Artbound

S12 E1 | FULL EPISODE

Con Safos

A pioneer of Chicano rock 'n' roll, Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara recounts his life in music, performance art and activism — from his time as lead singer of the doo-wop band The Apollo Brothers, his collaborations with Frank Zappa and Cheech Marin, and his crossover into the Chicano performance art world of the 1960s and 1970s — all of which shaped Mexican American culture.

AIRED: September 30, 2021 | 0:54:35
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

MAN: RUBEN FUNKAHUATL GUEVARA

IS...

WOMAN: A BADASS.

CAN I SAY THAT?

MAN: REUBEN FUNKAHUATL GUEVARA

IS PIÑA MANGO PAPAYA

SWIRL OF CULTURE AND HISTORY

FROM PRE-COLUMBIAN

TO POSTMODERN TIMES.

AND HE'S MY HERO.

DIFFERENT MAN: TO ME, RUBEN

FUNKAHUATL GUEVARA

IS A CULTURAL ICON

AND ALSO HE CAN SING.

DIFFERENT MAN: HE'S THE BEST OF

WHAT THIS CITY IS.

HE'S HOT L.A. FIRE.

DIFFERENT MAN: HE'S AN

AMERICAN HERO.

DIFFERENT MAN: A LEGEND.

WOMAN: HE'S A GREAT MISFIT.

MAN: HE'S ALSO A CULTURAL

THEORIST.

DIFFERENT MAN: HE'S JUST PART OF

THAT FOUNDATION THAT CREATED

THIS BUILDING THAT WE CALL

THE CHICANO EXPERIENCE.

♪♪

♪♪

ANNOUNCER: THIS PROGRAM WAS MADE

POSSIBLE IN PART BY

CITY OF LOS ANGELES

DEPARTMENT OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS,

LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF

ARTS & CULTURE, NATIONAL

ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS, AND

THE FRIEDA BERLINSKI FOUNDATION.

♪♪

MAN: MY NAME IS RUBEN FUNKAHUATL

GUEVARA, AND I'M A CHICANO

CULTURE SCULPTOR.

♪♪

MY MOTHER'S FAMILY CAME UP HERE

FROM MEXICO AND THEY SETTLED

IN A LITTLE MEXICAN AMERICAN

BARRIO IN SANTA MONICA.

IT'S CALLED LA VEINTE.

AND MY DAD CAME UP HERE TO THE

U.S. ON A TOUR WITH

TRIO LOS PORTENOS.

HE PLAYED SOME PRETTY IMPORTANT

GIGS. HE DID THE CHI CHI CLUB

IN PALM SPRINGS.

FRANK SINATRA EVEN SHOWED UP.

USED TO SIT IN WITH MY DAD'S

BAND.

LATER, I CAUGHT A SHOW AT THE

SAHARA AND I GOT LOUIS PRIMA,

KEELY SMITH,

WITH THE WILD SAM BUTERA

& THE WITNESSES.

MEN: ♪♪ [INDISTINCT] ♪♪

PRIMA: ♪♪ TELL ME YOU LOVE ME ♪♪

MEN: ♪♪ TELL ME YOU LOVE ME ♪♪

PRIMA: ♪♪ HEY, MARIE ♪♪

MEN: ♪♪ HEY, MARIE ♪♪

PRIMA: ♪♪ COME HERE, SAM ♪♪

GUEVARA: AND THE ENERGY AND

IT JUST--EXCITING.

IT WAS NOTHING LIKE MEXICAN

TRADITIONAL MUSIC.

I WAS HOOKED.

[BAND PLAYING UPBEAT MUSIC]

I STILL APPRECIATED THE

TRADITIONAL MUSIC MY DAD

PLAYED, BUT I WANTED TO SWING.

I WANTED TO ROCK, MAN, YOU KNOW?

I MEAN, LET'S FACE IT.

I WAS MEXICAN AND AMERICAN.

♪♪

MAN: MEXICAN AMERICANS

LOOKED DOWN ON THE RECENTLY

ARRIVED IMMIGRANTS, AND THEN THE

PREJUDICE WENT THE OTHER WAY

WITH MEXICANS CALLING

MEXICAN-AMERICANS "POCHOS."

SOMEBODY WHO CAN'T SPEAK

SPANISH WELL.

SECOND MAN: "POCHO" WAS THE WORD

THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE FROM MY

GENERATION GREW UP WITH

AND IT'S VERY, VERY PEJORATIVE.

IT'S GARBAGE. TRASH.

AS I SIT HERE WONDERING, I'M

WONDERING WHICH WAS WORSE,

BEING CALLED A POCHO OR

A CHICANO.

I THINK THEY WERE BOTH OF THE

SAME NEGATIVITY.

THIRD MAN: IT WAS HARD TO FIND

VALIDATION.

SO, WHAT WE DID DO,

WE SELF-VALIDATED. WE HAD TO

WAIT TILL WE HAD

OUR OWN TEACHERS,

OUR OWN TEACHING AT OUR OWN

UNIVERSITIES, CHICANO STUDIES,

BEFORE WE COULD SELF-IDENTIFY.

FOURTH MAN: WE TOOK A CLASS

CALLED CHICANO THOUGHT:

MEXICAN-AMERICAN ROOTS

IN MEXICO.

SO, WE STARTED TO REALLY LEARN

THE HISTORY.

THE FACT THAT WE WERE POCHOS

AND WE TOOK ON THE WHOLE THING

OF--EVEN CHICANO WAS A POCHO.

AND THAT'S WHY WE TOOK IT ON.

WE TOOK ON THAT WORD BECAUSE

IT BOTHERED PEOPLE.

VALDEZ: YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THAT

RELATIVES BACK IN MEXICO,

THEY WERE LOOKING AT US AS

PEOPLE WHO ABANDONED THEM, WHO

GAVE UP ON THEIR CULTURE.

MAN: CHICANOS IN GENERAL SAID

IF WE'RE NOT COMPLETELY ACCEPTED

THERE IN MEXICO, AND WE'RE

CERTAINLY NOT COMPLETELY

ACCEPTED HERE IN THE

UNITED STATES,

THEN WHERE DO WE BELONG?

MAYBE WE BELONG EVERYWHERE.

["THE LONE RANGER" THEME PLAYS]

JAMES: YOU SURE THERE'S NO OTHER

CATCH TO THIS?

JIM: NO, THAT'S ALL.

ED SULLIVAN: 'CAUSE THESE

YOUNGSTERS FROM

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND.

MAN: WHY?

GUEVARA: WHEN MY GRANDPARENTS

GOT A TV,

I NOTICED THAT THERE WEREN'T ANY

MEXICANS ON TV. LATE FIFTIES,

ALONG COMES RITCHIE VALENS.

[PLAYING ROCK MUSIC]

VALDEZ: RITCHIE VALENS WAS LIKE

A SHOOTING STAR.

HE COMES OUT OF NOWHERE.

HE SHINES BRILLIANTLY FOR A

RELATIVELY BRIEF PERIOD OF TIME.

AND THEN HE'S GONE.

[VALENS SINGING "LA BAMBA"]

GUEVARA: HE HAD THIS BIG HIT

"LA BAMBA,"

AND IT WAS SUNG IN SPANISH.

IT WAS UNHEARD OF.

VALDEZ: ALL OF A SUDDEN,

YOU HAVE NOT JUST KIDS WHO GREW

UP LISTENING TO SPANISH, MAYBE

SPEAKING SPANISH, BUT YOU ALSO

HAVE THEIR FAIR-SKINNED

COUNTERPARTS WHO SUDDENLY ARE

JUST TOTALLY INTRIGUED BY THIS

SONG IN A LANGUAGE

THEY CAN'T UNDERSTAND.

BUT IT'S CERTAINLY SOMETHING

THAT THEY CAN DANCE TO.

IT'S GOT A RHYTHM.

GUEVARA: RITCHIE VALENS WAS

CALLED THE LITTLE RICHARD OF

THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY.

LITTLE RICHARD WAS MY IDOL, TOO.

THAT'S HOW I STARTED SINGING.

MAN: ♪♪ MY BELOVED ONE ♪♪

♪♪ MY BELOVED ONE ♪♪

MEN: ♪♪ MY BELOVED ONE ♪♪

♪♪ YOU WERE THE ONE, YOU... ♪♪

GUEVARA: I DECIDED I WANTED TO

FORM A DOO-WOP GROUP.

I PUT TOGETHER A GROUP IN HIGH

SCHOOL WITH MY BUDDY

PABLO AMARILLAS AND WE FORMED

THE APOLLO BROTHERS.

WE WERE DOING GIGS AROUND, YOU

KNOW, HIGH SCHOOL AND

DANCES, PARTIES.

