Olga Sanchez

The beautiful North, and back again

Milagro's "Into the Beautiful North" tells a wild tale of a band of outsiders on a journey to rediscover home

 

Dorothy Gale once said while clicking her heels, “There’s no place like home.” But she had to travel far and wide, down the yellow brick road, through the Emerald City, against all strange odds, to get back where she started and belonged. Milagro Theatre’s Into the Beautiful North is a similarly wild tale of a band of outsiders on a journey to discover that the golden and kaleidoscope-feathered Aztlán, legendary ancestral home of the Aztec peoples, is a state of mind.

Olga Sanchez and Daniel Jáquez direct Karen Zacarías’s new adaptation of Luis Alberto Urrea’s novel by the same name. It’s not magical realism, but it creates a surreal and vivid dreamscape, from the tiny town of Tres Camarones (translated as Three Shrimps), across the Tijuana/United States border, to a brief pit stop in San Diego, through the dusty and dry desert of Nevada (where’s the snow?), Colorado, and a small town named Kankakee, Illinois, with two gazebos donated by David Letterman, and finally back again to Tres Camarones.

Taking a magnificent quest into the beautiful North. Photo: Russell J Young

Taking a magnificent quest into the beautiful North. Photo: Russell J Young

The three heroes are led by Nayeli, played by Michelle Escobar, who on the outside is a pretty but plain girl who waitresses at a cafe with the only internet connection in town. But, as with Dorothy, don’t let appearances fool you: Nayeli has an unbridled imagination. Her best friend, Vampi (Michelle Caughlin), is the small-town Goth chick complete with corset, hot pants, patterned stockings, and maroon black lipstick. Vampi is one of the tale’s least romantic characters, despite her appearance, and adds a little restraint to Nayeli’s stargazing. Tacho (Danny Mareno) is Nayeli’s boss, and one of the last men who live in Tres Camarones. He faces constant tiny aggressions because he’s gay. The exodus of men to the United States has left the fishing village open to threats from narcos and other highway bandidos. Nayeli is inspired by the ’60s classic western film The Magnificent Seven to find seven equal warriors to protect Tres Camarones.

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Golden cage, broken promises

Olga Sanchez's new play at Milagro looks inside the realities of life on the West Coast child sex-trade corridor

 

By CHRISTA MORLETTI McINTYRE

In Olga Sanchez’s new play Broken Promises, Adriana is a whip-smart girl whose broken life becomes entangled with the winding sex-trade corridor known as the West Coast Circuit. Sanchez, back at Milagro, where she was until recently artistic director, and director Francisco Garcia collaborate to remind us that a golden cage is still a cage.

Part mural and part graffiti, scenic designer Tomás Rivero’s stage background has two winged dancing calacas, or skeleton figures, with a banner saying, “It’s not me, es la vida,” winding through their embrace. A grip of blindfolded Ben Franklins shouts out, “In no one we trust.” The stage invokes the moving picture from a freight train, the kind you see lined up in the yards, carrying outlaw messages across the land.

Twisted promises, broken lives. Photo: Sylvia Malan Gonzalez

Twisted promises, broken lives. Photo: Sylvia Malan Gonzalez

At the start of Broken Promises, which is part of the city-wide Fertile Ground festival of new works, a jazz upright bass line quickly moves from a high-society chord to a heavy beat and break. Just as in Sanchez’s script, the furious sounds and story unfold fast, and Garcia’s players move in and out in a perfect tempo. Roman Vasquez’s soundtrack is real. Hip-hop aficionados will recognize and appreciate the cuts he makes: there’s a nod to 1977, the 2010 album from the Chilean political hip-hop star Ana Tijoux. Milagro has carefully linked the sound, script, backdrop, and actors in a detail that constantly echoes the motifs in the play and references them to Latino culture. Sanchez’s dialogue and Garcia’s gentle hand have made a performance that is tangible, but carries the weight of tragedy with a poetic intensity.

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Three dots, nine items, no waiting

Olga Sanchez departs, Third Rail moves, Center Stage goes Off-Broadway, Belluschi Pavilion opens, more!

Ah, the THREE DOT column, perfect for days when the news has accumulated, overfilling a very large bin on a desk and most of a brain pan. You simply pour it out as quickly as possible, maybe with just a tiny bit of editorializing, in as jaunty a way as you can muster. Of course, there’s more to be said about every single item!

