Students from East Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Compton and North Hollywood will be treated to a series of special morning and afternoon performances of “The King of the Desert,” in its current run at El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. Organized by the play’s co-producer, David Llauger-Meiselman, and facilitated by Youth Policy Institute, these performances will be followed by informal discussions with the principle actor and the students about the issues raised in the play.
“King of the Desert” is a wholly introspective play, a profound and moving work about a Chicano’s coming of age, as he is transformed from a boy in a San Antonio barrio to achieving his dream of becoming a professional actor and a mature family man.
Plays about the Chicano experience are a rarity in American theater. Really great plays are rarer still. “The King of the Desert,” ranks among the very best plays that deal with what it means to be a Mexican growing up in America. For Chicanos and Latinos, this play speaks directly to their experience. When was the last time a movie or TV show did that?
René Rivera, the sole actor in the play, did go from a San Antonio barrio to attending the Juilliard School in New York City on a full scholarship. “King of the Desert” is based on his life. Rivera gives a brilliant performance, a tour de force that shows an actor in complete command of his art.
Many Chicanos have come out of the play saying “That was my story.” For Leno Daiz, who came to East L.A. from Juarez, Mexico in 1927 and who lived in San Antonio for many years before returning to L.A., the play reminded him of his own history.
“It has to do with identity. This man feels strong for his culture, his background, his forefathers, he’s a Chicano, a Mexican. I enjoyed it very much because I lived some of that stuff growing up,” Diaz said.
Rivera bares his soul on stage and doing such a personal play was an incredible challenge. “I’d never worked on something like this before, something as personal, yet big and universal and deeply, deeply rooted. I was afraid of it, I was intimidated by it and because of that I accepted it. I accepted the challenge and it continues to be a challenge,” Rivera said.
The deeply moving script was written by Rivera’s wife Stacey Martino. She spent many hours talking with Rivera’s family in Texas and with Rivera himself. Her script reflects part of her relationship with him. “The King of the Desert” grew out of my hunger to understand my husband’s life and to learn about my daughter’s Mexican American heritage. It was my own journey into the past in order to bring our family closer and alchemize the more difficult aspects of life,” Martino stated.
From a purely theatrical viewpoint, this is an interesting play. The plot does not follow a linear chronology but instead moves back and forth between past and present. The central question of the play, who am I, is established by no less an authority than the Prince of Denmark. Hamlet’s famous soliloquy is performed in English and then in Spanish, losing none of its power in the translation, and sets the tone for the rest of the play.
The play follows two streams of conciseness. In the present, the character address an unseen individual about his fears and concerns. In the past, key events in his life are revealed: His childhood in San Antonio, his dream of becoming an actor, attending Julliard, acting on Broadway and in films. Movement between present and past is generally seamless and the two streams merge at the end of the play.
There are many themes that are familiar to Chicano audiences. Growing up in a poor neighborhood, police harassment, being told you’re not American which leads to the feeling that the larger society will never allow a Mexican to succeed, no matter how many generations he’s lived here.
There is also the positive: the love within family; the teacher who believes and encourages you; the father who tells you to be proud of your ancestors who built one world’s great civilizations and to remember that you are a king of the desert, finally achieving his dream of becoming a successful actor.
René Rivera commands the stage and not just because he is the only actor. Rivera entices the audience to experience his life with him, to sit in the front seat of the emotional roller coaster ride Rivera takes you on.
Rivera plays all the characters and he is able to give each one a distinct personality, whether it is through a change in voice, stance or attitude or all of the above. In one humorous scene he is breaking up with four different girl friends, seemingly at the same time, and it takes just a few words and his expression to tell you everything about the relationship.
El Portal’s stage is surrounded on three sides by the audience which means that the actor has to act with both the front and the back of his body because the audience will generally be watching one or the other. In lesser hands, this could have been a real problem but in Rivera and Director Sal Romeo, who worked out Rivera’s movements on stage, we see true masters at work. Rivera seems to flow from one part of the stage to the other. One artist and former dancer who saw the play declared, “What we saw was a dance!”
