LA’s ‘cholo Da Vincis’ brought Chicano culture to the boardroom. Now they have a Netflix doc

Wonderful write up by Daniel Hernandez for the News Tribune. Has anyone watched this show on Netflix yet?!

On Friday, Netflix premiered the documentary “LA Originals,” directed by Oriol, which charts the two artists’ life and careers. The film is a raw, often jarring portrait of one of the richest creative partnerships in this town’s history. Upon viewing it in a period of pandemic-forced lockdowns and isolation, the film becomes an especially urgent celebration of life in Los Angeles, acknowledging its ups and downs.

More than anything, it’s a portrait of two great artists who found kinship and inspiration in each other and continue to do so today. “These dudes are like cholo Da Vincis,” comedian George Lopez says.


Oriol and Mister Cartoon met in 1992 at a record-release party in Hollywood. Both were coming up in their respective fields and wanted to take LA street culture to a wider audience. Almost immediately, the two recall in an interview this week, they recognized themselves in the other.

Oriol had grown up on LA’s Westside and moved to Hollywood at age 19. Mister Cartoon, born Mark Machado, hailed from the LA harbor area, specifically San Pedro.

“It was a good time to be alive in ’92,” Mister Cartoon says.

The LA riots marked the year, but so did the release of Dr. Dre’s seminal album “The Chronic”; Snoop Dogg’s “Doggystyle” followed in 1993, two key moments in West Coast hip-hop history.

As the documentary details, Oriol by then was building connections as a bouncer at Hollywood clubs, later becoming a tour manager for the rap groups Cypress Hill and House of Pain. Along the way, he began taking pictures with a camera that his father gave him, a vintage Minolta SR-T SC-II (now Oriol uses a Canon AE-1). Often, his lens was the only one documenting the wild scenes of the rap groups’ road lives.

Meanwhile, Mister Cartoon was transcending his roots as a graffiti writer (his early tag was Flame). He made a breakthrough when he merged prison-style drawing with graffiti flourishes and changed his primary medium to human skin. His distinctive style was thus born, a sort of cholo baroque aesthetic that is finely detailed, strict in its parameters: he never uses colored ink, only black and gray.

Mister Cartoon began hitting the road with Oriol and his tours, and before long, he was tattooing the biggest names in hip-hop, from Eminem to Snoop Dogg. That list quickly expanded.

“Basically, my tattoo customers were getting together and throwing some type of little concert,” Mister Cartoon jokes in the film.

Snoop Dogg, who is a prominent presence in “LA Originals,” quips: “There’s only one guy that I let do my tattoos and my kids’ tattoos, the great Cartoon.”

In their heyday, Oriol and Mister Cartoon embodied the essence of 1990s West Coast urban culture: graffiti, hip-hop, lowriders and tattoos all merged with them and their creative circles. Celebrities across the spectrum took notice. Everyone, it seemed, wanted a Mister Cartoon tattoo, and everyone also wanted to have a portrait taken by Oriol.

In “LA Originals,” the list of cameos and in-person interviews is astounding, rivaling any marquee awards telecast of the past couple decades: Beyonce, Dr. Dre, B-Real, Sen Dog, Michelle Rodriguez, Nas, Xzibit, Big Pun, Travis Barker, Danny Trejo, Rick Ross, Kim Kardashian, Eva Longoria, 50 Cent, Pharrell, Paul Wall, Christina Aguilera and a host of others.

“Now I’m brothers with 50 Cent and Eminem and Beyonce and everyone else,” says actor Ryan Phillippe in the film, referring to his ink by Cartoon.

The late Kobe Bryant is also interviewed. He describes being told that he could not leave his tattoos uncovered in a Beijing hotel gym facility. The employee who stopped him then asked if his ink was by Mister Cartoon. “I’m like, dude, how do you know that’s Mister Cartoon?” Bryant says. “This is a young woman in Beijing, so far removed from LA. … That’s big.”


