reading and writing the poetry and stories of our people and places

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Some Thoughts on LA MISSION

Note: The above photo was taken by a Tiny Loca whose work made up the bulk of the show "Two-Four Homegirls Circa 1980" at San Francisco's Mission Cultural Center last month. Vero Majano and two other folks curated the show. I don't remember their names, and I looked on the MCC website. I will find all the names and update later.

I’m reading all the interviews, reviews, and readers’ responses to reviews I can find on the internet. In one interview, Peter Bratt talks about how Spike Lee’s films are set in—and I’ll add: feature African Americans—and show his New York world. That's what it sounds like the Bratts are doing with LA MISSION. That's what I want to do with HOMEGROWN: A CULTURAL HISTORY OF THE MISSION.

The Bratts are continuing important cultural work on a larger scale that began more than 40 years ago when Latinos started to replace the Irish and Italian residents who left the neighborhood for the suburbs. Numerous Latino artists have come from and come to the Mission and filmed, photographed, painted, written, performed, and sung about its people and history. The Bratts recognize that the Mission and its people are as creative, dynamic, and complex as any other people and place.

From the responses I’ve read, many mainstream critics are dismissing the film, but their readers are feeling LA MISSION’s heart. The film is making an impact and will make one even if theater owners, distributors, and studio heads don’t see the dollars they want. I know here in Burque folks are hungry for it. In some circles, Albuquerque is called the new Hollywood or Tamalewood. The town may have changed, but something in the film industry hasn’t: people of color’s stories aren’t being told.

My college friend and New Mexican Irene Nexica has seen LA MISSION, and I'm including a link to her smart and insightful review (http://oaklandlocal.com/blogs/2010/04/La_Mission). Irene has been writing and critiquing culture longer than I had any idea what cultural criticism was. I'm still figuring it out. We go back more than twenty years and there's too much to say so I'm going to leave it at that for now. Here are the first few lines:

Local director Peter Bratt’s second film La Mission is an allegorical cruise through San Francisco’s Mission District that features complex issues and characters. An ode to the healing power of history and community, the film wears its humanistic heart on its sleeve without being cloying or disengaging. It’s likely to please Bay Area film fans on several different levels...

Nuevoméxicana poet Andrea Serrano shares my excitement at seeing this film. That might sound strange cuz author of A LOVE LETTER TO BURQUE chapbook and poem is a proud homegirl from right here, a thousands miles from there. But one of the reasons I'm attracted to Andrea and a friendship with her is cuz she loves her people and her land like I do. And she loves them as she loves herself and as I try to do the same: with warts and all.

I have to finish grading a stack of papers that I shouldn't have left hours ago (but there are times when the work for money must be put aside for the work that pays in other ways). I couldn't find her "A Love Letter to Burque" poem so I leave you tonight with Andrea's "To All the Cholos I've Ever Loved Before" (I know we all didn't love cholos or cholas, but it's a great poem). Find her on facebook, buy her chapbook, and enjoy the cruise:

Andrea J. Serrano
(c) 2008

I can't help but want you
you break into me like poison
sweet absinthe that takes me back
to those days
guys like you
whispering "mi'ja" softly in my ear
just before nuzzling my neck
a barrio king
and me
hoping to be queen

The memory of you
keeps me warm the way your Pendleton used to
The smell of yesca mixed with Tres Flores still makes me hungry
the way you used to
and the memory of the backseat of your homeboy's '85 Regal
still makes me tingle
the way you used to

I can't help but turn my head twice
when I see a full bigote and goatee
I watch you walk down the street
white t-shirt slung over your left shoulder
tattoos blazing against your brown skin
and I imagine you
humming Brenton Wood songs in my ear

I wish things hadn't changed
I wish we hadn't changed

Shit gets heavy and we had to choose
you walked your path
and I walked mine
the crease in your Dickies cut a rift between us
and we couldn't fix it
I don't know if it was growing up
that burst my bubble
or you
but you hurt me when you hurt yourself

I don't want to believe that you were as bad
as they said you were
because I done had my fair share
of your complete opposite
and though you let me down
you were never as bad as they were

Or maybe you were
and I just couldn't see it

I wrap myself in Pendleton memories of you
do me a favor
whisper "mi'ja" in my ear
for old time's sake
let me be your barrio queen
just one last time

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