"The State of Latino America" was the promise of a panel I moderated at KPCC's events forum last week. Geez, really? It's silly because Latino means so much and so little. It's the Venezuelan newspaper columnist, it's the Mexican American lawyer, it's the undocumented Brazilian. It's ethnicity, it's politics, it's race and lots of other things, right? It's kind of like that opening scene in the film "Adaptation," in which the Charlie Kaufman goes back four billion and forty years to tell the story of how he got here. LMU professor Fernando Guerra, social engagement consultant Giovanni Rodriguez and I made valiant effort during the panel.
Below is a version of a sort-of prose poem I read at the beginning of the panel. It's my shot at getting at a State of SoCal Latinos. The only way I can even get close to defining the Latino zeitgeist is to go back to all the people I've interviewed in the last 11 years as a daily reporter in L.A. Here are some of them:
The Mexican American Mayor who remembers the Brown Buffalo.
The Chilean exile who saves dropouts on skid row.
The longshore worker from Wilmington who said "those wetbacks."
The cycling Dreamer with the big 'ol bigote.
The Chicano ranchera singer from Tucson who tears up because Mexico betrays.
His gay son.
The Argentinian cyclists at the velodrome.
The 27-year-old councilman who learned from Ferraro to count to eight.
The lexicon barber.
The 1980s radio reporter, welcomed by, "get that Mexican off the air."
The Cal State LA graduate with boxing gloves and pink wrapping around her knuckles.
The Downey college grad who lives in her car
And her film about a Cuban American lesbian aspiring photojournalist with a lust for bi-women and malt liquor.
The East L.A. Japanese Americans who have tias in Tijuana.
The filmmaker who believes brown is the new green.
The Tijuana grunge promoter doing business in South Central.
The state political kingmaker with too much dirty laundry to come home.
The Guatemalan woman with a football son at Fairfax.
The DF exiles who strum home through trova.
The former Chihuahua gold miner who drops his sack 'o rocks at 514 S. Spring Street.
The Lincoln High second year senior who ignores her gang family.
The undocumented college graduate who weaves plastic bags into money
And her dream of being a salmon.
The sculptor of the cathedral's doors.
The Blaxican rapper.
The Nicaraguan woman who can't say the word negro.
The Puerto Rican model and The Maybelline Girls.
The musicians who use jaranas instead of light sabers.
The radio reporter born in DF, raised in Tijuas and Diego who roams the streets of Los.
Poet and Journalist Adolfo Guzman-Lopez writes his column Movie Miento every week on KCET's SoCal Focus blog. It is a poetic exploration of Los Angeles history, Latino culture and the overall sense of place, darting across LA's physical and psychic borders.