A striking theme that runs throughout “LA Originals” is how true to their roots the artists remain, no matter how big their profiles become. Oriol and Mister Cartoon team with top-tier brands including Nike and T-Mobile and Hollywood producers like Brian Grazer. Mister Cartoon even supplies imagery for the video game “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” And they were executive producers on the 2017 feature film “Lowriders,” set in East LA’s car scene. Along the way, as “LA Originals” shows, Mister Cartoon and Oriol keep it, in a word, real.

“A lot of great art has come from struggle, struggle in people’s own lives, in their community and in their head-space,” Oriol says. “Most of the Chicano art comes from out in the streets, from the revolution, fighting for their place in the community.”

The director does not shy from exploring the violence, despair and addiction that often accompanies a life on the streets. His portraits of former gang members describing their lowest points are visceral moments in the film. The pair’s proximity to skid row in the heyday of S.A. Studios (read: ese, the Chicano slang term for homeboy) keeps Oriol attuned to the social and psychological crises that grip so many of the people who call the neighborhood home.

“Chicano art had been underground and hardcore for so long,” Mister Cartoon says, “the last thing we were worried about was it getting too commercial, because what we do is so lowbrow. Estevan spawned a whole sea of photographers, and now it’s out of control. It just grows. As long as drugs are illegal, there will be gangs and there will be incarceration, and unfortunately that’s where a lot of hardcore styles were developed.”

For all of their success, the two stumbled when the 2008 financial crisis hit. Mister Cartoon and Oriol had to adapt and reckon with the fallout that followed. Maintaining their then-legendary downtown studio space became untenable. Dejected, they moved out – Oriol is seen flipping off the doorway after he says goodbye.

But in a short time the pair regrouped and quickly found ways to keep grinding. That LA survivalist impulse wins over, the film seems to argue.

And LA changed as well. Today, the artists note their old studios command 10 times the rent they did when the two occupied the spaces. “We didn’t know the word gentrification back then,” Cartoon says.

Also in the intervening period, social media began radically reshaping the way artists work, communicate and sell. Oriol notes that entire generations of creatives have emerged with no access to a pre-digital, pre-social-media framework. His analog photographs from the mosh pits and green-room hangouts of the Cypress Hill and House of Pain tours now feel like eons ago.

“I’d just like the younger generations to know that we worked really hard to get where we’re at,” Oriol tells the Los Angeles Times. “Before us, there was no blueprint to follow, so a lot of stuff that you see out there, we were doing at the beginning stages. A lot of the youth today are like, ‘Who cares about the old guys? We’re doing our thing.’ That’s true, but at the same time, you have to have respect for the elders. Of course, we were doing our own thing, but we had a lot of respect, and we honored our elders and the people that came before us.”

That sense of honor and homage is a key message. At one point, Oriol describes how he made one of the most canonical images to represent Los Angeles – possibly at any point in history: a black-and-white photograph of a woman’s hands, with stylized nails and multiple glistening rings, using her right hand to make an L and her downturned left hand to make an A across the L’s bottom line.

You’ve surely seen it.

“I was shooting this girl that was a gang member, she just threw up LA,” Oriol recalls in the film. “And I went in and just took two frames of the LA.”

The image has been mimicked or copied by countless brands, companies, celebrities, professional athletes and politicians, like our own Mayor Eric Garcetti, who once flashed the LA on a red carpet. In 2013, Oriol sued fashion retailer H&M for selling a label’s garments that reproduced his image without permission. (“They won,” Oriol says.)

Currently, as LA and the world copes with the coronavirus pandemic, Oriol and Mister Cartoon are hunkered down, patient, but eager to get back to their projects.

“To me, this is like having a dog on a leash; as soon as you let me out, I’m going out there like a beast,” Oriol says. “I want to come out pounding the pavement. … Most artists who are real hustlers and real go-getters have a competitiveness in them. They’re gonna be fine because they’re gonna come out fighting.”

That attitude is in its own way a testament to the power of Oriol’s lifelong work. A sort of background figure in many respects – club bouncer, tour manager, tour photographer, A-lister photographer and eternal champion to his friend and creative kin Mister Cartoon, Oriol, now 53, is a naturally trustworthy documentarian.

His “LA Originals” is both generous and modest, a self-homage that every hood-bred Angeleno and Californian, past or present, can find themselves within.

