Monday, November 17, 2008

i grew up going to La Pena

La Pena is the place I saw Zioni perform for the first time, I took a field trip there in the 6th grade to watch El Norte (wit my spanish class) I saw the Attik perform there, i saw Shannon spit one of her sick ass poems as a 13 year old (i think if not then hella young espacially for the immense talent that she lets seap out of her mouth) and many other talented folks from singers to poets, and when I wanna make a plan with my god mama she usually has to check that she's not doing volunteer work for Kehila or La Pena...(she stays volunteering and going to events). From the community work to the dope music shows La Pena is the place where it goes done!!!

If you are in the bay please check out this show so i can vicariously live threw you cause i hella wish i was able to be there:

Heres a little background on La Pena:

As a welcoming gathering place, La Peña provides opportunities for artists to share diverse cultural traditions, to create and perform their work, and to support and interface with diverse social movements.

Annually, La Peña presents over 200 events with emerging and established artists; organizes an arts education program; produces new works by local artists, presents internationally and nationally renowned artists, and houses a Latin American café which complements the organization's mission.

The peña tradition started in Latin America in the early sixties. The main idea, developed especially by Chilean composer and singer Violeta Parra, was to have a gathering place where artists of all disciplines could share a space. The mission of the peña was to provide good food, music and an overall aesthetic response to an institutional culture that did not provide the space for other creative forms to exist. Peñas in Chile became a major backbone of the cultural program during Salvador Allende's government from 1970 to 1973. It was here where artists-poets, musicians, painters, cooks - gathered to preserve cultural forms and to create new ones.

Our Center was modeled on that specific cultural history. La Peña Cultural Center was started by a multi-racial group of Latin Americans and North Americans as a response to the military coup that overthrew the socialist government of Salvador Allende. The coup happened on Sept. 11, 1973 and was aided and abetted by the U.S. government. La Peña incorporated on September 11, 1974, one year after the military coup and opened its doors in June of 1975.

After one of the bloodiest military coups in Latin American history thousands of individuals and families went into exile throughout the world. Many came to the U.S. and eventually moved to the S.F. Bay Area. Exiles brought to the U.S. their memories and the cultural experiences of having created gathering places for communal art. Thus, La Peña became an imagined country for them as it welcomed this community in diaspora. In turn, the exiles brought their art, music, food, and aspirations for democracy to the center, creating a unique and historical relationship ever since. Some of the exiles that worked with and at La Peña returned to Chile to join the resistance; sadly, a number of these individuals died in the effort to bring democracy to Chile. Other exiles that were related to the Center fought alongside the Sandinistas. However, many of the exiles stayed here, built families, communities and kept working with La Peña.

In the late seventies, war came to Central America. The Nicaraguan community organized support for the end of the Somoza dictatorship. La Peña created special programming, bringing musicians, poets and painters to contribute to these democratic efforts. The war moved in the early eighties to El Salvador and spread throughout Central America. Because of the experience of helping the Chilean exiles, and due to the fact that the Chileans were an integral part of the center, La Peña was a safe-haven for many Central American refugees. A historical semiotic reading of the mural at La Peña can reveal these events that took place in the history of Latin America.

In addition, La Peña has made concrete efforts to foster a close relationship with groups in Latin America that organize national and international cultural events. La Peña sent delegates to the Cultural Congress in Chile during the dictatorship, to Latin American New Song Festivals in Ecuador and Nicaragua, as well as to conferences in Cuba. The La Peña Chorus has toured Cuba, Chile, and Chiapas, Mexico.

The founders and the staff that have since joined La Peña have always made sure to link the arts and culture to a vision for peace and social justice. Since our beginnings, we have also pursued linkages with local groups such as the American Indian Movement, the Black Panthers, and the Comexas organizers in East Oakland, the Emiliano Zapata Street Academy, and the No on Prop. 209 work, and other local progressive groups. Important to us has been the long history of working with the United Farm Workers. Given this relationship, Cesar Chávez celebrated his 50th birthday at La Peña. In June of 2000, another UFW co-founder, Dolores Huerta celebrated her 70th birthday at the center. Moreover, La Peña also has maintained a close relationship with KPFA, and at one point we had a weekly regular program produced at La Peña with La Peña staff and volunteers. On the international level, La Peña was an active participant in the anti-apartheid movement.

Our place has been the principal articulator and has supported important cultural groups and their ideas. Grupo Raiz-which was born at La Peña-together with El Tecolote¹s Acción Latina, organized and created the basis for the "Encuentro del Canto Popular," which later became a Bay Area institution. The renowned group Altazor, a feminist expression of Nueva Canción, was also created at La Peña. Dr. Loco credits La Peña as the place where his band began its career. Culture Clash has always mentioned and cherished La Peña for our initial support for their artistic endeavors. In sum, we have been a crucial and active component of the cultural scene in the Bay Area, the state, the country and the world.

Therefore, our understanding of our mission as a cultural center has been to make the necessary connections between art and politics. At the same time we have sought to make the connection between local, national and international efforts for democracy, self-determination and a world where the gap between those who need and those who have too much will disappear.

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