AND LATER OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL,

WE GOT SIGNED TO A LABEL.

UNBELIEVABLE.

MAN: ♪♪ 'CAUSE THERE'S A

RIOT

THERE'S A RIOT

THERE'S A RIOT IN THE PARK

OH...THERE'S A RIOT

IN THE PARK

OHHH, OH... ♪♪

GUEVARA: AFTER WE RELEASED OUR

FIRST RECORD, WE STARTED

PERFORMING IN CONCERTS

ON THE RADIO, EVEN TV.

WE WEREN'T MAKING ANY MONEY,

BUT IT WAS PRETTY EXCITING FOR A

COUPLE OF 19-YEAR-OLDS

JUST OUT OF SCHOOL.

AFTER A COUPLE OF YEARS, THINGS

WEREN'T MOVING FORWARD FOR US,

SO, ME AND PABLO SPLIT UP,

BUT I KEPT ON SINGING SOLO.

AND AROUND THIS TIME, MY MOTHER

IS WORKING AS AN ACTRESS IN

HOLLYWOOD, AND

SHE WORKED WITH SOME PRETTY

BIG STARS, LIKE ANTHONY QUINN.

SO, SHE HAD SOME CONNECTIONS AND

SHE GOT ME AN AUDITION FOR

"SHINDIG!" WHICH IS THE HOTTEST

ROCK AND ROLL SHOW AROUND IN THE

MID-SIXTIES.

MAN: HOWDY-HI, SHINDIGGERS,

AND WELCOME AGAIN TO AMERICA'S

FIRST AND FAVORITE MUSICAL SHOW

OF ITS KIND--"SHINDIG!"

MAN: ♪♪ LET ME HEAR THE

CHOIR SING ♪♪

WOMAN: I SAW HIM ON--

WAS IT "SHINDIG!"?

I WAS LIKE, "THAT'S RUBEN?"

IT WAS WONDERFUL TO SEE.

GUEVARA: ♪♪...BUY HER A DIAMOND

RING

AND IF THAT DIAMOND RING

DON'T SHINE

HE'S GONNA TAKE IT

TO A PRIVATE EYE... ♪♪

SO, HERE I AM

ON "SHINDIG!"

WITH MY ROCK AND ROLL IDOL

BO DIDDLEY.

♪♪ CAN YOUR MONKEY DO THE DOG? ♪♪

WOMEN: ♪♪ DOO WOP ♪♪

GUEVARA: ♪♪ CAN YOUR MONKEY

DO THE DOG? ♪♪

WOMEN: ♪♪ DOO WOP ♪♪

GUEVARA: ♪♪ CAN YOUR MONKEY

DO THE DOG? ♪♪

WOMEN: ♪♪ DOO WOP ♪♪

GUEVARA: ♪♪ CAN YOUR MONKEY

DO THE DOG? ♪♪

WOMEN: ♪♪ DOO WOP ♪♪

GUEVARA: ♪♪ WELL, MY DOG

CAN MONKEY JUST LIKE YOU

CAN YOUR MONKEY DO THE DOG

LIKE I DO, LIKE I DO? ♪♪

IT WAS SURREAL. IT WAS GREAT.

BO DIDDLEY WAS GREAT.

WE SHARED OUR DRESSING ROOM

TOGETHER AND...

IT WAS COOL.

♪♪ WHOA, WHOA, YEAH ♪♪

♪♪ OW!...YEAH ♪♪

MARTINEZ: IN A PLACE LIKE L.A.,

WE ARE NOT NEARLY AS VISIBLE AS

WE NEED TO BE.

SO, THE WORK OF MAKING US

VISIBLE, THAT'S PART OF THE

MOVEMENT, AND RUBEN GUEVARA HAS

BEEN DOING THAT SINCE HE WAS A

KID ON THE SCENE

PLAYING "SHINDIG!"

WITH BO DIDDLEY.

BOJORQUEZ: RUBEN PUT OUR FACE

ON THE MUSIC WE WOULD SEE

ON TV, AND DON'T THINK

IT WASN'T NOTICED.

GUEVARA: THERE WAS JUST ONE

CATCH.

THEY WANTED ME TO CHANGE MY NAME

TO JAY P. MOBEY.

I DON'T KNOW. YOU KNOW, I DIDN'T

WANT TO CHANGE MY NAME, BUT I

FIGURED, HEY, RITCHIE VALENS WAS

RICARDO VALENZUELA.

SO, I BECAME JAY P. MOBEY.

ANNOUNCER: TONIGHT, "SHINDIG!"

PROUDLY PREDICTS STARDOM FOR A

GREAT NEW DISCOVERY--

MR. JAY P. MOBEY!

[CROWD SCREAMING]

GUEVARA: ♪♪ DON'T CRY NO MORE

WIPE AWAY YOUR TEARS

DON'T CRY NO MORE, BABY

WIPE AWAY YOUR TEARS

'CAUSE I KNOW, I KNOW

THAT LOVIN' FEELING

WHOA, YEAH ♪♪

I WAS TORN ABOUT IT, BUT I

WAS YOUNG AND I WANTED TO

MAKE A NAME FOR MYSELF.

I JUST NEVER IMAGINED I'D

HAVE TO DO IT WITH A MADE-UP

ONE.

I QUICKLY LEARNED ONE THING.

IN HOLLYWOOD,

YOU'RE A PRODUCT

AMD NOT A PERSON.

SOON AFTER THAT, THE SHOW WAS

CANCELLED, AND THANKFULLY,

SO WAS THAT STUPID NAME.

♪♪ ...DON'T YOU CRY

HEY, HEY, ALL RIGHT ♪♪

[CROWD SCREAMING]

MIYAMOTO: WE HAVE BEEN TOLD AND

WE HAVE FELT

THAT THE ONLY WAY WE WERE

GOING TO BE ACCEPTED

WAS TO BE AMERICAN.

SO, THE COLONIZATION OF PEOPLE

AND FEELING LIKE IF I ACT MORE

AMERICAN, IF I DRESS MORE

AMERICAN, IF I SPEAK MORE

AMERICAN,

I'M GOING TO BE ACCEPTED

AS AN AMERICAN,

I'M GOING TO HAVE MORE

OPPORTUNITIES BECAUSE I'M

AMERICAN.

♪♪

GUEVARA: I HEARD A FRANK ZAPPA

RECORD CALLED

"CRUISING WITH RUBEN & THE

JETS." AT FIRST,

IT KIND OF OFFENDED ME.

AND THEN I READ THE LINER NOTES

AND IT SAID, "THE PRESENT-DAY

PACHUCO REFUSES TO DIE!"

I THOUGHT, "HUH.

HOW DOES THIS GUY KNOW ABOUT

PACHUCOS?"

SO I WENT AND I CHECKED HIM OUT.

[ROCK MUSIC PLAYING]

I WENT TO THE CONCERT

AND THEN I GOT IT.

RUBEN AND THE JETS

WAS ROCK THEATER.

MAN: ♪♪ SHOOP SHOOP... ♪♪

ZAPPA: JUST BEAR IN MIND SOME OF

THE IMPORTANT THINGS THAT YOU

HAVE TO DISCUSS WITH THESE

PEOPLE.

ONE OF THEM MIGHT BE...

MAN: ♪♪ SHOOP SHOOP ♪♪

ZAPPA: MOTHERS.

MAN: ♪♪ AAH! ♪♪

ZAPPA: OTHERS.

MAN: ♪♪ AAH! ♪♪

GUEVARA: SO, I WAS IMPRESSED

AND I DECIDED I WANTED TO GO

BACKSTAGE AND CONGRATULATE HIM,

TO MEET HIM.

I WALK IN AND I TELL HIM, "HEY,

FRANK, THANK YOU FOR DOING

DOO-WOP, DOING ALL THIS CRAZY

ACID ROCK." AND I SAID, "BY THE

WAY, MY NAME IS RUBEN,

AND I USED TO SING A LITTLE

DOO-WOP BACK IN THE DAY.

HE JUST LOOKS AT ME AND SAYS,

"UH, RUBEN, HUH?"

MAN: AND WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THAT

WAS NOT, YOU KNOW,

HIM SAYING TO ZAPPA, LIKE,

"YOU'RE FAKE" OR

"YOU'RE APPROPRIATING."

IT WAS LIKE, "HEY, I SEE THAT

YOU LOVE THIS

AND YOU'RE MAKING THIS KIND OF

TRIBUTE, BUT I'M FROM THIS

CULTURE AND I KNOW THESE STREETS

AND I KNOW THIS MUSIC AND I KNOW

THESE PEOPLE.

WHY DON'T YOU LET ME BECOME

PART OF THAT PERFORMANCE?"