Olga Sanchez, the artistic director of Milagro for the past 12 very productive and accomplished years, has given her notice and will drive down I-5 in the fall to take up the rigors of the University of Oregon’s Ph.D. program in theater. The Break won’t be complete: Expect her back to direct the world premiere of Beautiful North by Karen Zacarías  next season…The other top-of-the-fold (while we’re using old newspaper jargon like “three dot column”) item: Third Rail Repertory Theatre has found a new home for its 10th anniversary season at Imago, just south of Burnside on Eighth Avenue, another example of creative house-sharing in the city…And Third Rail announced its new season, four plays (The Angry Brigade, Or, Mr. Kolpert, and The New Electric Ballroom) that sound eminently Third Railish—darkly comic, off-kilter, even “titillating,” as the press release suggests. A fifth Wild Card play will be directed by Imago’s Jerry Mouawad, about which more later.

Dominic Rains as Rashid and Alia Attallah as Leila in the world premiere of "Threesome," through March 8, 2015 at Portland Center Stage. Dominic Rains as Rashid and Alia Attallah as Leila in the world premiere of "Threesome," through March 8, 2015 at Portland Center Stage.  Photo: Patrick Weishampel/BLANKEYE.

Dominic Rains and Ali Attallah in “Threesome”/Photo Patrick Weishampel

I loved Molly Gloss‘s poetic response to the Elias Quartet performance of Mozart’s String Quartet No. 19 in C Major at Friends of Chamber Music, a poem that responds to Mozart’s very modern dissonance. Here’s a little taste: “a strange wailing disarray even to my modern ear/that heavy tread of cello, insistent yowl of violin, nothingness/unfolding into tortured shifting meaninglessness”…In January, Chris Coleman directed the Portland Center Stage/ACT world premiere production of  Yussef El Guindi’s Threesomeand that play, with the original cast intact (Alia Attallah (Leila), Dominic Rains (Rashid) and Quinn Franzen (Doug)) moves right along to old Off-Broadway in New York, opening at the 59E59 Theaters in July, which would deserve a heart congratulations to all, if we were that sort of three dot column…Just in case you forgot, earlier this month, Center Stage received a massive ($770,000 now, topping out at more than a million later, most likely) grant from The Wallace Foundation to fund a new audiences initiative, including a new play series, Northwest Stories, created to bring stories about the Northwest and/or by Northwest writers to the stage.

The Belluschi Pavilion at Marylhurst University.

The Belluschi Pavilion at Marylhurst University.

ArtsWatch friend and contributor Dmae Roberts has launched Theatre Diaspora, the city’s first Asian America/Pacific Islander theater company, building on the success of a reading of an early David Henry Hwang play at Portland Center Stage last year, The Dance and the Railroad. She writes about it at the Asian Reporter…My very favorite national music critic/historian these days is the essential New Yorker writer Alex “The Rest Is Noise” Ross, so I’ve been looking forward to his “lecture-demo” with Third Angle, “Hearing Voices,” with the greatest anticipation: It starts at 7:30 pm Friday, May 1, at the Alberta Rose, 3000 NE Alberta, and it will deliver words and music around such great modern and contemporary composers as  Harry Partch, John Cage, Steve Reich, Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison, and 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner John Luther Adams (you can hear Ross on OPB’s Think Out Loud, noon Friday)…The Belluschi Pavilion, a 911 square foot home in the coolest possible modernist vein designed by Pietro Belluschi, was moved to the campus of Marylhurst University a few years ago, reassembled, and from 10 am-3 pm Saturday, May 2, will be open to the public for the first time. Maybe drop in before the Kentucky Derby!

 

Lies & misdemeanors: ‘Latina’ and ‘The Last Five Years’

Reviews: Milagro's wild 'Learn To Be Latina' and Center Stage's Jason Robert Brown musical measure the depravity of mendacity

Like politics, the theater relies on lies.

 It’s your lucky day, Macbeth. Grab the ring!

 My name? It’s, um, Ernest.

 Have you ever heard of the word mendacity?

 Honest, Jamie and Edmund, I’m totally off the morphine.

 I’m pretty sure Desdemona gave your handkerchief to Cassio.

Without lies, where’s the conflict? Without conflict, where’s the drama – or the comedy?