TV has a new kind of heroine: The Latina genius. Here’s why it matters

A thoughtful write up by Monica Castillo for the LA Times.

The new year has already given viewers not one but two TV shows featuring Latina leads. On Feb. 17, Netflix premiered “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia,” a sitcom about a Mexican American genius who, at 15, already has her Ph.D and works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Since last month, Disney+ has released weekly episodes of its new series “Diary of a Future President,” which travels back to the formative years of a Cuban American girl in Miami who will one day grow up to become president.

Similarly, Monse Finnie (Sierra Capri), of Netflix’s “On My Block”(which returns March 11), is portrayed as the most studious of her friends: Early in the show’s first episode, the young Afro-Latina character goes away to a prestigious writing camp and later, when she discovers her estranged mom is a writer, she connects with her as an aspiring author.

Elena Alvarez (Isabella Gómez), of Pop TV’s “One Day at a Time”(March 24), is a top student, champion debater and outspoken activist who’s dating a nonbinary partner who shares a mutual love of “Doctor Who.”

It’s a sudden growth spurt of on-screen representation for Latinas, a vastly underrepresented group in both TV shows and movies. Most notably, they’re shows built around a specific kind of Latina, one who’s gifted beyond her years and appears destined for greatness. Ashley and Elena are wildly talented students — geniuses, even — in ways Latinas haven’t been portrayed before.

As recently as the mid-1990s, “The Bell Curve” argued that Black and Latino children were less intelligent than their white counterparts.

That bias can be found in previous shows about child prodigies such as “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” and “Young Sheldon,” which center the adventures of very smart white boys, with few alternatives featuring Black and Latino characters.

Growing up, I was used to being the only Latina in an AP class, the odd 14-year-old who dreamed of going away to college and the weird sixth-grader who asked her mom to buy a first-aid book because she wanted to start learning everything she would need to become a doctor. I relate strongly to these characters in ways I never thought I’d see on any screen.

In “Diary of a Future President,” Elena Cañero-Reed (Tess Romero) is a type-A, straight-A student whose dedication to school has already cost her a close friend who doesn’t want to appear uncool. She often leans on her mother (Selenis Leyva) for advice, and sometimes precociously tries to advise her back.

She faces the same problems any sixth-grader faces, only she usually thinks her way through them — with varying results. In her series, Ashley Garcia (Paulina Chávez) is a wunderkind who’s forgotten what it’s like to act like a child, to work among peers her own age and nurse a crush on a football player.

Her social awkwardness is often a punchline on the “The Expanding Universe,” but it’s balanced out by her uncle’s (Jencarlos Canela) own, fairly normal foibles.

Both of these young Latinas are unapologetically ambitious, and when they are made to feel bad about their book smarts or talents, they eventually learn to stand up for themselves. Both Elena and Ashley count on friends to get them through tough spots, and both are close to their families — even if they’re a little rebellious from time to time.

In essence, they’re part of the long tradition of plucky heroines in YA adventures, except now they’re allowed to keep their cultural identities intact, not whitewashed. Where once Latina nerds or geeks were nonexistent on TV, they can now live as fully fledged characters, not just sidekicks or stereotypes.

America Ferrera as “Ugly Betty.”

America Ferrera in ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” a trailblazer for the recent wave of Latina geniuses on TV.

In a way, these new characters are the younger cousins of ambitious young women we’ve seen before, including Betty (American Ferrera) of “Ugly Betty” and Jane (Gina Rodriguez) in “Jane the Virgin” — both of whom have dreams that take them far beyond where they are when audiences first meet them.

From magazine editors and romance novelists to businesswomen (Starz’s “Vida”) and artists (Netflix’s new “Gentefied”), there’s already a trailblazing tradition of career-driven Latinas on TV — now, YA series are expanding those powerful images to include Latinas still coming of age.

According to a recent study by USC Annenberg, only 3% of leading characters in the top 100 movies from 2007-18 were Latino. Many of these roles veered towards stereotype: Annenberg’s study found that Latinos are frequently depicted as poor, uneducated, criminal and/or stripped of any semblance of Latino culture.