AND SO HE BECAME REALLY PART OF

A KIND OF--I SEE IT AS LIKE

AN EXTENDED ZAPPA PERFORMANCE

THAT THEN TOOK ON A LIFE OF ITS

OWN WHERE HIS MUSICAL CAREER

TOOK ON A NEW CHAPTER.

♪♪

WOMAN: WHEN I THINK ABOUT RUBEN

GUEVARA'S GROUP RUBEN AND THE

JETS, I REALLY HEAR

SOUL IN THERE.

IT'S ROCK, BUT IT'S ALSO GOT,

LIKE, DEFINITE SOUL INFLUENCES.

BOJORQUEZ: IT WASN'T DOO-WOP.

IT WAS ROCK AND ROLL.

IT WAS HIPPIE DOO-WOP.

IT WAS KIND OF LIKE SUMMER OF

LOVE DOO-WOP, YOU KNOW,

A MILLION SCARVES DOO-WOP.

YOU KNOW.

MEN: ♪♪ AND EVERYTHING WOULD

BE ALL RIGHT ♪♪

BOJORQUEZ: HE REPRESENTED THAT--

ALSO THAT CHICANO FREEDOM.

YOU KNOW, THAT NEW NEO-CHICANO.

GUEVARA: I PUT A BAND TOGETHER

AND STARTED WRITING SOME SONGS

WITH FRANK.

WE HAD SOME PRETTY BIG GIGS

WITH SOME PRETTY BIG NAMES

LIKE T. REX, THREE DOG NIGHT,

DOOBIE BROTHERS.

WE EVEN PLAYED ROYALS STADIUM.

KANSAS CITY. OVER 40,000 PEOPLE.

THAT WAS A TRIP.

BUT THERE WAS THIS ONE CLUB IN

NEW YORK, MAX'S, KANSAS CITY.

AND THE MARQUEE, IT READ BRUCE

SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E STREET

BAND, BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS,

AND RUBEN AND THE JETS.

NOT BAD COMPANY, MAN.

MAN: ♪♪ BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM ♪♪

♪♪ BOOM BOOM ♪♪

GUEVARA: SO, FRANK AND I WERE

WORKING ON THE SECOND ALBUM,

AND WE DECIDED TO CALL IT

"CON SAFOS."

"CON SAFOS" IS A TERM THAT

IS PART OF PACHUCO, CHICANO

GRAFFITI CULTURE,

AND IT MEANS "EXEMPT FROM

DANGER." AND IT WAS THE FIRST

ALBUM COVER BY A MAJOR RECORD

LABEL TO FEATURE

CHICANO GRAFFITI ART.

BOJORQUEZ: THE BIGGEST ART

THAT WAS HAPPENING AT THAT TIME

WAS ALBUM ART.

SO, I LIKED THE ALBUM COVERS.

KUN: EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS

RECORD. I MEAN, OBVIOUSLY,

THE SONGS ARE FANTASTIC.

YOU CAN REALLY HEAR THE,

YOU KNOW, THE DOO-WOP INFLUENCE,

THE EARLY R&B INFLUENCE.

YOU KNOW, THE COVER ART

IS SO IMPORTANT.

AGAIN, LIKE, POSITIONING HIM IN

PLACE, RIGHT? STANDING

UNDERNEATH THE SIGN OF SOTO.

AGAINST A WALL WHERE THERE'S

TAGS, RIGHT?

SO THAT THIS RECORD BECOMES

AN ADDITIONAL TAG.

THE SONGS BECOME KIND OF SONIC

TAGS ON THE WALL OF LOS ANGELES.

MIYAMOTO: HE WAS MAKING

DECISIONS ABOUT HOW HE

WANTED TO PRESENT HIMSELF.

EVEN THOUGH HE WANTED TO PUSH

AHEAD WITHIN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY,

THAT TAKES A KIND OF,

YOU KNOW, CULTURAL BRAVERY.

♪♪

MAN: HEY, FELLAS,

YOU WANNA GO CRUISING?

MEN: YEAH.

MAN: COME ON, COME ON!

♪♪ I GOT A '52 CHEVY WITH... ♪♪

MARTINEZ: IT'S A HOLISTIC WAY OF

LOOKING AT LIFE AND ART,

THAT IT'S ALL A PERFORMANCE.

YOU'RE ALWAYS ON STAGE.

THAT'S BEEN HIS PROJECT, PUTTING

US ON THE MAP AND TRACING THE

CONTOURS ON THAT MAP AND SHOWING

US WHO WE ARE TO OURSELVES

AND TO THE REST OF THE WORLD.

MEN: ♪♪ AH AH AH AH ♪♪

♪♪ AH AH AH AH ♪♪

GUEVARA: SO, DURING THIS TIME,

THERE'S PROBLEMS WITH THE BAND.

THEY JUST WEREN'T GETTING

THE IDEA OF ROCK THEATER.

SO, THE JETS WERE STARTING TO

IMPLODE NOW, AND OUR MANAGER

TELLS ME THAT--THAT THEY'RE

BANNED FROM EVERY HOLIDAY INN

IN THE COUNTRY.

THINGS WERE STARTING TO FALL

APART.

AND THE JETS CRASHED AND BURNED.

[MEN SINGING DOO-WOP]

MAN: ♪♪ CHEER UP

TO LOVE ♪♪

MEN: ♪♪ AH AH AH AH ♪♪

MAN: ♪♪ AND TO BE LOVED FOREVER ♪♪

MEN: ♪♪ AH AH ♪♪

♪♪

GUEVARA: SO, AFTER THAT, I

DECIDED I WANTED TO GO BACK TO

SCHOOL AND CONTINUE WITH

EXPERIMENTAL THEATER,

BUT THIS TIME, TALK ABOUT

THE MEXICAN-AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.

I TOOK SOME CHICANO STUDIES

CLASSES AND I WANTED TO SEE

FIRSTHAND THE PRE-COLUMBIAN

MAYAN RUINS.

MY MISSION WAS TO RECONNECT

WITH MY MEXICAN ANCESTRY.

I SOLD MY CAR AND TOOK A TRAIN

TO GUADALAJARA.

I WANTED TO GO CHECK OUT THE

ANCIENT RUINS OF PALENQUE

AND CHIAPAS.

I WAS LOOKING FOR THE BUS

STATION, AND

I ASKED THIS OLDER GENTLEMAN IN

THE STREET FOR DIRECTIONS.

HE ASKED ME WHERE I'M FROM.

I SAY, "LOS ANGELES."

HE LOOKS AT ME LIKE

I'M SOME KIND OF LOWLIFE

AND SAYS, "OH, YOU'RE ONE OF

THOSE AMERICAN POCHOS."

I TELL HIM, "NO, I'M CHICANO."

HE SAYS, "EVEN WORSE.

CHICANOS DON'T HAVE A CULTURE.

THEY'RE MONGRELS."

I WAS SO SHOCKED.

I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY.

[DOG WHIMPERS]

♪♪

VALDEZ: THERE'S ALWAYS BEEN

MIXED DESCRIPTIONS ABOUT

THE ORIGINS OF THE WORD

"CHICANO." THERE'S ALWAYS BEEN

MIXED OPINIONS ABOUT WHAT IT

REALLY MEANS.

WHEN I WAS A KID,

THE TERM "CHICANO"

WAS NOT VERY FAVORABLE.

IT'S NOT THAT YOUR MOTHER WOULD

SAY, "AH, YOU DIRTY CHICANO."

IT'S JUST--IT WAS JUST A WORD

THAT DIDN'T COME INTO

THE CULTURE.

MARTINEZ: RUBEN GUEVARA COMES

INTO CHICANO, CHICANA ART

HISTORY MAKING

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE

MOVEMENT, THE CHICANO, CHICANA

MOVEMENT, AND ONE OF THE MAIN

POINTS OF TENSION AT THAT TIME

WAS BETWEEN WHAT WE CALL

CULTURAL NATIONALISM AND A MORE

ANTI-NATIONALIST HYBRID VIEW OF

HISTORY AND CULTURE, AND RUBEN

GUEVARA CAPTURED THE SPIRIT OF

THAT ACROSS THE

SPAN OF HIS CAREER.

♪♪

GUEVARA: IN 1971, I TAKE A

TRIP TO SAN FRANCISCO

AND I CAUGHT THIS THEATER PIECE.

IT WAS A MISHMASH OF

THEATER, MUSIC, DANCE,

ALL THESE DIFFERENT ELEMENTS ALL

MIXED TOGETHER.

THAT SPARKED AN IDEA.

SO, THAT IDEA EVOLVED INTO MY

FIRST PERFORMANCE THEATER PIECE.

IT WAS CALLED "WHO ARE

THE PEOPLE!"

A GOSPEL ROCK CANTATA.

AND I WROTE IT AS A

ANTI-VIETNAM WAR STATEMENT.