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics, as Mark Twain famously quoted Benjamin Disraeli on the three degrees of falsehood, although no one’s been able to nail down whether Disraeli ever actually said it or not, suggesting the distinct possibility that Twain lied about lying, or at least misspoke the truth. Wheels within wheels, and that’s how stories get spun.

Two shows new to Portland stages – Enrique Urueta’s comedy Learn To Be Latina, at Milagro Theatre, and Jason Robert Brown’s two-person musical The Last Five Years, at Portland Center Stage – get their knickers in a twist over some great big whoppers. One wallows in the lie of the vow of eternal love, keeping things close and personal. The other mucks around in the mendacity of marketing, sprawling satirically all over the cultural map. Let’s sprawl first.

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 It’s not easy being brown. Especially if you’re the wrong kind of brown. But then, as the young singer Hanán discovers in Urueta’s satirical comedy Learn To Be Latina, you can always lie about it. Well, why not? Doesn’t everyone? 

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LOL, but seriously: can you ‘Learn To Be Latina’?

Milagro's current satire spoofs some serious issues. We asked the director and a star for impossible answers. Here's what they said.

This weekend, Enrique Ureta’s Learn To Be Latina, “a post-911 race farce/lesbian rom-com with dance breaks,” opens at Milagro Theatre. Hanen Mashalani (played by Nicole Accuardi) is a Lebanese American singer who wants to “make it,” so she meets with a group of star-handlers led by curiously Irish-accented Latina “Mary O’Malley” (played by Olga Sanchez Saltveit). O’Malley, boasting an Ethnic Studies degree, and her company of sassy sycophants insist that Hanen “lose” her true ethnic origins and adopt a more favorable persona: that of a Latina. They proceed (hilariously) to explain why, and try to teach her how, with puppets, hiphop dance numbers, and a cadre of playfully obnoxious “fad girls.” If this production packs even half the surprise attack of director Antonio Sonera’s Invasion, it should be worth an enthusiastic watch and more than a few bursts of stunned laughter.

Image: Russell J. Young

Image: Russell J. Young

Obviously, the show satirizes impossible questions about ethnicity and identity in a humorous way…but after I laugh, I just come back to the questions, and feel somewhat underqualified to address them. So I thought I’d extract the diciest implications from the practice I saw, and ask you for some insights from  Sonera and actor/Milagro mainstay Olga Sanchez Saltveit, who plays O’Malley. Sanchez Saltveit notes, “Although my degree is in Human Development, and much of my work is centered on creating events and spaces that promote positive self-image (often connected to ethnic identity), I also feel quite underqualified to answer your questions without entering into generalities, so I did a little web searching to respond to your questions.” The following becomes something of a discussion, something of a study guide on these hot-button, highly personal topics. But if you do your homework now, by opening night you may laugh—and think—even harder.

From the play: “Is being born the wrong kind of brown keeping you down?”
No, but seriously: Do some ethnicities have “better” stereotypes than others? And presuming all nonwhite ethnicities suffer the effects of prejudice, is it somehow okay to “pass” as a different nonwhite ethnicity and reap its advantages?

Sonera: In the play, “the wrong kind of brown” refers to being Lebanese. The playwright is making a point about our society and us living in a post 9-11 shadow of fear. His point being that in this day and age it is safer and more acceptable to be Latino than it is of Middle Eastern descent. Is it okay to “pass” as another nonwhite ethnicity? I think that is what the play is trying to say. The playwright uses Lebanese [ethnicity] as tool to demonstrate an ethnicity that should probably try and be something else that is “passable”. Remembering that the color of your skin may not allow you to be white, but it may allow you to be something that is acceptable…like Latino.

Sanchez Saltveit: Yes, but this changes with time (era) and circumstances. If I look to the Asian stereotype promoted by the icon of Fu Manchu … a book, film and comic strip antihero, a diabolical criminal mastermind, who, as the original author put it, “represented the yellow peril incarnate in one man.” Among Fu Manchu’s attributes was an absolute contempt for the white man, whose destruction he intended. Wikipedia explains “Yellow Peril” as “the fear that the mass immigration of Asians threatened white wages and standards of living, and the fear that they would eventually take over and destroy western civilization, replacing it with their ways of life and values.” Sound familiar?

In PBS’s Race, The Power of an Illusion , David Freund expounds on how “Italians, Jews, and Slavs were considered non-white in popular political discourse of the late 19th and early 20th century, and this discourse grew very influential in the anti-immigration movement, leading eventually, in the 1920s, to severe restrictions against entry of supposedly “non-white” groups to this country.” and how, “The political context and the power context changes. Ethnicity, like race, takes on different meanings.”