Behind the camera, there was only one Latina director in over a decade of movies on the list, Patricia Riggen. There are few equivalent stats for TV, but the picture from the past few years is not much brighter.

Alongside timely, immigration-themed reboots of “Party of Five” and “Roswell, New Mexico” bubbly, aspirational shows such as “Diary of a Future President” and “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia,” offer hope that the TV of the future will finally looks like its audience, and combat the hateful rhetoric that has been increasing across schools and playgrounds of late.

As years of research has shown through several Geena Davis Institute studies, young viewers are influenced by whom they see playing scientists or leaders on TV, meaning shows like this can inspire young Latinas to take on STEM classes or leadership roles, as well as help other kids accept Latinas in these advanced classes and groups.

The only drawback is that these characters can sometimes feel like an over-correction to decades of erasure and stereotypes. They can feel so perfect that they’re no longer relatable.

In the case of “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia,” its title character is the only smart Latina in the cast, aside from her sociologist mother (Cristela Alonzo) — who plays more of a supporting role in the show.

It can feel tokenizing to have only one bright Latina, especially if the show never explores whether Ashley ever feels isolated by that experience.

There are, of course, countless experiences for Latinas to share. They don’t have to be NASA-level geniuses or future presidents for their stories to matter; they can deal with the drama of their peers and obsess about their favorite TV shows like other kids their age.

Still, it’s exciting to watch these brilliant Latina characters and their potential to inspire young audiences. Until recently, it was so rare to see any Latinx character whose strength lay in their smarts — I even wish Ashley’s doctorate-wielding mom was more central to the show, as a nod to the generations of smart Latinas who never saw their experiences on TV.

After all, Latinas like her have always been a part of our communities. It’s television that’s just starting to catch up.

‘Narcos’ Producer Gaumont To Turn Sandra Cisneros Novel ‘The House on Mango Street’ Into TV Series

Jake Kanter wrote this up for Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros’ coming-of-age novel The House on Mango Street is to be adapted into a TV drama by Gaumont, the producer behind Netflix hit Narcos.

The House on Mango Street is made up of series of vignettes about the characters that populate a blue-collar Chicago neighborhood, seen through the eyes of a Mexican-American teenager, who acts as narrator for the reader.

Regarded as a classic of Chicana literature, the 1984 book has been described as a telenovela of sorts by The New York Times and has made its way on to the curriculum in some U.S. schools and colleges.

Cisneros has previously declined offers to adapt the book for film and TV, according to Gaumont, but she changed her mind amid the explosion in streaming services and the ongoing dialogue about immigration in America.

“I write because the world we live in is a house on fire, and the people we love are burning,” she said. “Television has grown up in the last 20 years and now is the time to tell our stories.”

Cisneros will serve as an executive producer on the show, if commissioned. The project will be overseen by Alexandra Hunter, Gaumont’s senior vice president of creative affairs, and Tely Morrison, manager of creative affairs.

Gene Stein, Gaumont’s president of U.S. Television, said: “The House on Mango Street is a timeless story that captures the struggles, dreams, and spirit of a young woman who epitomizes the experience of many young women coming of age in America today. It’s an inspiring and uplifting story that speaks to the challenges faced by so many trying to find their place in society.”

Lucy Stille, a literary agent at APA, brokered the deal on behalf of Susan Bergholz, Cisneros’ literary agent.

Newish Book: Race and Cultural Practice in Popular Culture

Race and Cultural Practice in Popular Culture is an innovative work that freshly approaches the concept of race as a social factor made concrete in popular forms, such as film, television, and music. The essays collectively push past the reaffirmation of static conceptions of identity, authenticity, or conventional interpretations of stereotypes and bridge the intertextual gap between theories of community enactment and cultural representation. The book also draws together and melds otherwise isolated academic theories and methodologies in order to focus on race as an ideological reality and a process that continues to impact lives despite allegations that we live in a post-racial America. The collection is separated into three parts: Visualizing Race (Representational Media), Sounding Race (Soundscape), and Racialization in Place (Theory), each of which considers visual, audio, and geographic sites of racial representations respectively.