Indeed, in the early scenes as he spoke to his mother and father, he was adagio, moving slowly his body under total control. He would pirouette, turning his body quickly, from one character to another, each with a distinct voice and attitude. Whether he was en pointe, standing on tip toes, as he created a werewolf or giving a vivid impression of a rider on horse back, un jinete, Rivera brought a physical reality on stage that was a joy to see.
“The King of the Desert” is firmly rooted in Rivera’s life as a Chicano in the United States. It is through the exploration of the particulars of his experiences that the universality of the human condition is found. All great literature works like this. One cannot separate William Faulkner from Oxford, Mississippi, James Joyce from Dublin, Ireland or Leon Tolstoy from 19th century Russia.
“This is a universal story. It’s a story that everyone, in my opinion, is connected to,” Rivera said. “I feel what I want to give to the people is that they walk away having feelings about themselves and being reflective on their lives and on themselves, in relation to their spouses and to their children and to their families in general and to humanity in general.”
Going to the theater is not something done as easily as going to the movies. But making the effort to go to North Hollywood to see this play is definitely worth the effort. Bring your friends and family. You’ll have an experience to remember.
The King of the Desert is in its current run at the Forum Theatre at the El Portal Theatre; 5269 Lankershim Boulevard (at Weddington Street), North Hollywood, CA 91601 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m., until December 4, 2011. Except for the weekend of November 11th -13th A performance will be held tonight, November 10, at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 each for General Admission. Tickets for Students, Seniors, Veterans and Guild Members are $15 each. For reservations and further information, call the Box Office at (866) 811-4111 or (818) 508-4200, or buy online at www.elportaltheatre.com. Tickets for Groups of eight or more are $10 each, call (323) 315-0015.
A portion of the proceeds from performances throughout the run of the show will benefit the National Latino Children’s Institute, The Oscar De La Hoya Foundation and The Youth Policy Institute. A Talk Back Question and Answer Session with members of the play¹s cast and crew will be held at the conclusion of each Sunday matinee performance.
A Montebello-based diabetes prevention organization that holds free community workshops to help Latinos manage their disease will be spending diabetes prevention month struggling to pay its bills.
Directors of the Latino Diabetes Association say they have received little help, and they remain in the dark about the status of their funds after their bank account was frozen in September as part of an investigation into disgraced campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee.
Read this story IN SPANISH: Organismo No Lucrativa Centrada en la Diabetes esta en Problemas, Pide Ayuda de la Comunidad
When Durkee was first arrested two months ago, authorities did not notify the organization that their money was in trouble, and two months after first learning from other sources that their treasurer may have cleaned out her clients money making personal purchases, Munoz says they have not been able to determine the status of the $30,000 in funds they put under Durkee’s care.
The amount they lost seems like “nothing,” Munoz says, but they use it to hold diabetes prevention workshops throughout Los Angeles.
Munoz says this is a huge blow to his organization, which is trying to address a health crisis among Latinos who are disproportionately affected by diabetes. Of the 650,000 diabetes cases in Los Angeles County, 303,000 cases are suffered by Latinos, he says. The disease often results in serious health consequences, such as blindness and limb amputation, as well as death.
Now plans for future workshops have been put on hold, as efforts to fundraise have also been stymied by a lack of interest. “We’ve made several pleas and not one person outside of our board members has bothered to pick up the phone to make a pledge … it’s been really trying,” Munoz said.
Durkee’s higher profile victims, such as United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, have received most of the attention, he said, while smaller organizations like the Latino Diabetes Association, located in a donated space at a municipal park, have been fending for themselves.
While there is a proliferation of diabetes awareness material out there, very little of it speaks effectively to the Latino community, Munoz said.
He says his group tries to hold “culturally relevant” workshops, which include cooking demonstrations and yoga, in familiar places such as churches, community centers, senior centers, libraries and public housing.