Locally, this report from the Coalition of Communities of Color shows how the African American community seems to have been targeted in arrests.

So, yeah, some ethnicities are more challenged. Or to paraphrase your question, some ethnicities have “worse” stereotypes than others.

[On “passing”]…you mean like Rita Hayworth? Martin Sheen? Bruno Mars? Linda Ronstadt? I guess so… sometimes it’s a matter of life and death, sometimes survival or success… I’m reminded of closeted gays or trans people who needed to stay in the closet or risk isolation (if not persecution) in their communities should they express their true identities. I’m not a fan of “passing” to reap benefits when none are needed (I’m thinking of politicians who conveniently remember that they’re part-‘whatever’ in front of a ‘whatever’ crowd) ~ in this case a person of privilege claims affiliation with disadvantage in order to appeal to a disenfranchised community ~ and thereby benefits from this affiliation.

From the play: “I need my name!” Aspiring singer Hanan Mashalani balks at the suggestion that she take a stage name, claiming her ethnic origin as revealed by her name is an essential part of her identity. But when her handlers press her, she can’t demonstrate any Arabic customs or language. Slyly side-eyeing each other, they suggest that she’s full-of-it, really just mainstream American.
No, but seriously: If all Americans except Native Americans originate from elsewhere, yet have been “Americanized” to various levels into the same language and practices, to what extent can we still claim our respective motherlands?

Sonera: In the play, Mary says that identity is “as negligible and negotiable as a back alley hooker.” So maybe the questions are, Can we claim our respective motherlands? Why do we try to claim them? Are we just appropriating identity? My Father is from Puerto Rico, my mother from Portland, and when asked what my ethnicity is I say Puerto Rican, Scottish, English, and German. I have never been to any of those places. I don’t speak Spanish or German. I identify as Latino, truly based on the way I look, and because of my name Antonio Sonera. Am I really Latino? Do I have the right to claim being Puerto Rican? I don’t know. Have I benefited from being Latino? Yes. I mean…I get to direct this play, right? The play raises a great question.What’s the minimum knowledge and custom needed to connect to our ethnic origins? I think that is an individual choice.

Sanchez Saltveit: Well, I think this stems back to the quote I pasted above about the discrimination faced by Italians, Jews and Slavs in the early part of the 20th century (I’ll add the Irish here as well). The struggle to create a unified “American” identity was critical in order to create peace, survival. I imagine this was fortified during WWII, when so many were banded together regardless of ethnic heritage. Yet there were segregated troops. Over time, so many people lost the language of their grandparents, and lost (or integrated) cultural traditions (I’m thinking Santa Claus, which didn’t exist in Latin America until the late 20th century.) As I understand it, this was one of the reasons for the interest in yoga, and Native culture in the 60s, and even the Back to Africa movement—a search for meaning/identity in the traditions of others, having lost one’s birthright to heritage.

To what extent can we claim our respective motherlands? Are you including naturalized citizens in your definition of All Americans? Sorry to delve into semantics. This is a question among some bi-cultural people (like myself) who feel like they belong neither here nor there.

From the play: Olga Sanchez brandishes a sock puppet she calls “Calcetina Turner,” (calcetina is “sock” in Spanish) and makes it “speak” with a broad Spanish accent and a haughty, flirtatious attitude. “I’ll teach you the secret of my Latin heat!” tempts the puppet.
No, but seriously: Do Latinas have access to a special brand of sex appeal? And if so, how do you characterize that? And is it imitable?

Sonera: In the play, famous Latinas are used as examples of sexy, and it is referred to as Latin Heat. Imitable? No more or less than any other characterization of sexy.

Sanchez Saltveit: Can of worms…

From the play: Speaking in an Irish brogue but intermittently slipping into her Latina impression, Sanchez’s character Mary O’Malley boasts about her postgraduate degree in Ethnic Studies, suggesting she’s outsmarted cultural subtext and is therefore at liberty to exploit it.
No, but seriously: Is it possible to educate oneself beyond one’s cultural predilections? And if so, is that outcome desirable?

Sonera: In the play, Mary’s education is twofold, one to make her an expert on ethnic studies, and to make herself appear to be a “White Girl”. It is desirable to Mary in the play.