Starring a Latino Cast, Indie Drama ‘Vandal’ Is a Look at the Miami You Rarely See in Movies

A great write up by Manuel Betancourt for Remezcla

Clear blue skies. Sweeping palm trees. Sandy beaches. Expensive cars cruising down the freeways. The image many of us conjure up of Miami owes much to the way it’s often depicted on screen. Movies like Miami Vice, Bad Boys and Pain & Gain dream up a very specific idea of the sunny Florida city. The opening scene of Jose Daniel Freixas’s Vandal immediately announces his film as offering a very different kind of take on the Cuban-American director’s hometown. It’s night and we’re on a rooftop where a graffiti artist is tagging one last wall before he shoots himself.

Its focus on street art and graffiti, as well as its nighttime music video-like aesthetic that privileges Miami’s urban feel makes Vandal a unique offering. It does what Blindspotting and Lowriders did to their respective West Coast cities: it feels like it was made by and for its hometown. Thankfully, the story of Nick “Damage” Cruz (star-in-the-making Daniel Zovatto), a gifted graffiti writer who has to navigate his craft, a budding romance, and a deadly rivalry with a teeth-grilled white sell-out artist, is a crowd pleaser that will make audiences fall in love with Freixa’s lovingly gritty rendition of Miami. Set around Wynwood, Little Haiti and Little Havana, the film boasts a mostly Latino cast. Looking’s Frankie Alvarez plays Damage’s fellow graffiti writer Chino; Otmara Marrero plays Damage’s Cuban love interest Sofia ‘Silk’ Campos; and Juan Pablo Raba plays Damage’s recently-released from prison brother.

“We didn’t want to show that Miami that you always see: the McArthur Causeway, Ocean Drive, the Ferraris,” Freixas told the crowd at the Miami Film Festival after the long-gestating project’s world premiere. “Where the Hispanic guy is always the drug dealer, the bad guy that’s being chased by the Anglo guy. In this movie, it’s Cubans chasing Cubans! We wanted to show a different side of Miami.”

Freixas shared how he was inspired by one particular Miami-set film that beautifully painted an authentic portrayal of the city: Barry JenkinsMoonlight. The Oscar-winning film, gave the Vandal crew hope that local filmmaking could further expand what kind of stories are told about their sunny city and its oft-forgotten populations of color. Clearly buoyed by the warm reception the film got at its Little Havana premiere, the Cuban-American filmmaker made a plea to those in attendance to support filmmakers from the area.

“Everybody that comes here is not from Miami. They come and pillage and they leave. And when we don’t have incentives anymore they go shoot in Georgia.” It’s why he wanted to tell the kind of story only a born and bred 305er could tell. “We wanted to show something that was heartfelt.”

‘Real Women Have Curves’ & ‘Zoot Suit’ Added to National Film Registry

Kristen López wrote this nice piece for Remezcla

Every year, aficionados eagerly await the reveal of the films being inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Five years ago, the Registry added the first Chicano film ever made, 1976’s Please Don’t Bury Me Alive. But for the most part, we haven’t seen as many Latino films make the cut.

Thankfully, this year, the Library deemed two features highlighting the Mexican-American experience. The first is Patricia Cardoso’s 2002 indie feature, Real Women Have Curves. The film follows a first-generation Mexican-American (played by America Ferrera) torn over moving away for college. Cardoso’s feature is one of several female-directed movies chosen for the Registry; Elaine May’s 1971 film, A New Leaf, and Claudia Weill’s 1978 movie, Girlfriends, are also included.

Just as interesting is the addition of Luis Valdez’s little-seen 1981 musical, Zoot Suit. Valdez, considered the father of Chicano theater, adapted his own play, which tells the story of the famed zoot suit riots and Sleepy Lagoon murder case that ensnared Los Angeles residents in the 1940s. Starring Edward James Olmos and Tyne Daley, Zoot Suit was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1982.

Other inductees into the National Film Registry this year include Kevin Smith’s 1994 slacker comedy Clerks, the 2003 documentary Fog of War and the classic Disney weepie Old Yeller.