MIYAMOTO: SO, WE WERE FIGHTING A

WAR THAT REALLY DIDN'T SERVE US,

AND THEN WE WERE HEARING THE

SOUNDS AND MUSIC OF,

YOU KNOW, "WHAT'S GOING ON?

WHAT'S GOING ON?

WHAT'S GOING ON?"

AND THAT REALLY STIRS THE

IMAGINATION OF THE ARTIST

IN PEOPLE, YOU KNOW. I'M SAYING,

"WHAT CAN I SAY TO ADD TO THAT?"

GUEVARA: IT HAD A MESSAGE.

I CALLED IT KIND OF LIKE

PRIMAL THEATER.

AND IT GOT GREAT REVIEWS.

I DECIDED THIS WAS THE

DIRECTION I WANTED TO GO IN.

MAN: CHICANO CULTURE IS A VERY

WIDESPREAD CULTURE THAT HAS A

LOT OF DIFFERENT PARTS IN THERE.

YOU CAN'T DESCRIBE IT IN ONE

BREATH OR EVEN ONE SENTENCE OR

IN ONE DAY OR A MONTH OR A YEAR

BECAUSE IT KEEPS CHANGING.

THAT IS THE ESSENCE OF CHICANO

CULTURE. IT TAKES WHATEVER IS

PUT IN FRONT OF IT AND

INCORPORATES IT INTO THEIR--

THEIR DEFINITION.

VALDEZ: I THINK THAT BEING A

CHICANO HAS GOT TO BE AN OPTION.

IT'S GOT TO BE SEEN AS A CHOICE,

NOT AS SOMETHING THAT YOU'RE

STUCK WITH FOR ALL ETERNITY.

I DON'T FEEL LIKE I'M BETRAYING

MY LATINO ROOTS IF I'M ABLE TO

GO OUT AND HAVE SOME FRENCH

COFFEE OR TO EAT SUSHI OR TO

HAVE CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS.

WHY SHOULD I DENY ALL OF THESE

WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITIES IN LIFE

BECAUSE I IDENTIFY MYSELF AS

CHICANO, LATINO, WHATEVER YOU

WANT TO CALL IT?

BAG: TO BE A CHICANA, FOR ME

THAT'S KNOWING THAT MY LANGUAGE

IS VALID, THAT IT'S BEAUTIFUL.

TO SPEAK SPANISH IN THE UNITED

STATES IS NORMAL BECAUSE WE WERE

PART, LIKE, ESPECIALLY HERE,

THIS WAS PART OF MEXICO, AND WE

SPOKE SPANISH BEFORE YOU ALL

CAME OVER HERE.

SO, FEELING LIKE MY PLACE IN THE

UNITED STATES IS NOT ONLY VALID

BUT FOR YOU TO DENY IT IS YOU

DENYING YOUR OWN HISTORY.

GUEVARA: COUPLE OF DAYS AFTER MY

ENCOUNTER WITH THAT OLD GUY IN

GUADALAJARA,

I MADE IT OVER TO PALENQUE.

MAN, THAT PLACE REALLY

BLEW MY MIND.

I FELT THIS INTENSE CONNECTION

WITH MY ANCESTORS.

A JOURNEY IN MY FAMILY,

ALL LEADING UP TO MY LIFE

AT THAT MOMENT.

I DECIDED TO CLIMB THE TEMPLE OF

THE INSCRIPTIONS.

AND AS I'M CLIMBING, ALL THESE

QUESTIONS START COMING UP IN MY

HEAD LIKE, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO

BE A CHICANO ARTIST?

HOW CAN I MAKE A DIFFERENCE

WITH MY WORK?

WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING

WITH MY LIFE?

THEN I KIND OF HAD THIS

EPIPHANY.

A CHICANO ARTIST WOULD BE

SOMEONE WHO USES CREATIVITY TO

CONTRIBUTE TO THEIR CULTURE

AND HELP SHAPE IT,

KIND OF LIKE A SCULPTOR. HUH!

THAT'S WHEN I KNEW. I KNEW WHAT

I WAS GONNA DO

AND I KNEW WHAT I WAS.

A CHICANO CULTURE SCULPTOR.

SO, I COME BACK TO L.A. AND I

CREATE MY FIRST PIECE OF

CHICANO SCULPTURE--

THE SONG POEM "C/S."

IT'S AN ABBREVIATION FOR

"CON SAFOS."

AND I ADDRESS THE RACISM THAT

WAS EXPERIENCED BY MEXICAN-

AMERICANS AND JAPANESE-AMERICANS

DURING THE FORTIES.

L.A.

[DRUM BEATING RHYTHMICALLY]

MY CITY OF THE ANGELS.

WE CAME TO WORK YOUR

FIELDS OF PLENTY.

WE MADE YOU RICH.

YOU PAID US PENNIES.

WE LAID YOUR RAILROAD OVER

TRAILS THAT ONCE WERE OURS.

WE TAUGHT YOU HOW TO MINE YOUR

GOLD, ROPE YOUR CATTLE,

AND IRRIGATE YOUR LAND.

WAIT A MINUTE. YOUR LAND?

"CON SAFOS." WHAT'S THAT

STRANGE WRITING ON THE WALLS

OF L.A.?

CON SAFOS.

WON'T YOU LISTEN TO WHAT THE

WALLS HAVE TO SAY, L.A.?

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING IS,

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

HEY, LONG LIVE L.A.

[SNAP]

♪♪

KUN: WHENEVER I, LIKE, THINK

ABOUT THE GREATEST L.A. SONGS,

AND PEOPLE ARE LIKE, YOU KNOW,

"IF YOU COULD PUT TOGETHER YOUR

TOP 20, YOU KNOW,

MOST IMPORTANT SONGS ABOUT LOS

ANGELES?" "CON SAFOS"

IS ALWAYS ON THAT LIST.

TO ME, THAT IS JUST A

QUINTESSENTIAL LOS ANGELES SONG,

AND IT'S QUINTESSENTIAL ON THE

ONE HAND BECAUSE IT WAS SUCH AN

IMPORTANT PIECE OF THE CHICANO

MOVEMENT. IT WAS SUCH AN

IMPORTANT COMMENTARY ON THE

HISTORY OF LOS ANGELES AS A

MEXICAN CITY.

IT'S QUINTESSENTIAL ALSO BECAUSE

IT'S A SONG ABOUT

MARKING UP THE CITY.

I MEAN, "CON SAFOS" AS A TAG,

RIGHT, AS A WALL TAG OF SAYING,

"WE ARE HERE." SO, I SEE THAT--

THE SONG ALMOST AS A KIND OF

MUSICAL TAG, AS A SONIC TAG OF

SAYING, "I'M GONNA LEAVE MY

MARK ON THIS CITY." YOU KNOW,

BECAUSE IT'S BASICALLY, IT'S

JUST LIKE A HISTORY LESSON, AND

IT'S JUST LIKE, "LET ME TELL YOU

THE HISTORY OF CHICANOS.

LET ME TELL YOU THE HISTORY OF

CONQUEST AND LET ME TELL YOU

THE HISTORY OF COLONIZATION.

LET ME TELL YOU THE HISTORY OF

INDIGENOUS LIFE AND HOW IT

RELATES TO MEXICO AND HOW THAT

RELATES TO LOS ANGELES.

AND I'M GOING TO DO THAT IN THE

STYLE OF THE SPOKEN WORD POET

BUT ALSO IN THE STYLE OF THE

DOO-WOP SINGER BUT ALSO IN THE

STYLE OF, LIKE, LITTLE RICHARD,

AND YOU'RE NEVER GONNA GET

BORED, AND IT'S GONNA BE

DOGMATIC BUT IT'S ALSO

GONNA BE POETIC."

MARIN: "CON SAFOS" IS A C/S.

CON SAFOS WITH SAFOS,

WHATEVER THE

INTERPRETATION OF SAFOS MEANS.

IT MEANS NO BOUNDSIES.

YOU CAN'T--YOU CAN'T CROSS THIS

OUT, BECAUSE IF YOU DO,

EVERYBODY WHO'S IN THE CON SAFOS

SIDE IS GONNA

TALK TO YOU ABOUT IT. YOU KNOW.

BOJORQUEZ: THAT WAS SOMETHING

THAT BELONGED TO US.

IT WAS SOMETHING YOU PUT ON

YOUR GRAFFITI.

"CON SAFOS" MEANS ANYTHING

YOU DO TO THIS WORLD,

WE'RE GONNA DO TO YOU.

SO, DO NOT TOUCH THIS WORLD.

THIS IS OURS. YOU DO NOT BELONG

HERE. THIS IS OUR TERRITORY.

GUEVARA: VIVA LOS ANGELES!

VIVA MI TIERRA!