Sanchez Saltveit: Not sure I understand the question, are you asking whether one can grow beyond their biases? That’s probably a spiritual ideal, to transcend judgment of others…probably easier said than achieved. As with other spiritual ideals, it requires a certain amount of humility, the acceptance of oneself as equal to—not better than—others.

In the case of Mary O’Malley, I believe she’s so hurt from what happened to her (the rejection she faced from record execs for being Latina in the 80s) that her pain fuels her goals. I don’t believe she’s interested in transcendence. Her education/knowledge is used to manipulate others, to realize her dreams: recording her music and making others see what fools they were for rejecting her.

So, while her education might have served her higher goals, it also serves her baser, more selfish, more vengeful ones. This is the great tragedy of the play, and what makes me cry every time I read it, and why I wanted to do it in the first place. Even if La Juana was never really very good in her day, her feeling of victimization, discrimination, marginalization is so strong it motivates her to become a very ugly, manipulative person. She is a product of prejudice. Many people internalize these judgments, growing to believe the lies they are told about themselves—that they and their ‘kind’ are stupid, lazy, ‘hot’, what have you. Mary rebels against this; she’s on the way to prove everyone wrong. She just goes about it in a mean-spirited way. After all, if she was tough enough to withstand, shouldn’t everyone else be? It’s why she’s so tough with the character Blanca, aka “Office Bitch,” the only other Latina in the play. Dare I call it “tough love?” And I wonder whether Mary hasn’t internalized the negativity she faced, and somehow this justifies her behavior? She can’t help herself; she’s naturally bad.

It’s a broad statement, but there’s a core of truth in this. Hatred, prejudice, bias…hurts a spirit, wounds people. It is desirable to overcome one’s cultural predilections (though I think of predilections as preferences) but perhaps even more desirable to overcome one’s cultural prejudices before they cause more pain.

Seriously… These questions remain unresolvable except on a personal, philosophical level…but who could answer better? Having given the issues a bit more consideration, feel free to brace yourself for belly-laughs. Learn to be Latina opens this Friday, May 2 and runs through the month at Milagro Theater on 6th and SE Stark.

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A. L. Adams also writes the monthly column Art Walkin’  for  The Portland Mercury, and is  former arts editor of Portland Monthly magazine. Read more from Adams: Oregon ArtsWatch | The Portland Mercury
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Portland embraces Dia de los Muertos

Three Day of the Dead culture makers talk about the holiday

“Raiz” at Miracle Theatre

By A.L. ADAMS

It’s hard to deny that Dia de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead) is “trending” in Portland. As little as two years ago, one Latino theater company seemed the primary flame-keeper for the festivities. But this year, an explosion of new awareness left virtually every Halloween party haunted by a few “calacas” (traditional skeleton figures), ushered hundreds on a cemetery walk, festooned Holocene in paper banners, and even flavored an indie-rock warehouse party.

We asked the three Latino culture-makers who coordinated the aforementioned festivities, “What do you make of Day of the Dead’s growing hype? And how can new initiates best tap in to the festival’s true meaning?”

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Olga Sanchez Saltveit

We started with Olga Sanchez Saltveit, mainstage artistic director for Miracle (aka “Milagro”) Theatre, which has hosted a Dia de los Muertos production for 18 years, making it the longest-running celebration of the holiday in Portland. Typically a dreamlike pageant of candle-lit skeleton characters, this year’s benevolently spooky play “Raiz” plumbs back further into the holiday’s Aztec roots. The play and accompanying gallery exhibit “Ofrendas” (a showcase of altars) are on view through November 11, and Olga is eager to evangelize. Drawing from her encyclopedic knowledge of the pan-Latino experience, she explains that the Aztec calendar allocated different seasons to the worship of the over- and under- world, and the dead were thought to revisit their loved ones during a month-long season in the fall.

“Personally, I’d like to see Day of the Dead become a national holiday in America,” she says, “not just for the cultural aspect of it, but because we need a time once a year to really sit down with death and honor it, to stop taking ourselves so seriously. [As it is] we flee aging, we flee death, we put our elderly away and let other people handle that…there’s a disconnect with the whole experience, and I don’t think it’s the healthiest. The fundamental belief that the dead return on Day of the Dead means we’ve won, it’s a victory over the separation from death we may otherwise feel. And it also means relationships are deeper than the physical presence, that the heart keeps the memory alive.”

