Latino Disconnect: The Science of a Curve Ball

An article that appeared in the New York Times last week titled,
"Neither Smurf Nor Wizard Could Save Summer Movie Attendance", by Brooks Barnes struck a chord. The bottom line was this:

"It's always kind of funny when Hollywood is surprised that movies aimed at adults succeed in the summer," said Mr. Contrino of "If you don't feed them garbage -- surprise -- they buy tickets."

Perhaps throwing a curve ball of alternative Latino content wouldn't be a bad idea either.

In my last blog I wrote that I would try and connect these posts so that at any given point anyone could follow the discussion. The story, particularly the last quote threads into the idea I presented about Alternative Latino content, the underserved audience and the resilient Hispanic media platform. Though the piece is about the film industry the same thesis - the deficiency of "out-of-the-box" content - is also true about Latino art and culture.

I was thrown a curve ball late last week when someone who read one of my posts presented the opportunity of interviewing the marvelous Josefina López Her work is a perfect example of great alternative Latino content.

When I said trailblazers, I meant people like Josefina.

Josefina López is an award-winning author, poet, playwright, screenwriter, performer, director, mentor and theater founder and until recently Artistic Director of East L.A. based and is best known for authoring the play Real Woman Have Curves and co-writing the award-winning film. When the film was released it touched both mainstream and Latino audiences. She made history telling a story seldom seen in television and film.

As some of you may or may not know, Real Women Have Curves, the play, was self-produced because no one else would produce it for her. After two decades and nearly 20 national and international productions, Casa 0101, this year, celebrates it 10th season with the opening of its new venue, which coincides with the 20th Anniversary production of Real Woman Have Curves. Poetic indeed. For Ms. López, the play is as relevant today as it was two decades ago, and she's right.

Josefina stepped aside from her role of Artistic Director of Casa 0101 to focus on mentoring up-coming screenwriters through the Writers Institute for Diversity.

Surely Ms. López could be a go-to person for Alternative Latino content for our media platforms. But she remains independent and an untapped treasure while still creating work and presenting it in the periphery of Hollywood studios and our own TV networks.

"We [Latinos and Latinas] have to tell our stories. Hollywood is not going to tell our stories. We are not out there. We are invisible in film and TV...we live in two worlds, in a gap where no one sees us," she says. "I want people to know that we count. I want to provide a third track to help affirm our humanity. "

It's inspiring that in a theatre space in Boyle Heights she cultivated an audience, mentored new artists and developed new material for the stage and the screen - and where she will remain to do just that.

Latino Theatre has been and remains a great stage for the experimentation of work related to our stories. The history of Latino Theatre in the United States is a marvelous one, one that is out there continuously delivering and unfortunately under covered.

But, back to the curve ball, the day after I knew I would interview and write about Ms. López, in one single day I coincidentally saw two close friends - Sandra Guzman, an Emmy winning journalist and author and Rosalba Rolón, award winning dramaturge, USA Artist Fellow and Board Member and Artistic Director of Pregones Theatre - both with intersecting connections to Josefina López.

Sandra's new and revised edition of The New Latina's Bible has cover art by the inspiring visual artist Anna Alvarado, who was selected by Sandra and her publisher on Sandra's only request that the cover be handed to a Latina woman. Anna, it turns out, had told Sandra about Josefina's opening on September 9th because she's part of the grand opening exhibit that runs through the 23rd of October at Casa's new venue during the inaugural season.

Rosalba on the other hand brought Real Woman Have Curves to their former home in St. Ann's Church in the South Bronx during Teatro Festival some 18 years ago.

I celebrate and share with Josefina the excitement of inaugurating a new stage. It is a magnanimous feat, one that I experienced first hand when Pregones opened its new state-of-the-art space in the South Bronx on 149th and Walton in 2005 with the musical gem, The Red Rose.

The same day I saw Sandra and Rosalba, I also sat with Carlos Gutiérrez, Co-founder and Executive Director of Cinema Tropical. Carlos is another incredible individual whose commitment to bringing Latin American film to the United States is commendable and also unfortunately not covered enough.

For some reason I find it odd that all these people I've mentioned here, whom I admire and respect tremendously, and who are going to be part of subsequent blogs have found their way into this one post all because I would write about Ms. López - a kind of curve ball.

Somehow these disparate artists doing work in film, theater and journalism in different parts of the nation all intersect.

For the most part their work is occurring and largely happening unnoticed or unacknowledged not only by mainstream American media and or audiences but, more to my point and concern, our own mainstream media platforms and audiences.

In truth, Anna, Carlos, Josefina, Rosalba and Sandra are but some of the examples of Latinos who are providing intelligent, relevant and needed Alternative Latino content material for our eyes, our ears and our souls.

To be continued...