Monday, April 27, 2009

A Final Reflection

If you are reading this you are either:
1. Jay
2. Future BorderBeat journalists
3. My mother

So, I hope you enjoy this reflection/tips for the future.

Looking back on this past semester and reflecting on the accomplishments of this BorderBeat staff, I am truly amazed at the progress we have made. We entered as 18 different students, all with different expectations for this capstone, and are leaving as multimedia journalists.

I was one of the editors-in-chief this semester, and had the unique experience of dealing with a mid-semester co-editor-in-chief switch. It was beneficial and has made the class run smoother. There have been deadlines, editing chains, and AMAZING stories written about so many different topics.

I've used this blog as a way to creatively explore the things most passionate to me through the lens of the US - Mexico border. I've always enjoyed entertainment and have LOVED discovering things like: a Hispanic artist with secrets, conjunto music, El Parador, and the Hobart Shakespeareans.

My favorite part of this class has been learning all of the wonderful multimedia skills that will be transferable to other jobs (if I find a job, post graduation). I'm able to produce great stories using Soundslides, Final Cut, Audacity, and learning html code to keep the Web site functional. If you, as a journalist, are serious about being able to function in this global and technological world than you NEED to learn these skills. Having Jay there to allow the creative freedom to report on the stories that you care about has been really rewarding.

If you are a future BorderBeat reporter here are a few tips for success:
1. Take the creative liberty to explore stories that you want to pursue
2. If you have strong editing skills then join the editing team
3. Take the time in the beginning of the semester to plan a couple of stories so that you aren't struggling at the end to get the grade you want.
4. Cherish any help John DeDios will give you (if he is still around)
5. Take the time to really learn any of the multimedia tools that you can because they are a necessity.

Hope this blog has helped you, because it is my last one for the class and reflecting has really helped me.

Peace out,
Alex

Monday, April 20, 2009

Artists on the Border

This week’s blog will be brief, but informative. I wanted to explore the world of artists who primarily focus their work on the U.S. – Mexico border. Drawing inspiration from the struggles and beauty that arise from the inherent division along the 300 plus miles of border, these artisans manipulate the tools of art to express their opinions, emotions, and desires.

A group exists in Las Cruces, N.M. called The Border Artists wherein a collective of talented artists work and share their art with the two countries and their respective communities. According to the Web site, The Border Artists were founded in 1992 by artists Carolyn Bunch and Virginia Ness, and are the southwest region’s oldest professional artists’ organization. One of the most unique aspects of this troupe is the demand for group work. Many of the artists work together to develop a synergetic mingling of strength and talent which helps them achieve greater levels of artistry.

Below is a oil painting by featured artist Carolyn Bunch.




The group has two major art shows every year and their artwork can be seen exhibited in offices of governmental officials on both sides of the fence.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this group is their willingness to share their work with the global community. Online they provide interested viewers the opportunity to download a copy of The Book complete with biographies and selected works by current members of the collective. Click here to view this collection.

Here is a list of the current members and while any of the artists would be worth a look, my recommendations would be Suzanne Kane, Diana Molina, and Carolyn Bunch. But don’t worry my avid followers here is a gallery of all of the artists for you to enjoy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mariachi Music? More like More-e-achi Music...



This past weekend I went on a trip to Los Angeles and stayed at a Comfort Suites in Bell Park, which is a heavily Hispanic area of the city. Next door to our hotel was a quaint building with neon pink signs advertising “Baile y Comida.” Out of these doors I could smell what was described as an extravaganza de mariscos (a seafood extravaganza) and could also hear the entrancing music of a live mariachi band. This combination of dance and food sparked an interest in the world of mariachi music…thus this blog is born.

From my research, mariachi music is more than a style of music but encompasses a dance and clothing style as well. It seems as if it is a way of life. The usual mariachi group consists of at least three violins, two trumpets, a Mexican guitar, a vihuela (a high-pitched, five string guitar), a guitarrón (a small-scaled acoustic bass), and of course at least one singer. There are variations on this format, but in general this is the skeleton of any mariachi group.

Mariachi groups originally started like most artists…as street performers. In many places around the world, outdoors performances are still very common. When I visited Guadalajara, Mexico two summers ago there would be many evening mariachi performances at the Plaza de los Mariachis. Traditionally, mariachi members dress in studded charro(Mexican cowboy) outfits with wide brimmed sombreros. Historically, most songs performed by mariachi bands are about winning the love or heart of the one person they desire most. There are some sad mariachi songs, but most are upbeat and high-energy songs.