These two movies won’t immediately make the Registry more representative of our communities, but they are important additions. And it’s seemingly something the Library is paying more and more attention to. “With this year’s National Film Registry selections, [Librarian of Congress] Dr. [Carla] Hayden recognizes the importance of amplifying cinematic voices and stories that have been marginalized for far too long,” said Jacqueline Stewart, chair of the National Film Preservation Board’s task force on diversity, equity and inclusion. “I look forward to continuing research and dialogue with the Librarian, board members, film communities and the American public to ensure that the registry reflects the full spectrum of our society.”

You can see the full list of new inductees to the National Film Registry here

Ritchie Valens Musical in the Works From Los Lobos’ Louie Perez and David Hidalgo

Article by Jerry Portwood for Rolling Stone

It was described as the “Day the Music Died.” Over 50 years ago, on February 3, 1959, three of the country’s top rock & roll stars — Ritchie Valens, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Buddy Holly — died in a plane crash. The tragedy reshaped the music world and, although Valens was just 17 years old, he’s had a lasting impact on pop music. Along with his hit song “La Bamba,” Valens also had the Billboard Hot 100 hit “Donna,” which peaked at Number Two after his death.

Most people came to know Valens’ story after the La Bamba biopic was released in 1987. Starring Lou Diamond Phillips as Valens and Esai Morales as his troubled half-brother Bob, it helped bring Los Lobos’ cover of his signature song to Number One. And Valens was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Now, a musical is in the works that hopes to bring the doomed Fifties teen rocker’s story to an entirely new generation.

Titled Come On, Let’s Go, the Ritchie Valens musical is described as the story of “a Chicano Boy who grew up on the other side of the tracks in California’s San Fernando Valley” and hopes to portray how he went on to make rock & roll history by “singing a Mexican folk song with a Fender guitar.” Los Lobos’ Louie Perez and David Hidalgo (music and lyrics) are joining producer Brad Garfield, Richard Montoya (book), and director Tony Taccone to bring the story to life, with plans to develop the production in Southern California in 2020 and dreams to bring it to Broadway after that.

“‘La Bamba’ was a great commercial success, but Ritchie wasn’t ‘La Bamba’ and ‘La Bamba’ wasn’t Ritchie,” Garfield, producer of the musical, explains. “Ritchie’s music was diverse. It’s an exciting blend of true rock & roll.”

Rolling Stone: A great many younger people have no idea about that biopic or his music. Why do you think a younger generation should get excited about Ritchie Valens in the 21st century?
Brad Garfield: I think this clip will answer that question.

Ritchie lived the American Dream, which wasn’t an easy task for a Chicano in the late 1950s and, as we see in our world today, these difficulties and prejudices that Ritchie faced are still a reality in 2019. Ritchie was a pioneer, and he had an original sound that truly opened the door to Latin rock & roll. His journey is a journey that needs to be told in a documentary-type of way through his music and new music by no other than Louie Perez and David Hildalgo of Los Lobos. They encompass the true meaning  and understanding of who Ritchie was.

Ritchie died in 1959 and was forgotten by 1961. Yet he influenced so many rock & roll artists. From The Beach Boys to Led Zeppelin to the Rolling Stones to Carlos Santana — who actually thanked Ritchie Valens for opening the door when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

How this is not the ‘La Bamba’ musical, and what should people expect that will be different from the 1987 movie?
In 1987, when La Bamba came out, the audience thought Lou Diamond Phillips (who was fantastic) was Ritchie Valens, and they believed Ritchie’s brother Bob was the protagonist in Ritchie’s life.

Well that wasn’t true. Society’s acceptance was the protagonist in Ritchie’s life, and we are blessed that we have the three remaining Valenzuelas — Ritchie’s siblings, Connie, Irma, and Mario in our corner — believing in this project. I truly want to leave a true picture of Ritchie in the archives of Theatre and the Arts that will cement Ritchie’s Legacy, so he’s never forgotten again.

