A classic San Anto night cannot be forced into existence. Oftentimes, it happens on the heels of a teatro performance, an art opening, or a chance encounter with someone you sort-of-know and want to know better. Tu sabes. Sometimes you just need to connect with San Antonio and its people.
One Saturday, July 9, there were chingos of cultural ondas to check out. Second Saturday was happening on South Flores. I would have loved to have seen the performance by Femina-X, artist Daniela Riojas's musical incarnation, this time featuring a flamenco collaboration by Tamara Adira. Across town, the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center was screening a documentary with Bamby Salcedo, one of the most important Trans-activists in the nation, having recently served on a plenary panel in Washington D.C. with Vice President Joe Biden. Tambien, there was Teatro en al Barrio at The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center with 100% NDN by Issac Alvarez Cardenas and starring Jesse Borrego.
Ay, be still my fluttering Chicana heart.
Plus, there is always the Netflix and chill option, especially good in the middle of a heat wave. I know it's summer. I will say nothing more about the heat. Nombre, of course I will continue to complain about the heat.
Kahlo's influence on Mexican-American culture moves beyond her fashion legacy of up-dos con flores, flowing-big skirts, thick jewelry, and Oaxacan blouses. Kahlo birthed a tradition of Mexican feminism that has translated in the U.S. into urban contemporary Latinx-chic.
Frida Kahlo painted the trauma of her life. She moved past the cultural norms of her country and transcended gender barriers.
Remember when only Chicana activists wore Frida trenzas con flores? Walking beside idling traffic inside the Blue Star Arts District, I saw chingos de Fridas of all shapes, ages, colors, and genders.
Que linda, Frida. Her work still works to unify gente. And at this time – in this state, in this nation – we need some serious unifying.
The first annual Frida Fest instantly outgrew its location. Frida followers in San Antonio can fill the pinche Freeman Coliseum, de veras. Move it there next year, or somewhere else that can accommodate chingos de trenzas plus can blow some arctic air at my Guadalupe tattoo.
The parking at Blue Star Arts Complex: no más no. The organizers underestimated the popularity of their first Frida Fest.
This is what success looks like, mujeres.
The line to get into the event was out the door, down the sidewalk past the Blue Star Contemporary, and looped back around into the parking lot. Yeah, there was that much interest.
I randomly spoke with a few people waiting in line, and I purposely went to the very back. Yvette Jones was dressed en trenzas. “As soon as I heard about the event I started preparing. I am of Mexican descent and this really means a lot to me. Frida represents strength."
Candace de Leon-Zepeda provided some insight after the event on the Frida Fest Facebook event page: "There was no one directing lines, and several lines formed. I was there to buy art, but it was so hot and congested inside that I passed many vendors."
Sarah Castillo organized the art exhibit at the Frida Fest.
“We were anticipating a large crowd,” she said. “But not this much. Next year, maybe it'll be at an outdoor venue.”
She tried to make sense of why so many people came. "Frida helps people be proud of their roots. Proud to be Mexicano, but she also connects with women who are not Mexicano. People are looking for these moments of self-actualization and they find that through Frida.”
I did not find too many people who spoke Spanish at the Frida Fest, maybe because I didn't stay too long. It was so pinche hot inside the Brick. I found more people speaking Spanish at my next stop for the night: the Friendship Fest at Inner City Development.
While Frida Kahlo captures the spirit of Mexican feminism, Pinata Protest playing over at the Friendship Fest captures a fierce urban Chicanx conjunto-con-punk identity found only in San Antonio.
The music stage on Chihuahua Street was elbow to elbow with Millennials wearing Chicano goth and neighborhood kids enjoying raspas. The werquillos were buzzing around. At times, the playground past the beer garden had more animo than the dance floor. The viejitos from the neighborhood were in the back taking in the scene on their usually peaceful street. The Friendship Fest was definitely family-friendly.
Tonight, there was a mosh pit on Chihuahua Street, a polite pit that would later transform into a cumbia dance circle.
I love San Antonio.
The florescent lights of the stage turned off to reveal dancing red and blue lights when Pinata Protest hit the stage. The audience threw gritos at the first accordion note.
Alvaro Del Norte, the founder and lead singer of Pinata Protest, came over a saludar before their set. I was eating a $2 Frito Pie and wiped away some Velvetta cheese as he approached. I'm one of those fake-vegetarians that quietly eats meat at street festivals while drinking a Modelo.
"Is that your lone boot on your merch table?” I asked. He confessed that the black norteño boot on the merch table was, in fact, his. He also said his Mom and Dad would be in the audience. “I watch the banter between songs when my Mom and Dad watch,” he said. “I also try not to shake my nalgas too much, you know, because of the little ones.”
Alvaro and Pinata Protest have a following. Yvette Evans, a fellow fan in search of a classic San Anto night, was at the Friendship Fest to hear Pinata Protest. “The lead singer is cool. He's grateful to his fans,” she said.
I had run into Evans at Halcyon earlier in the evening, then at the Frida Fest, and finally at the Friendship Fest. We were cultural doppelgangers for an evening.
Patti Radle, co-founder Inner City Development, wanted to take this year's Friendship Fest to “another level.” They have been producing the festival for more than 40 years, she said, with a break somewhere in between. She and her husband founded Inner City to address community needs in the area surrounding the Alazan-Apache Courts. They moved to the neighborhood in 1969, and live blocks away from Inner City.
"Inner City raises the dignity within the individual,” said Radle, who is also president of the San Antonio Independent School District board. "We offer emergency food, clothing, and an extensive summer program for children. This is the poorest area in the county. This side of town gets a bad rap, but it's a wonderful place to live, and a wonderful place to enjoy an affordable turkey leg at the Friendship Fest. I have grown in my own person and character because of this community. People volunteer here for years, and now their grandchildren are volunteering.”
Rose Mary Sandoval is one of those neighbors. She has volunteered at Inner City for about 30 years, and lived at the Inner City Volunteer House for more than a decade. “Inner City has been a blessing,” she says. “I love it here. And I have never seen the front of the stage that packed.”
Pinata Protest was playing. A classic San Anto night en el Westside.