As in the photo example below, most mariachi bands love to have fun during their shows too (I took this picture when studying abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico).



Now that the history lesson is over, let’s talk about where to see some quality mariachi music. In Tucson the 27th annual La Frontera Tucson International Mariachi Conference will be taking place from April 22-25. This years conference boasts some of the world’s best mariachi attractions and performers like: Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, and Linda Ronstadt.

The conference is a time for aficionados of mariachi music and baile folklórico to convene in the Old Pueblo and enjoy these cultural staples. It is a celebration of folklórico and mariachi music starting with student workshops and culminating in the Fiesta de Garibaldi, an all day party in the park. This festival is unique because it focuses on showcasing the immense amount of talent around the country and the world but also focuses on teaching to younger generations. One of the major events of the conference is the student workshops wherein students of all ages can sign up to take classes on traditional mariachi and baile folklórico.

This year’s theme is “La Pasion y Amor de Mariachi” (the passion and love of mariachi), and it is evident in the opportunities provided by the planners of the conference that the main goal is to spread this passion and love to anyone who decides to check it out…young or old, Hispanic or not.

So my suggestion would be to check out any of the events going on for the 4 days. Click here to check out a schedule of events.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Muy Comico

This week I wanted to write about something dear to my own interests…comedy. I perform weekly improv comedy shows and I know that I incorporate my cultural roots into my comedic routines and that made me wonder about other comedians and how important their cultural identity is to their comedic repertoire.

I began thinking about popular comedians who have used their race or ethnicity to incite laughter. While there are the obvious choices like Richard Pryor and Jerry Seinfeld, I had trouble searching my own brain for a list of popular Latino comics. Online I was able to find a specific list of Latino comedians…but I personally was unable to identify more than two. The most popular Latino/Hispanic comedians I could identify are George Lopez and Carlos Mencia…one of these men I respect, the other I think is a poor excuse for a comedian.

It interests me as to the nature of these two men’s inspiration for material. Both have drawn upon their cultural backgrounds for their routines but both have used their heritage for laughs in different ways. Both have had television shows (The George Lopez Show and Mind of Mencia) which have helped to launch their careers and both have been in physical altercations about the alleged stealing of Lopez’s jokes by Mencia. With all of that put to the side, it interests me to see the differences in comedic styles. WARNING - the following clips may have some adult language and themes.

Here is a clip of George Lopez:



And now here is Carlos Mencia:



Lopez’s comedy is based on his childhood and his experiences being raised in a Mexican-American community while Mencia often makes jokes about political issues including things about race, culture, and social class. I find it interesting that both men use their heritage in different ways to achieve the same purposes. Whether it is through popularity or scandal, these men are increasing their name in the comedic community and thereby raising the prominence of Hispanic comedy.

Because of the contributions of Mencia and Lopez there are things like “The Original Latin Kings of Comedy” film and Latino Comedy tours. They help pave the way for other Latino comedians like Gabriel Iglesias and Rudy Moreno. Ultimately, all Hispanic and Latino/a comedians work together to increase the message that the trials and tribulations of their people and culture are just as valid as any other race. Not to mention funny too.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

El Cine

Due to the immense popularity of film festivals like the Sundance Film Festival and Cannes International Film Festival I wanted to explore venues for filmmakers with a distinctive Latino or Hispanic flair; in hopes of finding some global film festivals that highlight directors who occasionally breach the topic of border issues.

Film festivals have been a way for aspiring and acclaimed directors, filmmakers, and artists to express their deepest desires and sentiments on film in hopes of touching something within every audience member. Many times the films showcased at smaller independent film festivals go on to win critical acclaim and popularity, similar to the film Juno. Most of the time, these films inspire people to think about issues in a new light or from a different angle.

International film festivals are gaining popularity as a viable means to showcase the talent of local artists. The Guadalajara International Film Festival in Mexico held each year in March is considered one of the most prestigious film festivals in Latin America and one of the most important Spanish language film festivals in the world. This year’s competition ended on the 27th and one of the University of Arizona graduate students entered a film for consideration.