HEY. LONG LIVE L.A.

♪♪

GUEVARA: ♪♪ DEBO BOM, BOM, BOM

BOM, BOM, BOM, BA-BA-BA

BER-BER-BER, BER-BER-BER...

WHOA, SAY, CAN YOU SEE

BY THE DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT... ♪♪

I COME BACK FROM MEXICO AND I'M

WORKING IN THIS RECORD

DISTRIBUTOR DOWNTOWN,

AND RICHARD FOOS COMES IN.

HE HAD A RECORD STORE HE WAS

STARTING UP CALLED RHINO

RECORDS, AND HE WAS ALSO

STARTING UP A LABEL. HE KNEW

ABOUT MY BACKGROUND, THAT I WAS

WITH THE JETS,

SO, HE ASKED ME IF I WOULD

RECORD A DOO-WOP VERSION OF

THE "STAR-SPANGLED BANNER"

AND "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL"

FOR THE U.S. BICENTENNIAL.

FOOS: RUBEN AND I FIRST MET

IN 1976.

I HAD JUST STARTED MY RECORD

LABEL. I HAD A RECORD STORE.

FOR OUR SECOND RECORD,

I WANTED TO DO A DOO-WOP VERSION

OF "THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER."

IT WAS THE BICENTENNIAL

AND KIND OF WANTED TO POKE

GOOD-NATURED FUN

AT THE SERIOUSNESS OF OUR

NATIONAL ANTHEM.

GUEVARA: AND I THOUGHT, "YEAH,

THAT'D BE GREAT."

TO TURN THOSE ANTHEMS INTO A

PARODY, YOU KNOW, KIND OF

CHICANOIZE THEM.

I SAID, "YEAH, LET'S DO IT."

♪♪ ...DOES THAT STAR-SPANGLED

BANNER YET WAVE ♪♪

AND IT WAS THE LAST DOO-WOP

RECORD BY LATINOS

EVER RECORDED IN L.A.

FORGET ABOUT THAT.

MEN: ♪♪ AND THE HOME

OF THE... ♪♪

♪♪ DEBO BOM BOM BOM

BOM BOM BOM, BA-BA-BA-BER

BER-BER, BER-BER-BER... ♪♪

SECOND MAN: ♪♪ WHOA, SAY

DOES THAT STAR-SPANGLED

BANNER... ♪♪

[FIREWORKS EXPLODING]

[MARIN SINGING INDISTINCTLY]

WE'RE GONNA HAVE A BAD BAND.

WE HAD 'EM EATING RIGHT OUT

OF THEIR HANDS.

AH, WE'RE GONNA BE BIG, MAN.

REALLY BIG. BE BIGGER THAN

RUBEN AND THE JETS, MAN,

I BETCHA. SHOOT.

GUEVARA: SO, AROUND THIS TIME,

CHEECH AND CHONG ARE

THE HOTTEST COMIC DUO AROUND.

AND SOMEHOW, "THE STAR-SPANGLED

BANNER" RECORD GOT INTO THE

HANDS OF LOU ADLER,

THEIR MANAGER.

AND I'M SET UP FOR AN AUDITION

FOR HIS NEW MOVIE

"UP IN SMOKE."

["LOW RIDER" BY WAR PLAYING]

MARIN: RUBEN WAS, SINCE I MET

HIM, WE WERE KIND OF BUDDIES,

YOU KNOW, WE HUNG AROUND.

WE HAD THE SAME KIND OF

BACKGROUND AND MUSIC AND L.A.

WE UNDERSTAND THE WHOLE CHICANO

THING, SO, WE STARTED HANGING.

VALADEZ: I WOULD LAUGH WHEN I

WOULD SEE HIM

IN SOME OF THE EARLY CHEECH AND

CHONG FILM.

YOU CAN HARDLY RECOGNIZE HIM.

MAN: HERE'S [INDISTINCT].

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

GUEVARA: BUT FOR THE AUDITION,

I'M IN THE BACK SEAT OF A CAR

WITH TOMMY AND CHEECH AND

HAD TO IMPROVISE WITH THEM.

THE HARDEST PART WAS NOT

CRACKING UP, MAN,

I'LL BE TELLING YOU,

BUT I GOT THE GIG,

AS A BACKUP MUSICIAN

IN THEIR BAND.

[UPBEAT MUSIC PLAYING]

MAN: ♪♪ MY DADDY, HE DISOWNED ME

'CAUSE I WEAR MY SISTER'S

CLOTHES

HE CAUGHT ME IN THE BATHROOM

WITH A PAIR OF PANTYHOSE ♪♪

GUEVARA: IT WAS A BALL,

AND TO SEE A CHICANO

AND A CHINESE COLLABORATING

AND MAKING IT WORK, YOU KNOW,

TALKING ABOUT CHICANO ISSUES,

YOU KNOW, I MEAN,

ALL THE COMEDY AROUND THAT,

NOBODY WAS DOING THAT.

MARIN: ♪♪ MEXICAN-AMERICANS

LOVE THEIR NA-NAS AND THEIR

NO-NOS

AND THEIR NEE-NAS

AND THEIR NEE-NOS

NA-NU-NA-NU-NEE-NA-NO-NO ♪♪

BOJORQUEZ: WE JUST SAW THE HUMOR

IN IT.

YOU HAVE TO SEE, REALIZE,

MEXICANS HAVE A LOT OF HUMOR

IN THEIR PAIN AND EVERYTHING

ELSE. THEY'LL FLIP IT INTO

SOMETHING FUNNY.

GUEVARA: MAN, WORKING ON THAT

FILM, IT WAS TOUGH

NOT CRACKING UP DURING TAKES.

JUST HAD TO REALLY BE QUIET.

BUT MAN, THEY WERE FUNNY.

FUNNY. CRAZY LOCOS, MAN.

CRAZY LOCOS.

♪♪

MAN: ♪♪ AND TAKE A LITTLE TRIP

WITH CHEECH AND CHONG ♪♪

WOMAN: ♪♪ AHH ♪♪

MAN: ♪♪ WE'LL TAKE YOU ON A

MAGIC RIDE ♪♪

WOMAN: ♪♪ AHH ♪♪

GUEVARA: WE GOT A CHANCE TO WORK

ON THE FILM "NICE DREAMS."

I WROTE THE TITLE SONG FOR IT.

♪♪ HEY, BABY, WON'T YOU

COME ALONG

AND TAKE A TRIP WITH

CHEECH AND CHONG? ♪♪

THAT WAS A GAS, MAN.

THAT WAS A TRIP.

AND FINALLY, THESE GUYS ARE

GIVING ME A CHANCE TO WRITE

MUSIC FOR FILM.

FANTASTIC.

BUT THEN, HAH,

CHEECH AND CHONG BREAK UP.

THAT'S HOLLYWOOD.

OH, WELL. BACK TO MAKING ART.

THE SECOND ACT OF SUBJUGATION,

OF AN ILLUSION.

100 YEARS LATER, ZAPATA AND

VILLA FOUGHT FOR LAND FOR US.

AND FOR A SHORT WHILE,

WE HAD IT.

AGAIN, AN ILLUSION.

I ESCAPED MY OWN SACRIFICE.

WE DIDN'T ALL SANCTION IT.

AND BESIDES, IT'S A GREAT

EXAGGERATION.

NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF WILD ART

PROJECTS I'D GET INVOLVED WITH,

I'D ALWAYS COME BACK TO MUSIC.

I WANTED TO START A LABEL

FEATURING CHICANO ROCK--

PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE.

SO, I PUT TOGETHER A BILL CALLED

THE EASTSIDE REVUE THAT

INCLUDED UP-AND-COMING LOS

LOBOS, SIXTIES LEGENDS CANNIBAL

AND THE HEADHUNTERS, AND A

COUPLE MEMBERS OF

RUBEN AND THE JETS.

I WAS BACKED UP BY MY BAND

CON SAFOS.

PEREZ: IT WAS AN INCREDIBLE

EVENING. YOU KNOW, I WENT OUT

THERE. I KNEW THE MUSICIANS

THAT HE HAD PUT TOGETHER.

AND, OF COURSE, RUBEN IN HIS OWN

UNIQUE WAY WAS ABLE TO

PUT ALL THOSE MUSICIANS TOGETHER

AND PLAY THIS MUSIC THAT WAS

JUST KIND OF UNIQUELY HIS OWN.

GUEVARA: WE SOLD OUT 2 SHOWS,

AND THERE WAS A BUZZ GOING

AROUND.

I DECIDED TO TALK TO RICHARD

ABOUT STARTING UP A LABEL.

