Celebrating our Community During Latino Heritage Month

Celebrating our Community During Latino Heritage Month

October marks the second half of Latino Heritage Month. As the grandson of Mexican immigrants, I’m proud to celebrate the history, contributions, and diverse cultures of our community.

East LA is home to the largest Latinx population in the country. Our community is rich in traditions, food, and culture. We also have a long history of activism in California-- from the labor movement to the Chicano Civil Rights Movement to recent protests against police brutality.

Although we’ve come a long way in gaining equality, we still have much work to do in uplifting our communities and ensuring equal opportunities for our people. In honor of Latino Heritage Month, this edition of the R-Guide honors Latinx artists, businesses, and nonprofits dedicated to making a difference in our community.

A Farm to Cup Experience: El Cielito Cafe

A Farm to Cup Experience: El Cielito Cafe

Daniel Olivares has watched LA’s transformation since his childhood in Echo Park. Gentrification has altered many areas, once rich in Latinx enterprise and culture, unrecognizable. One day, at a hipster coffee shop, Daniel was inspired to bring an important part of Latinx heritage back into the community.

Daniel looked at the Latin American coffees on the menu and thought, “Why are we not serving the coffee that our people are growing?” That’s when he decided to open El Cielito Cafe, which serves artisan coffee directly from Latin America.

Once El Cielito Cafe opened in South Gate, Daniel learned that many coffee farmers took profit losses from middlemen. He realized that he had to change his business plan if he wanted to be different from gentrified coffee shops. “That’s when things really started to shift,” Daniel said.

Coffee farms from Latin America started reaching out to work with Daniel through Yelp. Some of these farms were on their last leg. By working directly with El Cielito Cafe, the farmers were able to make the profit they deserved.

Since 2018, El Cielito Cafe has secured deals with farmers to have raw coffee delivered directly from countries, including El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Some of these farmers have invested in their communities, building clinics and schools in their small towns.

By representing Latinx culture through coffee, El Cielito Cafe is empowering the community, both in LA and abroad. “We’re investing in our people,” Daniel stressed, “The customers invest in farmers and their families.”

If you’d like to enjoy El Cielito Cafe’s artisan coffee, from their traditional Café de Olla to their one-of-a-kind Champulatte, you can order online on their web page or visit their location at 8015 Long Beach Blvd B, South Gate.

Visit El Cielito Café on Social Media:

Instagram, Facebook or Twitter

 

Meet the Artists Behind the Bell Library Mural

Meet the Artists Behind the Bell Library Mural

“Once you learn to read, you will forever be free.” - Frederick Douglas

This message on the new Bell Library mural is a tribute to a place that has a special place in the hearts of local artists: Hector “Tetris” Arias, Nancy Ceballos, and Rey Sepulveda a.k.a. Beto Rosela. I recently had a great virtual panel discussion with these muralists about art and their inspiration for the piece.

“The library was always a great resource,” Rey recounted, remembering learning and occasionally getting rowdy in the library. “The librarians hated us, but we weren’t out in the streets. We were working with technology, and I enjoyed it.”

As the team worked on the mural for over a month, the community came out to support them. “People brought us food and water,” said Tetris, “Everyone was pretty excited to see what would come up the next day.”

When I asked the artists what advice they had for others looking to hone their craft, they urged artists to seek mentors and build a network. “Be teachable, be humble, and know that there’s always more to learn,” Nancy expressed.

They also encouraged emerging artists to embrace new challenges and try different mediums. Rey talked about getting his start on murals after reaching out to Tetris on Instagram. “I asked if I could sweep, clean, anything to learn and get experience,” he described.

Tetris also emphasized the importance of consistency while practicing. “To develop a skill, it’s just like riding a bike. The more you draw, the better you’ll get,” he explained.

We have so many great artists in Southeast LA who are eager to help the next generation of talent. If you’re interested in hearing more from SELA artists, join our art talks on Zoom starting October 8th.

Creating an Empowered and Connected Community

Growing up in Huanusco in Zacatecas, Mexico, Maria de Lourdes Briseño learned the importance of arts and culture. At eight years old, she and her sister stayed in Mexico to care for their eight siblings while their parents immigrated to the U.S. to create a better life for their family.

Initially, Lourdes and her sister skipped on extracurricular activities to help support their siblings. But after a teacher offered them free dance lessons, the sisters discovered their love for dance and performing. The siblings began performing at ranchos and dance competitions. “We couldn’t afford to purchase costumes. A local seamstress let us use her sewing machines to make our costumes out of paper crepe,” Lourdes recalled.

Once Lourdes and her siblings became U.S. citizens, she saw herself in many of the children in the SELA community. To create more opportunities for these kids, Lourdes founded the Latinas Art Foundation, a nonprofit that teaches youth about Latino art and culture.

The Latinas Art Foundation empowers youth through traditional folk dance workshops with professors from Latin America, as well as art concerts, art contests, and free art exhibits with artwork, live dance, and music. The Foundation also teaches important life skills such as teamwork, cooperation, leadership, and discipline.

By educating kids about their roots, Lourdes strives to create a more empowered and connected community. “As we explore culture, it’s also important to remember how much we have in common,” she said, “Each cultural group has unique strengths and perspectives that the larger community can benefit from.”

 

Virtual Coffee Conversation

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