Two other popular festivals are being outsourced, in a manner of speaking, to Australia. The Hola Mexico Film Festival and Spanish Film Festival are additional international outlets for aspiring artists. At this year's Hola Mexico Film Festival the opening film was Sangre de mi Sangre (Blood of my Blood) which had won attention at the Sundance Film Festival. It explores the darker side of the American Dream and the things illegal immigrants do to make it to America. Here is a clip:



Here in the states, there are opportunities for filmmakers to create works that inspire American audiences. The New York International Latino Film Festival is a yearly event that invites all who identify as Latino (whether Colombian, Blatino, Hispanic, Dominican, Nuyorican, Chicano, Spanish, or Jew-ban) to enter films. This year’s festival will be from July 28 – August 02 in New York City. This event is being hailed as the premier urban Latino film event in the country.

All of these festivals really help Latino/Hispanic directors gain prominence on the big screen and bring their ideas to the forefront of society. For example, Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro has become a popular director after his success with Pan’s Labyrinth and has since landed the lucrative directorship of the adaptation of The Hobbit. In the long run, these festivals also provide a venue for artists who desire to discuss border issues through the medium of film to have more visibility around the world.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spanish Soaps

This week’s blog is about a topic that I’ve always found interesting but slightly trashy. Join me in my journey into the Telenovela Zone.

Before researching about telenovelas, I assumed that they were simply the Spanish equivalent to American soap operas. While that assumption is partly true, there are major differences between the two styles. Primarily, a telenovela is a limited-run television serial melodrama that usually consists of approximately 120 episodes while an American soap opera can continue to run for years and years to come…can anyone say Susan Lucci?

This style of television program consistently attracts millions of viewers across Latin America and has become an essential piece of entertainment culture in these countries. The first telenovelas were produced in Brazil, Mexico, and Cuba in the 1950s. A common theme found within the plot of these first telenovelas was the separation of two lovers for a majority of the series, but somehow in the end they wind up together. Other major themes revolve around class distinctions/interactions and forbidden love. Enjoy this clip from the telenovela "La Fea Mas Bella."



While telenovelas are wildly popular in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Portugal a common complaint is that they are not representative of the actual racial composition of the countries where they are produced. Most telenovelas tend to have white, blond, blue-eyed stars. When "ethnic-looking" people appear, they are usually of lower-class origins and hold menial jobs such as janitors, while all the higher-class jobs are reserved for the white characters.

The popularity of telenovelas has infiltrated American culture and the effects can be seen in television here. The successful primetime show “Ugly Betty” is based upon the telenovela “La Fea Mas Bella.” Many fans of these shows have set up online blogs and forums to discuss the plots of their favorites. Telenovela World and Alma Latina are two of the most popular. There is even a YouTube channel specifically for telenovela scenes. Some of them are dubbed with English captions, so check it out.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief journey into the world of telenovelas.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Care to Dance?

I’ve always been fascinated with dance. The movements and contortions of the human body all choreographed to keep time with the music. For most dancers, it seems as if the art of dance is a physical manifestation of their soul’s desire. My favorite dances are those that not only speak from the soul but reach out and touch another’s.

Many of the popular dance styles are reflections of different cultures throughout the world. One of those styles hails from Mexico and is called, “Baile Folklorico.” Literally translated to “folk dance,” this style emphasizes local folk style while incorporating colorful costumes that depict the different regions of Mexican folklore and art forms.



Amalia Hernandez pioneered baile folklorico in the 1950s because of her development of her dance school, Ballet Folklorico Mexico in Mexico City. Her dedication to providing the best representation of cultural and folk dances in Mexico and around the world became the driving force behind the success of baile folklorico.



The most common and recognizable form of this dance comes from the Mexican state of Jalisco. Although the Jalisco style is most memorable, the basic steps and style of dance are similar for all the regions. Traditional bailes employ a basic set of steps called zapateados which involve percussive heel-stomping. Most of the time when dancers are dancing the baile folklorico, they are accompanied by a mariachi band.

There are plenty of baile folklorico dance companies across the U.S. – like the Mexican American Association of Baile Folklorico in Seattle – and there are two in Tucson too. The Ballet Folklorico Tapatio provides an educational environment for children to learn about Mexican culture and its history through traditional, regional dances; while Grupo Folklórico Miztontli is the first Mexican Ballet Folklorico dance group at the University of Arizona.

No matter what regional version you see of this dance, you definitely need to check it out. Baile Folklorico is a style that will impress you and inspire you to get up and dance.