Who is behind the camera?

Who is taking this picture? The faux seductive looks of my great-grandmother, grandmother and great aunts have piqued my interest. Who was this person, capturing their daily activities, asking them to pose on the porch? They had many suitors and I’ve been told many fellas would visit the house and family. But my grandmother swore to me they were chaste and innocent. I believe her.

Love and Rockets

From Locas II by Jaime Hernandez, Fantagraphics Books.

I could go on in really revealing and embarrassing ways about how much I love Love and Rockets. Wait, I think I already have. Lately, I’ve been re-reading the Locas series which can be found in two humongous anthologies recently re-issued. I’m almost done with Locas II and I’m reminded as to how influential the comics were in my early life. Quite honestly, I can’t even say they were influential as they felt much more documentary, as in my life often seemed to be reflected in the stories to the point where I wasn’t even shocked when I’d read almost word for word conversations I’d have in real life being said by the characters in the book. Re-reading the books now is almost like a source of comfort, the kinda life I have is so rarely reflected in the media spectacle that there is something to seeing one’s own experiences, including insecurities, being expressed by characters who have some commonalities. Commonalities…! They are CHICANA PUNKS FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, who lived in-between cultures, were superstitious, fell in love hopelessly (even with cholos), had crazy drunken street adventures, doubted themselves (for all the above reasons) and still managed to try and stay punk even when they weren’t anymore! I have way more commonalities with these things than I should publicly admit on this blog. See, I told you I couldn’t help but going on. Thank you Jaime Hernandez for bringing out the beauty of our everyday lives!

I met the Hernandez Bros. once at Golden Apple quite some time ago and tried to tell them in my gushing way some of what I just wrote. They answered “Yeah, it’s cause we peek in your window at night.” And at the time I sorta felt like they were mocking me which left me a bit confused. Also because Gilbert told me with what almost seemed like sarcasm that he was married to “a gringa.” And I remember thinking “What does that matter?” Maybe now, I would’ve understood what was happening but at the time, I was a too-cool-for-school twenty year old who thought she was meeting some kind of heroes and was sad to find, well, they weren’t. It was a very good lesson for me and later, helped me appreciate their work even more.

So if you’re looking for something awesome to read and start the new year off with, pick up Locas and Locas II. You can even check them out from the library but they’re nice to have around, so when you and your friends are having some funny or interesting conversation and you’re like wait, this seems familiar, and then be like, oh yeah Maggie said the same thing. My favorite is the one above, Maggie trying to explain how influential punk was in her life and in the end, just shrugs her shoulders and says “I can’t explain it.”

The Art of Jaime Hernandez by Todd Hignite just came out last year and it’s a gorgeous book filled with color strips, drawings, punk flyers (Nardcore!) and photos of Jaime and his brothers. The text is a bit hard-to-read and I wish there would have been more of Jaime’s direct quotes in the book but the book is, afterall, focused on Jaime’s personal drawing style which is universally recognized for it’s innovativeness and originality. Another great book to read in 2011!


My grandparents circa early 1950s

Hang on tight Tony, Jessie will steal your heart.

“People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive about the refusal of constraints – such people have a corpse in their mouth.” -Raoul Vaneigem



My great-great grandmother Matilde Vizcarra Tellez, Los Angeles, circa early 1930s.
Such mystery behind her small smile.

Hollywood Jail


Teens and novelty photos, does anyone remember the good times? The concept of a Hollywood jail is a peculiar one, I don’t quite understand the appeal. A novelty photo on a stuffed donkey, now that I understand. Despite the kitsch, their faces say so much, too much.

In this photo: my mother, some of her cousins from Mexico and a very young future Silver Lake optometrist.

Secret Disco: Hi-NRG

Trans X-Living on Video

Stop-Wake Up

Lime-Babe Were Gonna Love Tonight

Considering the term “Chicano Oldies” is accepted and in popular use, I’d like to create a genre called “Chicano Disco.” Some favorite examples above.

In Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco, author Peter Shapiro explains how the influence of the European musicians’ love for synthesized music fundamentally changed the essence of dance music. Whereas disco used to be based on funk, live beats and real drummers bands like Kraftwerk showed there was another way to create a rhythm. The synthesizer with it’s fake handclaps, hi-hats and bass drums helped create a whole new genre of disco music: Hi-NRG.

Hi-NRG had a huge following amongst Mexicans and Chicanos in the Los Angeles area in the 1980s. It was the musical fuel for an amazing DIY scene of DJs, backyard parties and dance clubs that ruled over large sections of the city. It’s a movement that isn’t well known outside Chicano circles in Los Angeles, back then most people could not care less what was going on in our communities.

I wasn’t part of this scene but my brother was a DJ and a member of Boyz in Kontrol, one of the hundreds, if not thousands of party crews that existed at the time. The crews were responsible for organizing parties, dance contests, DJ battles and cruising (cars) spots. While punk may get a lot of credit for being a DIY scene, the disco scene of 1980s rivaled punk in it’s “let’s organize ourselves” philosophy. Unlike punk it wasn’t a political choice, the self organization was done out of sheer necessity. Our neighborhoods offered very few forms of entertainment or diversions for youth.

Towards the late 1980s, the backyard parties started attracting the attention of the authorities, and by using the excuse of minor incidents of violence, these authorities begin to systematically shutdown and target the parties. Some involved with the scene said this heavy handedness by LAPD and the sheriffs department helped to create the revival of cholos and gangs on the Eastside. During the height of the disco scene, to be a gangster or cholo was the epitome of being uncool. Kids would snicker at the site of old veteranos riding on the bus with baggy pants like some anachronistic figure of the past. The disco scene had Latino kids going from neighborhood to other neighborhoods across the city to attend parties and to battle each other on the dance floor. The rivalries that existed and any tension were quickly diffused through dancing and partying. The violence that occasionally happened at these parties was mostly due to fights over girls/boys and the usual love dramas.

When the authorities started cracking down on the party crews and cruising, the essentially were forcing teenagers with lots of energy to stay home. And who was waiting for them? The old gangs who provided them with diversionary outlets. Many of us saw this process play out in front of our eyes. I’m not saying this was the only catalyst for the upsurge in gangs but it was a significant one and gives us a few clues to how we can deal with our current gang problem. The more you try and control youth, the greater the eruption of chaos. Young people need something to do, they have a lot of energy and excitement for their new world that cannot be bottled up and funneled into a path that adults approve of. Let the kids party!

Hi-NRG is still popular among successive generations of backyard partygoers. Go to any baptism, quinceañera, wedding or birthday party on the Eastside or in the San Gabriel Valley and there will be at least one DJ set devoted to the pantheon of Chicano Disco aka Hi NRG.

Please see Pachuco 3000’s post: 30 Years of DJ Culture from East Los Angeles for further reading.

Darela Mansiones


I came across this 8 1/2 x 11 photo of my mother while helping her clean the house the other day.

I hope she doesn’t mind me secretly spiriting it away for use on this blog. It’s such a lovely image, she reminds me of Anna Karina or I think Anna Karina has always reminded me of my mother. No one in my family reminds me of Serge Gainsbourg, that’s probably a good thing.

Perhaps it’s the size of the photo or the starlet affectation of her pose that inspired the joke note to my father (her boyfriend at the time) written on the reverse. Or maybe every young woman that grows up within sight of the Hollywood sign harbors a secret desire to be famous.

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