Many of the people who take their workshops don’t have insurance, only speak Spanish, and usually don’t have access to suffcient information about how to manage their diabetes, Munoz said. Others may also walk around not knowing that they have diabetes, attributing their sluggishness to a “bad day or bad week,” he says.
Elba Gomez, 51, says her family benefited from the Latino Diabetes Association’s workshops, in particular her 77-year old father who was taking multiple diabetes medications.
The classes helped her father deal with his diabetes without the use of medication, mostly through advice about how to change his diet and habits. “He used to feel sick all the time, he was sleepy most of the time. Now he’s more active because of what he eats. He lost some weight, is more energetic … we don’t worry like we used to before,” she says.
Diabetes is a very personal cause for the organization. “We’re from the neighborhood, we know people from this community, family, friends who have died,” Munoz said.
Last month the organization held a candlelight vigil at Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles in memory of those who passed away from diabetes complications. Munoz’s own 27-year old niece died a month before the organization lost all of its money during the Durkee fiasco.
The Latino Diabetes Association is located at the community center building at Reggie Rodriguez Park in Montebello. Munoz said they set up a donation button on their website (http://www.lda.org). They can also be reached at (323) 837-9869.
Judge Michael Nash, the presiding judge of Los Angeles County’s Juvenile Court, is proposing to open child dependency proceedings to the public.
Dependency court hears cases of child abuse, neglect, and foster care placement.
Judge Nash believes allowing the public into these hearings will add transparency to the decisions the court makes.
We believe this is a worthwhile decision since too often the welfare of children, and even their safety, is compromised by the court’s placement decisions.
We do however also believe that the court should also be allowed discretion on whether an open hearing may be detrimental to a child’s welfare.
In an article in the Los Angeles Times, Judge Nash is quoted as saying: “There is a lot that is not good in the dependency courts.” He says too many families do not get re-united.
“To many children and families languish in the system for far too long,” said Judge Nash.
While we can agree with the judge’s comments, we have always felt that too often family reunification is held as too high a priority by the child welfare system, regardless of what is really best for the child, now or in the future. Family reunification is held as the ideal outcome or solution for children. We don’t believe this is always the case.
Many children have suffered great neglect, and even death at the hands of parents who have been found to be unsafe guardians for their children.
Too often, children have been removed from loving foster care and even adoption homes just because of the point of view that biological parents are automatically the best caretakers for their children. While in many cases that is true, it is not always the case. A few parenting or anger management classes, or a stint in a rehab center, or the awarding of welfare benefits do not mean that the worst parents will somehow suddenly become good parents.
By the same token, just because a parent has limited financial means, does not mean a child cannot thrive if there is loving and supportive system in place to help them.
Perhaps opening up dependency hearings will put pressure on the system to consider a child’s right to a safe and loving home as the paramount issue, not just family re-unification.
I’m one of those “job creators” members of Congress profess to admire so much. Thirty-two years ago, my partner and I started a small business with $300 worth of old records and a booth at the local farmers market. We’re now the biggest independent music store in St. Louis and employ 22 people. Our annual revenue is around $2 million. We’re a classic American success story.
Our incomes are typical for small business owners, which means we’re not in the top tax brackets. We’ve always been at or below the 25 percent tax bracket. So we’re trying to figure out how a new Congressional tax proposal is supposed to help small businesses like ours create jobs.
The proposal would cut top individual and corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent. In addition, it would reward U.S. multinational corporations that have gamed the system with a 5.25 percent tax rate on U.S. profits they have disguised as “foreign” earnings. All this will be great for gigantic multinational corporations, Wall Street and the fat cats who attend those $1,000-a-plate and up political fundraisers. It will be great for the corporate lobbyists gaming our political system every day.
It won’t help small business, and it won’t help America.
This proposal would give massive new tax cuts to America’s largest corporations and wealthiest families and comes as we learn from a Congressional Budget Office report that after-tax inflation-adjusted incomes for the richest 1 percent of Americans skyrocketed 275 percent between 1979 and 2007.