For newcomers, Olga assigns some homework: “Build an altar. Give it a couple of different layers to represent the world and the underworld. Put photos of your loved ones on it; put candles. Make a space to really remember them.”

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Luz Elena Mendoza

Thursday at Holocene, Aztec Danza Prehispanica swooped and swayed in brightly-colored, spiky feather headdresses, stomping their anklets to hiss ancient rhythms. Giant papier-mache statues of a skeleton and a devil presided over an ornate decorative altar strewn with old photos. The club’s second annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration—which also featured mariachi singer Edna Vasquez, Maestro Victor’s original play “The Ancestors,” Orquestra Pacifico Tropical and a pre-party procession through the Lone Fir Cemetery—came courtesy of Luz Elena Mendoza, lead singer of popular indie-folk band Y La Bamba.

“I had a vision; shared it with everyone and people followed,” she explains, crediting the help of friends and family for drawing the capacity (500-person) all-ages crowd that was a rare mix of Hispanic families and individuals who drove from as far as Mt. Angel to attend, students from the Sunnyside Environmental School, and the dance club’s usual “hipster” contingent.

“As a Latin American raised in the States,” explains Mendoza, “I was brought up with both Mexican and Catholic traditions. My upbringing lives strongly inside of my heart and the image of my family is something that drives my inspiration. However, there are naturally certain aspects of our cultural heritage that are not carried over as strongly in the transition; aspects that I feel compelled to cultivate and hold on to. It’s important to remember where we came from and to breath the same air as our ancestors.”

As for that tradition’s newfound trendiness? She sees it as a vote of confidence: “I Like to think that when you holler, other people holler back! There’s been a growing desire within the Latin community to preserve our heritage and share it with the greater community in Portland. The more awareness, the more we can learn together.”

Mendoza, for one, isn’t too worried about revelers getting it wrong: “The celebration of life and death is something that’s universal. It’s great to see people coming together regardless of their heritage or cultural awareness.”

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David “Papi” Fimbres

David “Papi” Fimbres, a prolific and beloved Portland musician, typically plays psychedelic prog-rock with O Bruxo, Sun Angle and others—but he recently hosted a pre-Halloween warehouse show that featured his more “tradicional” side: the 9-piece cumbia combo Orquestra Pacifico Tropical (which he un-ironically describes as “a group of rad homies”).

Decked out in skeleton face paint and a white suit, Fimbres eagerly bounced between the roles of doorman, soundman, and musician, lighting up the costumed crowd with his high-wattage positivity. While sets by Electric Ill, Gulls, 1939 Ensemble and Sun Angle kept the bill eclectic and nobody name-checked Day of the Dead, DJ Michael Bruce’s Latin beats, a “calaca” graphic on the show poster, Papi’s costume and the Orquestra’s set more than hinted at the holiday. “This is the first of many shows that I will put together around the festivities of Dia de los Muertos,” Fimbres promised. (Orquestra also participated in the festivities at Holocene.) When ArtsWatch offered to pick his brain on the subject, he replied, “My brains are pretty juicy, like carnitas!”

Papi pegs Portland’s emerging fascination with Mexico’s Day of the Dead to a much broader trend: “Death in general! look at all the zombie and horror movies that have been coming out in droves!” (Good point. Maybe amid the melange of vampires and forensic dramas, culturally significant skeletons just sell themselves?) Even so, Papi takes it as a compliment: “It makes me happy that gringos are embracing our culture more and more here in awesome Portland.”

“But,” he cautions, “if Portland’s gonna get all cultural, we should most definitely do it right. So far, it’s been pretty good, but maybe people should read more about the tradition. Don’t just slap some paint on your face and say you’re cultural. It’s also important to remember that we’re all in transition every day, everywhere on this planet. Death is another state, and to embrace it only opens up your third eye a bit more.”

“Growing up in Los Angeles, we definitely celebrated Dia de los Muertos.  My momz would make meals for days for my departed family members. The tradition in northern Mexico—and many other places as well—is that you make [the dead’s] favorite meal and they return home for one day of the year to rest, feast and relax in the comfort of their once home. I think it’s important to think about death as a positive energy and not mope in it, presuming it’s the end of someone’s journey. It’s a celebration. The most important aspect of it all is to have a great time and remember our loved ones in a shining moment of happiness.”

 
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