s latest exhibit, “Icons & Symbols of the Borderland,” shines a light on the cultural imagery of the U.S.-Mexico border. Sometimes it’s the landscape of the area that resonates the most in the artwork; other times it’s the food culture or religious iconography.

The latest exhibit at Mexic-Arte, which runs through Nov. 13, features the artwork of Miguel Valenzuela.
The latest exhibit at Mexic-Arte, which runs through Nov. 13, features the artwork of Miguel Valenzuela. Photo contributed by Mexic-Arte Museum

“In an age where visual representations are fundamental to communication and lifestyle, icons and symbols are the key to ethical precepts, inspirations and beliefs,” guest curator Diana Molina, director of the Juntos Art Association in El Paso, said in a written statement. “They provide a framework for ideals, emotions, philosophy and, ultimately, patterns of behavior.”

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The exhibit, which runs through Nov. 13 in the museum’s main gallery, includes the work of more than 20 Juntos Art Association artists. A poignant photo collage by Molina examines the wall that already exists in different border communities from Texas to California. A painting by Antonio Castro titled “Rebirth” depicts an agave growing out of dry, cracked ground in Ciudad Juárez. Agaves, which can survive in the harshest of conditions, bloom after many years. It begins to die after a giant, flowering stalk grows from its center, but it leaves behind seeds for new life. In Castro’s painting, the agave sits in the middle of a desolate road peppered with bullet casings. Instead of a flowering stalk, a newborn baby offers a symbol of another kind of new life.

Museum admission is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and students and $1 for children 12 and younger. Visit the Mexic-Arte Museum for free every Sunday. The museum, at 419 Congress Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 pm. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Visitors can also catch an exhibit of Day of the Dead altars through Nov. 13 in the adjacent annex gallery. Keep an eye out for our upcoming story on each of the elaborate altars this year.

Los Tigres Del Norte, Buena Vista Social Club alumni to perform at Pachanga concert series in August

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club lead vocalist Omara Portuondo will perform at an upcoming Pachanga Presents concert.
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club lead vocalist Omara Portuondo will perform at an upcoming Pachanga Presents concert.

Earlier this year, the Pachanga Latino Music Festival restructured as a concert series and kicked off the new Pachanga Latino Music series at ACL Live. Now, the concert series brings a lineup of living legends to downtown Austin in August.

On Aug. 19, Pachanga presents Omara Portuondo and Eliades Ochoa of the Buena Vista Social Club. Last fall, Austin bid adieu to the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club where Portuondo and Ochoa were among the members on stage who gave an awe-inspiring performance during the group’s farewell tour. Concert tickets range from $45-75, and doors open at 6:30 p.m.

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With a noted career that has spanned more than four decades, Los Tigres Del Norte continue to break barriers with their masterful storytelling. The iconic norteño supergroup has become a prominent voice for Latinos around the world and don’t shy away from social justice and political issues. The multiple Latin Grammy winners have been featured in documentaries, feature films and publications such as the New York Times. At their shows, Los Tigres Del Norte are known for performing sans a set list and instead let the audience tell them what to play. Concert tickets for their Aug. 26 show range from $59-$89, and doors open at 6:30 p.m.

September shows announced so far feature Natalia Lafourcade on Sept. 20 and The Mavericks on Sept. 24. For more information about the upcoming concerts, visit acl-live.com.

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