Tax-cut advocates want us to believe that cutting the top rate to 25 percent benefits America’s small business owners. Most small business owners wouldn’t see a penny of tax cuts under this proposal.
And, anyone who thinks lowering my tax rate would affect hiring knows diddlysquat about running a business. I hire more workers if I think I’ll do more business. The costs of finding, hiring and paying new employees are business expenses. They’re deducted up-front from taxable income. Any business paying taxes on these expenses needs to fire their accountant.
The biggest challenge facing my business isn’t the taxes we pay. It’s the decline in customer demand and the continued hollowing out of our middle class, our infrastructure and our economy. It breaks my heart when my customers sell record collections built over a lifetime, to pay their rent, heating bills or medical expenses.
We’ve tried trickle-down tax cuts to create jobs. How’d that work out? Tax-Cutter-in-Chief, George W. Bush, had the worst job creation record since 1939. What trickled down were economic meltdown, foreclosures, unemployment, budget cuts and business closures.
When Congress proposes stimulating the economy with more tax cuts for those who are far ahead of the rest of us, they do nothing to help my customers or my business. When the wealthy get more tax cuts, it transfers the burden of paying for government services to businesses like mine and to my customers, already living paycheck to paycheck.
If members of Congress want to help small business, they should choose policies that actually create jobs. St. Louis, like many cities, laid off teachers, first responders and construction workers – the people who spend money locally and who we need for a healthy economy. The last thing we need is more cutbacks to pay for more tax cuts at the top.
Job creation today and a brighter future for our kids and grandkids lies in better education, 21st Century infrastructure, universal broadband and renewable energy. How do the advocates of more tax cuts for the affluent expect to compete with emerging economic superpowers if we don’t invest in our nation’s future? Where do they expect money for that investment to come from, if not from those who have profited most from the investment our parents and grandparents made to build the nation they handed us?
Trickle-down economics has been a miserable failure. It delivered economic ruin for many and riches for a few. It hasn’t brought shared prosperity, but driven us further apart. It increased the economic and political power of Wall Street and Big Business over Main Street and small business.
Trickle-down economics is a broken record. It’s time to let it go.
Prince is managing partner of Vintage Vinyl, an independent music store in St. Louis. He is also a member of Business for Shared Prosperity, a national network of forward-thinking business owners and executives. A version of this op-ed previously appeared in The Hill.
The following are the unofficial results in the cities of Bell Gardens, Montebello and Vernon. In all three cities, 100 percent of the precincts have been counted, but the votes must still be certified.
Bell Gardens City Council Race-Vote 2
Jennifer Rodriguez (Incumbent) 1,250 33.8
Pedro Aceituno (Incumbent) 1,180 31.9
Jannette Morales 635 17.2
Yvette L Silva 625 16.9
Montebello City Council-Vote 2
Christina Cortez (Incumbent) 1,812 26.4
Jack Hadjinian 1,379 20.1
Flavio Gallardo 1,303 19.0
Larry Salazar 1,007 14.6
Alberto Perez (Incumbent) 794 11.5
Lucy Cortez 303 4.4
Elizabeth Gonzalez 257 3.7
Montebello City Clerk
Daniel Hernandez 1,439 43.9
E R Valenzuela 941 28.7
Robert Bob Tapia 896 27.3
Montebello City Treasurer
Sheraly Khwaja 1,746 56.0
Yvonne Watson 1,371 43.9
Montebello Measure O- Solid Waste Franchise (Requires majority vote)
YES 2,535 70.9
NO 1,037 29.0
Vernon-First of Two City Elections:
52 of the city’s 74 registered voters cast ballots.
Measure A-Term Limits City Council Yes: 42 No: 9
Measure B-Prevailing Wage Yes: 52 No: 0
Measure C-At-Will Employee Mandate Yes: 52 No: 0
Measure D-Council Authority Yes: 52 No: 0
Vernon voters will decide six additional municipal reform charter amendments in a second election on November 22. For more information, go to cityofvernon.org/elections
The Citizenship and Immigration Services office in East Los Angeles will close permanently Thursday and merge with the downtown office.