FOOS: I THINK AT THAT POINT,

THERE REALLY WEREN'T ANY

LATINO MUSIC-FOCUSED

RECORD LABELS, SO,

WE WERE HOPING TO BE ONE

AND REALLY DO BOTH--BOTH LOOK

BACKWARDS IN THE PAST

AND DO COMPILATIONS.

AND THEN, YOU KNOW, NEW ARTISTS

AND EVEN SIGN SOME NEW ARTISTS.

GUEVARA: SO, WE FORMED A LABEL

CALLED ZYANYA AND

WE PUT TOGETHER 3

COMPILATIONS. "LOS ANGELINOS,"

"THE EAST SIDE RENAISSANCE,"

"BEST OF THEE MIDNITERS," AND A

COMPILATION THAT INCLUDED

AN ARRAY OF ARTISTS FROM THE

SIXTIES AND FIFTIES.

IT'S CALLED

"HISTORY OF LATINO ROCK."

KUN: FOR ME AS A RESEARCHER AND

WRITER AND FAN,

THOSE COMPILATIONS WERE WINDOWS

INTO HISTORIES THAT I PERSONALLY

HAD NO KNOWLEDGE OF.

SO, I SEE HIS COMPILATION WORK

REALLY AS--IN A KIND OF

CURATORIAL SPIRIT, BUT REALLY IN

AN ARCHIVAL SPIRIT, THAT HE WAS

DOCUMENTING LAYERS OF LOS

ANGELES MUSIC HISTORY THAT

BEFORE THEN--I WOULDN'T SAY

HAD BEEN ERASED,

BUT THEY HAD BEEN IGNORED

OR CERTAINLY MARGINALIZED.

MAN: FOR ME, THE STORY OF RUBEN

IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE WE

CAN LEARN FROM THAT EXPERIENCE

AND WE CAN TAKE THAT EXPERIENCE

AND UTILIZE IT TO

CONTINUE TO GROW,

CONTINUE TO HEAL.

MARIN: HEY, ARE YOU ONE OF THOSE

DUDES THAT DO HOROSCOPES, MAN?

HEY, I'M A CANCER WITH A BAD

MOON RISING.

MAN: LOOK HERE, EL VAGO,

WATCH MY LIPS.

WHERE WERE YOU BORN?

MARIN: ♪♪ I WAS BORN

IN EAST L.A., MAN, I WAS

BORN IN EAST L.A. ♪♪

GUEVARA: SO AROUND THE MID-

TO LATE EIGHTIES,

CHEECH MAKES HIS OWN MOVIE--

"BORN IN EAST L.A."

MARIN: WAAS SAPPENING? YEAH.

ALL: WAAS SAPPENING?

THAT'S IT! YOU GOT IT!

[ALL TALKING AT ONCE]

MARIN: ALL RIGHT, [INDISTINCT],

WAAS SAPPENING?

[ALL TALKING AT ONCE]

GUEVARA: I'M BROUGHT ON AS A

CULTURAL CONSULTANT.

AND MY SCREEN CREDIT IS

"EAST L.A. CULTURAL ATTACHE."

I HELPED THEM FIND LOCATIONS IN

EAST L.A. AND I PRODUCED SOME

MUSIC FOR THE SOUNDTRACK,

AND I HAD A SMALL PART

IN THE MOVIE.

MAN: HEY, MIGUEL, PUERTA, HUH?

THIS TIME, WHY DON'T YOU TRY

SOME ENGLISH OUT THERE.

MIGUEL: HEY, TRY SOME SPANISH.

[INDISTINCT]

SAY, WHAT'S HAPPENING, BRO?

YEAH, COME ON IN, YEAH!

COME ON IN.

ALL RIGHT...

MARIN: YEAH. YEAH,

THAT'S WHO YOU ARE. YOU'RE A

EAST L.A. CULTURAL ATTACHE.

AND HE KNEW EXACTLY WHAT

THAT MEANT AND EVERYBODY THAT

HEARD IT KNEW EXACTLY

WHAT IT MEANT.

OH, YEAH, THEY HAVE--

I WANT TO BE A CULTURAL ATTACHE.

YOU KNOW, WHAT SCHOOL DO YOU GO

TO FOR THAT, YOU KNOW?

THE SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS,

HOMES. HA HA! YOU KNOW?

AND--BUT IT REALLY DESCRIBES

HIM BECAUSE HE INFORMS THAT

POSITION WITH A LOT OF

EXPERIENCE IN A LOT OF

DIFFERENT AREAS, BOTH

STREETWISE AND

INSTITUTIONALWISE.

BUT HE IS A EAST L.A.

CULTURAL ATTACHE.

AND EAST L.A. HAS A LARGER

SENSE, A LARGER UNDERSTANDING

NOW THAN WHEN HE SAID IT

IN THOSE DAYS.

GUEVARA: WHEN I FIRST SAW THE

FILM AND THERE'S THAT--THAT

SCENE WHERE THE MEXICAN

IMMIGRANTS ARE RUSHING THE

BORDER, WHEW.

REMIND ME OF CECIL B. DeMILLE

OR SOMETHING, YOU KNOW?

[ALL SCREAMING]

NEIL DIAMOND: ♪♪ EVERY TIME THAT

FLAG'S UNFURLED

THEY COMIN' TO... ♪♪

MAN: [INDISTINCT] WAKE UP!

DIAMOND: ♪♪ GOT A DREAM TO... ♪♪

GUEVARA: IT REALLY HIT HOME.

I THOUGHT OF MY OWN FAMILY

COMING UP HERE...

CROSSING THAT BORDER...

MAKING IT TO THE U.S.

YEAH, I BROKE DOWN

WHEN I SAW THAT SCENE.

DIAMOND: ♪♪ THEY'RE COMING

TO AMERICA ♪♪

GUEVARA: CHEECH ASKED ME TO

JOIN HIM ON A PROMOTIONAL

TOUR FOR THE MOVIE IN MEXICO.

MAN, I WASN'T SURE HOW A MOVIE

MADE BY A POCHO WOULD GO OVER

THERE. THE NIGHT BEFORE

THE PRESS CONFERENCE AND

SCREENING,

I WANTED TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

I STAYED UP ALL NIGHT WRITING IT

AND THAT GUY ON THE STREET

CORNER IN GUADALAJARA,

IN A FUNNY WAY, HE HELPED ME

WRITE IT.

SO, ME AND CHEECH ARE

SITTING AT THIS PRESS CONFERENCE

TABLE, AND I HAVE NO IDEA IF

PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO HEAR WHAT

I HAVE TO SAY, BUT I

START TO READ MY STATEMENT.

[SPEAKING SPANISH],

I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE

RENAISSANCE OF CHICANO CULTURE.

CHICANO, NOT HISPANIC, NOT

LATINO, NOT POCHO, AS WE ARE

KNOWN TO SOME OF YOU.

WE ARE MESTIZOS, A POWERFUL MIX

OF DIFFERENT BLOODLINES, FROM

SPANISH TO ARABIC TO AFRICAN

TO ASIAN TO INDIGENOUS.

NOW, WITH ALL DUE RESPECT,

THERE'S BEEN A LONG

MISUNDERSTANDING AND LACK OF

RESPECT FOR CHICANOS,

YOUR CHILDREN TO THE NORTH.

WE'VE BEEN CALLED MONGRELS

WITHOUT A CULTURE, TRAITORS

BECAUSE WE LEFT MEXICO.

BUT IT WAS THE REVOLUTION THAT

FORCED MY GRANDPARENTS TO THE

U.S.,

AND WE HAVE NEVER CUT OUR ROOTS

WITH YOU.

AND AS FOR NOT HAVING A CULTURE,

WELL, I HAVE NEWS FOR YOU.

WE'VE BEEN BUSY.

WE NOW HAVE INTERNATIONALLY

RECOGNIZED ARTISTS, INCLUDING

PAINTERS LIKE MARGARET GARCIA,

BARBARA CARRASCO, WAYNE HEALY,

AND JUDITHE HERNANDEZ.

WRITERS AND POETS LIKE

CHERRIE MORAGA, RUDOLFO ANAYA,

GLORIA ANZALDUA.

WE HAVE MUSICIANS, AMONG THEM

LALO GUERRERO, CARLOS SANTANA,

AND LOS LOBOS. THEATER AND FILM

ARTISTS LIKE LUIS VALDEZ,

EVELINA FERNANDEZ,

EDWARD JAMES OLMOS, AND NOW

CHEECH MARIN WITH HIS NEW MOVIE

"BORN IN EAST L.A."

THE FACT IS, CHICANOS HAVE

CREATED A MAGNIFICENT AND VITAL

CULTURE.

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

WHEN I FINISHED, THE WHOLE ROOM

ERUPTED IN APPLAUSE.

PEOPLE EVEN STOOD UP.

I GUESS THEY HEARD ME.