What is the idea exactly regarding a “rockumentary” musical? We’ve had other musicals that use rock/pop music and movies that do that, but how will this be different?
New original music by Louie Perez and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos will help carry our story from Pacoima, Los Angeles, as we travel along Laurel Canyon Boulevard to Sunset Boulevard as Ritchie’s short, eight-month dance with fame begins.

It will include published music by Ritchie, but also songs no one has ever heard, such as “Bluebirds Over the Mountain” — which is a beautiful ballad. Ritchie’s fame was basically three songs: “La Bamba,” “Donna,” and “Come On, Let’s Go.” But most people don’t know that in his short career, Ritchie recorded 29 songs — 21 of which he wrote himself. Who does that today at the age of 17, let alone back in 1958? It will also include music that influenced Ritchie and that helped create his Latin rock & roll. From the singing caballeros to Country & Western to early R&B. As our tagline says: “as a young child, Ritchie walked into a bar where he heard these styles of music and came out the back smelling of tequila with a new genre of music in his soul, Latin Rock n’ Roll!”


CfP: Label Me Latina/o

(Un)natural Disasters: Sites of Resistance (Label Me Latina/o Special Issue Summer 2020)

deadline for submissions:
February 5, 2020
full name / name of organization:
Label me Latina
contact email:

For many Latinx communities, the contemporary period can best be described as disastrous:  natural disasters like Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, followed by the equally disastrous federal response; the sustained crisis at the US southern border, created through a series of cruel, inhumane, extra-legal, and illegal policies; ICE raids at workplaces that force children to come home from their first day of school to find their parents gone; indefinite separation and detention of children and families; US response to the crisis in Venezuela; detention of US citizens for suspicion of being undocumented; mass deportation with no promise of due process. All of these (and more) suggest that this moment is marked by disaster, as Latinx communities are under siege in ways unprecedented in contemporary America.

This special issue of Label Me Latina/o invites submissions that consider these moments of disaster and crisis, as well as the ways that communities, writers, scholars, and activists resist them. As scholars of Latinx Literature, we know that the current moments of disaster are part of a larger cultural failure to understand the history and role of Latinxs in the United States. While we have long called attention to legacies of state violence, including conquest, colonization, and imperialism, we nonetheless live in a moment in which such legacies are obscured by nationalist fantasies which erase historic Latinx presence in the US, in favor of a rhetoric of invasion and othering.

In response to this, we invite critical and creative manuscripts that consider this moment of (Un)natural Disaster and our resistance to it in light of the following (though this is certainly not limited to these):

  • Border representations
  • Ecological/Environmental disasters
  • Environmental critiques
  • Colonial legacies and their accompanying disasters
  • Imperialism and its disasters
  • Migration and immigration as response to disaster
  • Representations of deportation
  • Representations of detention
  • Civil unrest and protest movements
  • Mourning and memory work
  • Historical novels and re-imaginings
  • Historical repetitions (the use of sites of Indigenous subjugation and of Japanese internment (such as Fort Sill) as current detention centers)
  • Representations of slavery
  • Representations of genocide

While we welcome scholarly and creative work that responds to literary texts, we also understand representation broadly, and encourage work that also looks at representations in popular culture, and media, as well as work that reflects on or contextualizes creative work and performances that are sites of resistance (such as poetry readings, performance art, protest art).  Of particular interest is intersectional work that seeks to contextualize this current moment in light of larger histories of disaster and resistance. In short, while this moment is one in which our communities are under siege on various fronts, Latinx communities have a long history of confronting, resisting and reshaping moments of disaster, and this special edition seeks to highlight that history, as well as provide a space to respond to this particular moment.

Label Me Latina/o is an online, refereed international e-journal that focuses on Latino Literary Production in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The journal invites scholarly essays focusing on these writers for its biannual publication. Label Me Latina/o also publishes creative literary pieces whose authors self-define as Latina, Latino or Latinx regardless of thematic content. Interviews of Latino, Latina or Latinx authors will also be considered. The Co-Directors will publish creative works and interviews in English, Spanish or Spanglish whereas analytical essays should be written in English or Spanish.