Read this story IN SPANISH: Cierran Oficina de Inmigración en el Este de Los Ángeles
Petitioners for immigration benefits can follow up on their cases by making an “Infopass” appointment via www.uscis.gov or calling the National Customer Service Center (800) 375-5283.
(EGPNews) – Hospital officials are asking for the public’s help in identifying a man who arrived by ambulance at the Emergency Room at White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights on Oct. 11.
The male patient arrived at the hospital without any identification, and has been unresponsive to questions, said Alicia Gonzales, a spokesperson for the hospital. When asked his name or other questions, “he just stares,” she said.
He is describes as a 50- to 60-year-old male Caucasian with blue eyes and grey hair. He is 5’5” tall and weights 158 lbs, and has a burn scar on his right lower leg, and a skin graft scar on his right thigh.
Anyone with information that may help identify this John Doe patient is asked to contact the hospital at (323) 268-5000 and ask the operator to page beeper 494.
(CNS) – A garage in Boyle Heights is one of several locations involved in a fraudulent document operation that extended to other areas of the country and the arrest of about two dozen suspects in the Southland, the FBI reported Nov. 3.
A federal indictment alleges that suspects operated a fraudulent document manufacturing operation that included providing supplies that could be used to produce phony documents around the United States, said Laura Eimiller of the FBI.
FBI agents, Los Angeles Police Department officers and Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies conducted the multi-agency enforcement effort, assisted by personnel from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Eimiller said.
Law enforcement personnel established a command post at Alameda and Temple streets and served 17 warrants, many of them in the MacArthur Park and El Monte areas, as well as the garage in Boyle Heights, Eimiller said.
Under Pachon’s Leadership, Tomas Rivera Institute Grew Into a Nationally Recognized Think Tank on Latino Issues
Harry P. Pachon, Ph.D was named president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI) in 1993, and spent more than a dozen years transforming it into a nationally recognized research institution, and think tank on policy issues relevant to the Latino community.
Pachon died Nov. 4 following a long illness. He was 66 years of age.
At the time of his death, he was a tenured professor of public policy, a position he held since 2003. He retired from TRPI in 2010.
The Daily Trojan reported that Pachon died from complications of aspiration pneumonia and Parkinson’s disease after spending several months in the hospital.
On the TRPI website, a statement memorializing Pachon called him one of the “most influential voices of his generation in public discourse about the Latino population.”
His colleague, Jack H. Knott, Dean of the School of Policy, Planning, and Development at University of Southern California, observed that:
“Harry was a kind and generous person and a wonderful and beloved friend and colleague to many at USC and in the broader Latino Community. … his legacy of extraordinary contributions to Latino politics and policy at a crucial period in the development of the Latino Community in America will be remembered always.”
Pachon was also the co-founder of NALEO, the National Association of Elected Officials Education Fund, where he spent a decade as the group’s executive director prior to joining TRPI.
According to the Tomas Rivera website, Pachon “published 4 books and numerous book chapters and journal articles over the course of his career concerned with Latino social capital, educational opportunities, civic and political engagement, electoral behavior, and racial justice. In addition, he served as the principal investigator on several million dollars of externally-funded research grants and contracts and was an effective and well-liked teacher who inspired his students.
The Tomas Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI) moved from Claremont Graduate University to USC in 2003.
Under Pachon’s leadership, TRPI grew into a civic research organization with national visibility and impact, making major contributions in the areas of immigration, education policy, and Latino politics and policy.
In 1997, Pachon was appointed to serve as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. Additionally, saluting his ongoing work on behalf of Mexicans living in the United States, the Mexican Government presented Dr. Pachon with the Ohtli (humanitarian) Award.
He also served on the boards of several local organizations, including the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, Southern California Public Radio and KPPC, and the Education Advisory Committee of the Rand Corporation.
Pachon received his B.A. and M.A. in political science at California State University of Los Angeles, and earned his Ph.D. in government from the Claremont Graduate School. He has been awarded post-doctoral fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Association of Schools for Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).
