Art and culture converge in El Monte – University Times



Memories of the community space of El Monte launched in the midst of a pandemic.

Four dancers wear headdresses adorned with the heads of ferocious animals. They ask ancestors for permission to perform honored traditions, drawing the attention of a hushed crowd.

As the performers engage in the Danza Mexica, or Aztec dance, the beat of the accompanying drums makes the ground beat to its rhythm.

Rich aromas of tamales, pozole and flautas emanate from the vendors nearby, who claim the whole sidewalk.

These are some scenes from the inauguration of the community art space, Memories of El Monte, a Sunday at the end of September. Community members came together to connect and honor Indigenous and Latinx culture.

“All of a sudden this well of magnetic, powerful and melancholy energy overwhelmed me when I arrived here and it put me in a very good mood,” said a speaker, Iyapo Ngina, who is a reverend. , acupuncturist, activist and spiritualist. to advise. “I’m grateful to be in this space with my Indigenous siblings and I think it’s really important. We need to spend more time getting out of our comfort zones with each other. I think in this time when we have the capacity to radically change the circumstances of humanity, we have to leave our spaces, we have to show ourselves for others in a more visceral and organic way. It’s not uncommon for me to be the only black person when I show up in spaces. I used to get kind of a feeling about it, but Spirit tells me it’s an opportunity for me to build bridges and show myself off for others.

The event aimed to build community and raise awareness among residents of El Monte and neighboring local communities, according to Carla Macal, an organizer of Memories of El Monte and a member of Sin Fronteras 1312. All of the small businesses, vendors, performers, and performers were from El Monte or the San Gabriel Valley.

“As an artist, it’s nice to have spaces where I feel safe to talk about my art because I do political art and I talk about social issues” Dulce Lopez, said a local artist. “It’s always nice to have a space where I can sell things but also interact with like-minded people who match my mission. Art is connecting with others.

Lopez found out about the event through another local artist group, Fronteras Sin 1312, which offers solidarity items for sale at Memories of El Monte.

Memories of El Monte, located on Garvey Street in El Monte, Calif., opened in July 2021. It prioritizes centering queer, trans, black and indigenous people of color in activities, events, workshops, classes and speakers, according to Macal. The community space provides resources and emphasizes the indigenous lands and Tongva lands on which the building sits, the primary custodians of the land being the Houtngna. This space is only collaborative with entities such as the Union of tenants of El Monte and Sin Fronteras 1312 have come together to provide a community refrigerator, theory book clubs, a zine library and more.

Souvenirs from El Monte crowdsourced to get finance for rent, according to his GoFundMe page. While the group had a smooth opening in July, COVID prevented further opening until the recent event.

“As we do not operate like a regular business, [COVID] didn’t hit us that hard, ”Macal said. “We aim to build relationships and trust in the community. COVID-19 slowed us down but helped us meet people from the neighborhood. We run hybrid meetings and events for people who cannot meet in person.

For many vendors, having a community that prioritizes them is essential.

“For small businesses, it’s hard to get the word out,” Lopez said. “Especially for young POC immigrants, it’s hard to have people who are willing to offer you this space in an affordable and accessible way. This kind of space can have so many different artists working together, as I was able to sign up and also bring my mom and get her sold. his art also.”

Another seller, Leslie Campos, came from La Verne to show her support, sell her handmade jewelry and make friends.

“Community spaces are so important because when I was younger I didn’t feel any sense of community because I didn’t know my own identity,” Campos said. “I was too Latino for white kids but too white for Latino kids. My Spanish is screwed up, but after coming to spaces like these, it helped me realize that I’m not the only one having this experience. It’s stuff like that that connects people to their roots. Especially here in El Monte, we experience similar things.

At one point late in the event, around 150 people were crammed into the parking lot and onto the street where vendors were set up.

“We are so excited for the future of community space. A lot of people are excited and continue to share how we need these spaces, ”said Macal, an organizer. “I think it was a great participation and everyone had a smile on their face.”


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