VALDEZ: RUBEN FUNKAHUATL

GUEVARA, HE FOLLOWS

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF

OTHER GREAT MEXICAN ARTISTS.

WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR THIS

COUNTRY WITH THIS CULTURE,

BY OPENING IT UP,

MAKING PEOPLE AWARE OF THE

MUSIC THAT HAS COME OUT OF THIS

CULTURE, HE ABSOLUTELY

OPENED DOORS, OPENED PATHWAYS,

OPENED OPPORTUNITIES.

MARIN: RUBEN WILL BE NOTED AS--

REMEMBERED AS A PIONEER BECAUSE

HE KEPT PUSHING THE LINE, YOU

KNOW, FROM HOW DOES AN R&B

SINGER GET TO BE

A CULTURAL AVATAR, YOU KNOW,

AND THAT'S WHAT HE HAS DONE,

YOU KNOW, THROUGH A PROCESS OF

REDEFINING HOW TO

SAY THAT MESSAGE

AND WHAT THAT MESSAGE IS AND HOW

THAT MESSAGE KEEPS TRANSFORMING.

GUEVARA: I'VE ALWAYS HAD A LOT

TO SAY AND I'VE TRIED TO SAY IT

THROUGH DIFFERENT ART FORMS,

WHETHER IT'S MUSIC, POETRY,

THEATER OR VIDEO ART.

WHAT GREATER ATROCITY?

THE AZTEC PRIEST OFFERING A

HEART FOR LIFE OR THE

CONQUISTADOR MULTINATIONAL

CORPORATION

RIPPING OUT THE SOUL BUT

LEAVING THE HEART

SO THE INDIAN BEAST CAN WORK?

DISORIENT THE PSYCHE.

EMPOWERS THE WEAPON OF EMPIRE.

LANGUAGE.

YOUR NAME IS INDIAN BEAST.

YOU BELONG TO ME.

DRINK, NOT TOO MUCH.

EAT, NOT TOO MUCH.

[INDISTINCT] AS MUCH AS YOU

WANT.

SLEEP, BUT NOT TOO MUCH.

REMEMBER, WORK EQUALS MANHOOD.

LIKE I SAID, I ALWAYS COME BACK

TO MY ROOTS AS AN ARTIST,

AND THAT'S IN MUSIC.

PEREZ: RUBEN IS A VERY VITAL

LINK IN THE EVOLUTION OF

CHICANO MUSIC.

YOU GO WAY BACK TO DON TOSTI.

YOU THINK OF LALO GUERRERO.

RUBEN CAN ADVANCE OUR

CONVERSATION. HE BROUGHT IN FUNK

AND ROCK AND ROLL AND HIS OWN

UNIQUE HYBRID OF THAT MIXTURE OF

THE CHICANO EXPERIENCE AND

RHYTHM AND BLUES.

♪♪

FOOS: SO, WITH RHINO AND MY

LABEL ZYANYA, WE PUT OUT

AN ALBUM, CD COMPILATION,

CALLED "RECONQUISTA!

THE LATIN ROCK INVASION."

AND IT FEATURED BANDS FROM

MEXICO, SOUTH AMERICA, SPAIN,

AND PAIS VASCO.

I THINK THE KIDS IN MEXICO WERE

EMBRACING CHICANO CULTURE.

I KNOW ROCCO, THE LEAD SINGER,

WAS.

♪♪

[ROCCO SINGING IN SPANISH]

[CROWD CHEERING]

KUN: "RECONQUISTA."

THAT WAS ONE OF

THE FIRST, IF NOT THE FIRST,

COMPILATIONS IN THE UNITED

STATES OF SPANISH-LANGUAGE

ROCK MUSIC.

THIS ISN'T, YOU KNOW, A PRETTY

VAST MUSICAL LANDSCAPE, AND

"RECONQUISTA!" IS A, YOU KNOW,

IT'S A SINGLE-DISC COMPILATION

THAT KIND OF CHERRY-PICKED

KEY ARTISTS AND KEY SONGS,

BUT THE WAY THAT RUBEN

CHERRY-PICKED WAS TO

FIGURE OUT, LIKE, WHAT'S THIS

THREAD OF KIND OF REVOLUTION,

LIBERATION, PROTEST, STRUGGLE,

AND A RECONQUEST OF THE AMERICAS

WITHOUT CALLING ITSELF THAT.

IT WAS A DECOLONIZING RECORD.

MARTINEZ: THEN THE NINETIES

ARRIVE, AND THERE'S THAT

INDIGENOUS UPRISING IN CHIAPAS,

AND SOMETHING HAPPENS ON BOTH

SIDES OF THE BORDER.

THE CHICANOS--AND CHICANOS

ARE LOOKING SOUTH AGAIN. THEY'RE

LOOKING FOR INDIGENOUS, YOU

KNOW, AUTHENTICITY, AND PEOPLE

IN MEXICO CITY IN PARTICULAR

ARE LOOKING NORTH FOR CHICANO

AUTHENTICITY.

IT'S A REALLY FASCINATING MOMENT

WHERE WE'RE BOTH

LOOKING IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS

AND MEETING ON THE

BORDER BETWEEN US.

AND RUBEN, AS IS HIS WANT,

HE KNEW SOMETHING WAS HAPPENING

AND HE PUT HIS FINGER ON IT

AND CAME UP WITH THE PROJECT

THAT COULD REPRESENT IT.

SO, HE BROUGHT ALL THESE

MUSICIANS TOGETHER, AND THOSE

SESSIONS WERE A BLAST.

♪♪

WOMAN: I LOVE THE IDEA OF

MEXAMERICA BECAUSE IT REALLY

RECOGNIZED THE FACT THAT WE WERE

DIFFERENT THAN MEXICANOS

ON THAT SIDE OF THE BORDER,

RIGHT? THAT WE WERE CHICANOS

AND THAT WE HAD OUR OWN

SONIC EXPRESSION.

SO, THIS WAS KIND OF A MUSICAL

EXTENSION OF WHAT SOME OF THE

TRANSNATIONAL WORK THAT WE HAD

ALREADY BEEN ENGAGING IN.

GUEVARA: THE WHOLE PURPOSE

BEHIND "MEXAMERICA" WAS

TO, FIRST OF ALL, TEAR DOWN

THE GREAT POCHO WALL

WHICH SEPARATES CHICANOS

AND MEXICANOS. I STRUGGLED

WITH THAT OVER THE YEARS AND--

SO, IT WAS A VERY POSITIVE

ALBUM. WE TALKED ABOUT UNIFYING

CHICANOS AND MEXICANOS.

KUN: SO, THAT PHYSICAL BORDER

WALL BECAME ALSO METAPHORICAL

FOR HIM. IT BECAME SONIC.

IT BECAME CULTURAL.

AND SO, I DO THINK THERE IS THIS

THREAD IN HIS WORK OF TRYING TO,

LIKE, HOW DO I USE MUSIC TO,

YOU KNOW, TO KIND OF

BLOW A HOLE IN THAT WALL?

AND EVEN IF IT'S NOT LITERALLY

TAKING THE WALL DOWN, HOW CAN WE

USE MUSIC TO MOVE THROUGH IT, TO

MOVE BEYOND IT, AND ASK THOSE

QUESTIONS? AND IF WE CAN KNOCK

DOWN THESE BARRIERS FOR HIM

PERSONALLY, MAYBE THAT'S A WAY

INTO HIM UNDERSTANDING HIS OWN

LIFE AND HIS OWN SENSE OF

IDENTITY IN A NEW

AND DIFFERENT WAY.

MARTINEZ: I THINK THE ALBUM HIT

RIGHT AT THE MOMENT WHEN

WE NEEDED TO MAKE

THAT RECONNECTION ACROSS TIME

AND HISTORY THAT HAD HAD

THIS, YOU KNOW, TENDENCY TO

SEPARATE LOS ANGELES FROM

EVERYTHING SOUTH OF THE BORDER,

INCLUDING TIJUANA.

IT WAS RESETTING SOMETHING,

IT WAS RECOVERING SOMETHING,

BECAUSE ONCE AGAIN, IT HAD TO DO

WITH RESCUING A HISTORY THAT

HAD BEEN STRIPPED AWAY FROM US

BY PREJUDICE AND IGNORANCE.

♪♪

MAN: AS ONE GETS OLDER, ONE

ALWAYS LOOKS AT OTHER MODELS,

RIGHT, OF HOW PEOPLE AGE, AND

WHAT I LOVE, I'M SO INSPIRED BY

HIM, IS THAT HE'S SOMEONE WHO,

AS HE GETS OLDER,

HE'S CONSTANTLY WORKING AND

CONSTANTLY CHANGING AND

CONSTANTLY REFLECTING ON HIS OWN

EXPERIENCE AND HIS RELATIONSHIPS

AND TRYING TO, LIKE,

STILL MAKE MUSIC.