Pachon is survived by his wife Barbara and their children. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
Another East Los Angeles Classic, another big night for Lance Fernandez.
The Garfield High School tailback ran for 152 yards and four touchdowns on 22 rushing attempts to lead his team to a 29-15 victory over Roosevelt last Friday in the 77th meeting between the Eastside rival high schools.
His 75-yard touchdown run with 1:28 remaining secured the win and cleared a good portion of the Roosevelt side of East Los Angeles College stadium.
It was nearly a repeat of the game Fernandez had in 2010 when he rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns in Garfield’s 13-3 win.
But he was surprised to have another big game against the Bulldogs’ archrival.
“I’m really kind of in shock right now,” he said. “I have to give thanks to the offensive line, my coaches and our defense.”
Garfield improved to 5-5 overall and with a 5-1 finish secured at least a second-place finish in the Eastern League, and a spot in the City Section Division I playoffs that begin Nov. 17.
Roosevelt fell to 5-4 and 3-2 in league, and has a game remaining at Bell on Friday night. The Rough Riders need a victory and then will hope they receive an at-large playoff berth.
A steady rainfall prior to the game kept attendance down to an estimated 16,000, but the stadium’s artificial turf was firm and dry and to the liking of the ground-oriented Bulldogs. Fullback Larry Ravelo added 95 yards rushing on 16 carries.
“Lance really stepped up for us tonight, and Larry is a tank, he’s really amazing,” Hernandez said.
They ran behind the stellar blocking of tackles David Rosales and Jeremy Torres, guards Chaz Peralta and Jason Morales, and center Adrian Rico.
While Fernandez and Ravelo racked up yardage, Garfield’s defense rose to the challenge as well.
The Bulldogs stopped Roosevelt on a goal line stand late in the fourth quarter to maintain their 22-15 lead. After a 46-yard run by Michael Galindo to the Garfield seven-yard line, the Rough Riders reached the one on the next play. But the two plays gained little and Galindo was stopped on fourth down, ending a drive that had started back on the Roosevelt 15.
“Holding a team like Roosevelt on the goal line for four downs in this environment is incredible,” Garfield Coach Lorenzo Hernandez said. “You have to give our defense a lot of credit.”
Garfield took over on downs with less than five minutes remaining and was facing third and nine from their two when quarterback Nicky Peralta hooked up with Steven De La Torre on a 15-yard pass completion. Fernandez broke and scored on his 75-yard run two plays later.
“The game came down to the line of scrimmage and they (Garfield) controlled it pretty consistently, but we still had our chances,” Roosevelt Coach Javier Cid said.
“We had fourth-and-one twice and couldn’t get it in.”
After taking the opening kickoff, Garfield drove 65 yards in 14 plays with Fernandez scoring on a one-yard run.
It didn’t take long for Roosevelt to counter. On the first play, Galindo took a handoff found a huge hole in the middle and ran 76 yards for a touchdown. Matthew Moreno scored on a two-point conversion to give the Rough Riders an 8-7 lead.
Fernandez’ two-yard TD run and Peralta’s two-point conversion pass to Jaime Leija gave the lead back to Garfield, 15-8. Garfield started the drive at the Roosevelt 45 thanks to a 23-yard punt return by Cleo Session.
Roosevelt’s Miguel Garcia recovered a fumble by Peralta in the end zone for a touchdown to tie the score, 15-15.
Fernandez’ third touchdown with 24 seconds left in the second quarter gave the lead back to Garfield 22-15 at halftime.
Roosevelt also reached the Garfield 18-yard line in the third quarter, only to lose the ball on downs.
Linebacker Jonathan Valles had a team-high 10 tackles to lead Garfield. Marcelino Reyes, who made nine tackles, stopped Galindo on the fourth-down play at the goal line and also recorded the tackle that stopped the drive at the 18. Michael Martinez had eight tackles and Antonio Huezo made seven.