Scholarly submissions should be between 12-30 pages, double-spaced, 12 point font and should follow the MLA Style Manual. Please use End Notes rather than Footnotes and place page numbers in the upper right hand corner. Original, unpublished submissions in Microsoft Word (PC compatible format) should be sent electronically to Visiting Editor Lorna Pérez at as well as to both the co-directors: Kathryn Quinn-Sánchez and Michele Shaul (please put the phrase “Label Me Latina/a submission Special Issue Summer 2020” in the subject line.)

We do accept simultaneous submissions of creative works. Scholarly articles under consideration should not be submitted elsewhere.

Creative poetry, essays and short fiction should not exceed 30 pages, 12 point font, double-spaced.

Deadline for the Summer 2020 special issue: February 5, 2020.

Please include the following information in the body of the email:

  • Full name
  • Institutional Affiliation
  • Telephone number
  • Email address
  • Regular mail address
  • Title of the submission
  • A brief biography to be included with publication should your submission be selected.


Please make sure that the actual manuscript bears no reference to the author’s name or institution.

Label Me Latina/o is an academic journal and as such follows the parameters of definitions set by the academic community. In that community when we refer to Latina/o/x Literature, we are referring to writers of Latin American heritage that live and write in the United States. These can be first generation Latino or fifth but they live and work here in the U.S. Some of these writers write in Spanish, others write in Spanglish like the Nuyorican poets and many of them write in English with a little Spanish thrown in (or not). Scholarly essays should address the work of these writers. The authors of these scholarly essays may be of any ethnicity or nationality. Creative works should be authored by writers who self-define as Latina/o/x and live and write in the United States.


Label Me Latina/o is indexed by the MLA International Bibliography, is listed in the MLA Directory of Periodicals and is a member of Latinoamericana: Asociación de revistas académicas en Humanidades y Ciencias Sociales. Our articles are discoverable on EBSCOhost research databases. ISSN 2333-4584

‘Chicana Stardust’ comes from a border far, far away

Great article by Andrea López Villafaña for San Diego City Beat.

The term “Mexican aliens” is often used with hateful intentions. Filmmakers Benjamin Huerta and Itamar Lilienthal are seeking to change that.

Enter the science-fiction drama Chicana Stardust. The independent film is a production of Casa Tamarindo, written and directed by Huerta and Lilienthal, and is expected to be released in fall 2019.

“We wanted to create a movie that really spoke about the pressing problems of today, being environmental, immigration, just basic disparities but presented in a way that doesn’t point fingers at anyone,” Lilienthal says.

Chicana Stardust follows Akyra (Margaret Abud) and a band of warriors from Planet Jaba as they travel to California in hopes of recovering an artifact stolen by Fela (aka Chicana Stardust, played by Linda Abud). But things get complicated when it is revealed that Fela has stolen this artifact, known as “the Amulet,” in order to preserve what is left of the Jaba culture on the new planet she now calls home.

When Huerta and Lilienthal began working on the project, they originally only planned on creating a commercial for Lilienthal’s Casa Tamarindo, a binational design house that focuses on sustainable art and furniture. But the more they explored the significance of a ’70s sci-fi B-movie approach to their culture, they realized the project was bigger than just a five-minute video.

“You see Mexican aliens in a completely different context on the news every other day,” Huerta says. “To see a science-fiction take on our culture, it’s been very cool to see how people react.”

As they were coming up with ideas for the set, they drew inspiration from Latino/Chicano psychedelia and films like El Topo and The Holy Mountain by Chilelian-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky. They were also drawn to the idea of creating a record of the history and culture of the Baja region, similar to the idea of Wakanda in Black Panther. 

Filming for Chicana Stardust took place in both San Diego and Tijuana to bring greater attention to the bi-national life of the border region without solely focusing on the negative news in the media. Last year, Huerta and Lilienthal saw how the film could shine a positive light on the community after an article was published about the film the day after hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants were met with teargas from U.S. border patrol agents. Both seemed to realize the significance of Chicana Stardust, but in a different way.

“Even now, all the things about Tijuana are so negative or they’re so pigeonholed on violence, cartels, stuff like that. There’s a lot of magic in TJ,” Lilienthal says. “Tijuana is a weird place. Just capturing that, it’s fun.”