BAG: I JUST THINK RUBEN GUEVARA

IS EVERYWHERE WHERE YOU

DON'T EXPECT HIM TO BE.

YOU GO TO A CONCERT AND YOU DO

EXPECT HIM TO BE THERE

AND HE USUALLY IS THERE.

THEN YOU GO TO AN ART GALLERY

AND HE'S THERE. THEN YOU GO TO A

PROTEST AND HE'S THERE. AND YOU

GO TO A RESTAURANT AND HE'S

THERE. I MEAN, HE'S JUST

OMNIPRESENT.

GUEVARA: I KNEW THE TIME HAD

COME TO DO MY OWN ALBUM

WITH MY OWN MUSIC.

I'D BEEN JAY P. MOBEY.

I WAS RUBEN OF RUBEN AND THE

JETS.

AND NOW I WANTED AN IDENTITY

THAT WAS REALLY MINE.

SO, I CAME UP WITH A NEW ALTER

EGO. FUNKAHUATL, THE NEO-CHICANO

AZTEC GOD OF FUNK.

IT KIND OF EMBODIES THE MUSICAL

AND SPIRITUAL ROOTS OF MY CAREER

AS WELL AS MY LIFE.

AND TO THIS DAY,

THAT'S MY NAME.

SO, THIS TIME, THE CHICANO

CULTURE BEING SCULPTED WAS ME.

♪♪

THE ALBUM WAS TITLED

"THE TAO OF FUNKAHUATL."

AND I DECIDED TO DEDICATE IT

TO MY FATHER

WHO TAUGHT ME TO SING...

BACK IN THE DAY.

MEXICAN BOLEROS.

♪♪ CACTUS FLOWER BLOOMIN'

IN THE MOONLIGHT ♪♪

MARIN: RUBEN WORKED VERY HARD

FOR A LOT OF YEARS TO

FORMULATE THIS VIEW.

AND THAT'S THE ONLY THING THAT

AN ARTIST REALLY HAS,

HOW HE SEES THE WORLD.

I MEAN, THAT REALLY IS.

I MEAN, YOU HAVE A FACILITY IN

SOME PAINTING OR SINGING OR

DRAWING OR WRITING OR THE--

BUT THE ONLY THING THAT

DISTINGUISHES AN ARTIST OF

WHAT HE SEES.

KUN: RUBEN WAS THINKING ABOUT

THIS STUFF NOT AS AN ACADEMIC,

NOT AS A SCHOLAR. HE WAS

THINKING ABOUT IT, YOU KNOW,

AS A CULTURAL WORKER,

AS A MUSICIAN. HE WAS

APPROACHING IT, YOU KNOW,

LARGELY FROM HIS OWN PERSONAL

PERSPECTIVE, BUT THEN ALWAYS

HAD THAT VISION AND THAT WISDOM

TO SAY, LIKE, "WELL, MAYBE MY

PERSONAL BIOGRAPHY IS AN AVENUE

INTO THINKING ABOUT LARGER

CULTURAL STRUGGLES AND LARGER

POLITICAL TOPICS,"

AND HE'S DONE THAT HIS

WHOLE CAREER.

GUEVARA: ♪♪ THE FUTURE IS NOW

SO, GET ON TRACK

OH, SHE'S A PURE SPIRIT

I'M A ROLLING STONE

SHE'S BORN A SWEET CHILD OF GOD

I'M BORN OF FLESH AND BLOOD... ♪♪

MAN: IT IS MY DEEP HONOR AND

PLEASURE ON THIS NIGHT,

WHEN THIS BOOK ENTERS THE WORLD,

TO TURN THE STAGE OVER TO--TO MY

HERO, TO SOMEONE I LOVE DEEPLY--

RUBEN GUEVARA.

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

GUEVARA: I'M PAST 70 NOW.

I MIGHT ONLY HAVE A COUPLE

HUNDRED BUCKS IN THE BANK

AND I MIGHT NOT KNOW WHEN THE

NEXT GIG WILL COME ALONG

AND PAY THE RENT.

BUT MY LIFE WAS NEVER ABOUT

PLAYING IT SAFE

IN THE COOL SHADE.

AND IT WASN'T ABOUT BECOMING

RICH AND FAMOUS.

IT'S BEEN ABOUT MAKING MUSIC

AND MAKING LOVE,

ROCKING AND ROLLING WITH THE

PUNCHES,

AND THEN IN LIFE, KEEP THE BEAT.

[APPLAUSE]

MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY WAS FINALLY

PUBLISHED IN 2018.

AND I GO ON A TOUR.

TURNS OUT THAT THE BOOK IS

REQUIRED READING IN MANY

CHICANO STUDIES CLASSES

ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

AND AT ONE OF THE LECTURES,

AN ASIAN-AMERICAN STUDENT CAME

UP TO ME AND SAID,

"I AM CHICANO."

HA! SAY WHAT?

HE SAYS, "STUDYING THE POLITICS

OF CHICANISMO

INSPIRED ME TO BECOME ONE." HA.

WELL, THAT KIND OF MAKES IT

ALL WORTH IT, YOU KNOW?

CHICANO IDENTITY IS ALWAYS

EVOLVING, BUT AS LONG AS

WE'RE HONORING OUR ROOTS AND

CONTRIBUTING TO OUR CULTURE,

THE CHICANO SPIRIT WILL ALWAYS

ENDURE THROUGH THE WORK OF

ARTISTS AND ACTIVISTS.

MARIN: AND WHEN I FIRST HEARD

"CHICANO," YEAH, THAT'S WHAT

I AM. I'M NOT MEXICAN.

I'VE NEVER BEEN TO MEXICO,

DON'T SPEAK SPANISH.

MEXICAN-AMERICAN--I HATED

HYPHENATED TERMS.

I JUST WOULDN'T DO IT.

AND WHEN I FIRST HEARD

"CHICANO," THAT'S WHAT I AM.

THAT DESCRIBES ME.

BOJORQUEZ: TO BE A CHICANO,

YOU HAD TO BE MORE THAN JUST

MEXICAN-AMERICAN.

YOU GOTTA BE MULTI-TALENTED.

I THINK YOU HAVE TO QUALIFY TO

BE A CHICANO BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO

FIGHT FOR IT, AND RUBEN IS

STILL FIGHTING FOR IT,

HIS PLACE AND HIS MUSIC.

GONZALEZ: IT'S KIND OF HARD TO

NOT RECOGNIZE WHAT RUBEN HAS

DONE, EVEN IN PRESENT.

ALL THE WORK THAT HE CONTINUES

TO DO AND BE A PART OF IS

SIGNIFICANT, AND I ALWAYS LOVED

LISTENING TO HIM BECAUSE I FEEL

LIKE HIS PASSION IS CONTAGIOUS,

WHERE YOU CAN'T HELP BUT BELIEVE

IN THE POWER OF CHICANO MUSIC.

MIYAMOTO: HE DOESN'T FIT INTO

THE CATEGORY OF NORMAL ARTISTS

OR NORMAL PEOPLE.

HE IS A MISFIT IN MANY WAYS,

AND WE NEED MISFITS RIGHT NOW,

BECAUSE WHY SHOULD WE FIT INTO

THIS SYSTEM?

BAG: I THINK HE'S BECOME KIND OF

LIKE THE CHICANO GODFATHER.

I MEAN, I FEEL LIKE HE

CONSTANTLY IS MAKING

CONNECTIONS, INTERGENERATIONAL

AS WELL AS WITH OTHER

COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.

FLORES: I SEE YOUNG PEOPLE FROM

MY COMMUNITY, WHETHER THEY CALL

THEMSELVES CHICANOS OR NOT,

I SEE THEM MOVING.

I SEE THEM ORGANIZING.

I SEE THEM BUILDING.

AND THE ETHIC

THAT THEY'RE STANDING ON IS

PART OF WHAT RUBEN BUILT,

AND NOW IT'S THEIR TURN.

GUEVARA: I WISH I COULD FIND

THAT DUDE IN GUADALAJARA

AND SHOW HIM ALL THIS.

IS THAT CULTURE ENOUGH FOR YOU,

ESE?

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

CON SAFOS.

[SNAP]

♪♪

VIVA LOS ANGELES!

VIVA MI TIERRA!

HEY, LONG LIVE L.A.

[SNAPS FINGERS]

ANNOUNCER: THIS PROGRAM WAS MADE

POSSIBLE IN PART BY

CITY OF LOS ANGELES

DEPARTMENT OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS,

LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF

ARTS & CULTURE, NATIONAL

ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS, AND THE

FRIEDA BERLINSKI FOUNDATION.

STREAM ARTBOUND ON

  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv

FEATURED PROGRAMS