Antonio Villaraigoisa, the forty-first mayor of Los Angeles, has been one of the most visible faces in the last forty-eight hours. This mid-morning the official inauguration of the Feria took place (see image below) The highlight was the presentation of its major literary award to Venezuelan poet Rafael Cadenas. But beforehand, a number of people spoke, including Villaraigoisa. During his prepared remarks, he made note of the contributions of L.A.-based artists, specifically mentioning three---though only one was a writer. It was a nice moment, therefore, hearing him give the full-house a brief sketch of fellow Macondista, Alex Espinoza, specifically naming his novel, for all to hear: Still Water Saints.
The mayor was also a bit self-deprecating about his Spanish, which sounded flawless to me. And yet at one point, when he strayed from his written remarks, his humor shone through when he said:
"Ahora el pochito va hablar," which was greeted with warm laughter.
Directly after this opening session, there was a special luncheon across the street at the Hilton, where I had the pleasure of sitting with Luis J. Rodriguez and his wife Trini, who have brought a generous selection of Tia Chucha Press books. Rodriguez was also instrumental in organizing a lowrider exhibit, which has been set up beside the Los Angeles Pavilion near a gathering space called Café Literario, which will be the site of a number of events.
And speaking of Pavilions, it's the reason I'm here. I'll be stationed in this nicely designed area for the next few days as a sort of bilingual consultant for the NEA, which is underwriting this space (see image below). Among the writers whose titles I had occasion to chat up today were: Javier Huerta, whose Arte Público book is here; Tomás Riley, whose Calaca Press book is displayed; Linda Rodriguez, whose Heart's Migration is prominently placed as was Daniel A. Olivas' fiction anthology---which sold today. The middle-aged gentleman had traveled to Guadalajara from Mexico City: he was looking for new voices in Latino narrative. "Hay un título que le va interesar," I said, as I went to fetch Olivas' edited volume. The thought pleased me: helping forge a readership one person at a time: a man named Rafael Silva will be taking Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press, 2008) back to DF...
El Pabellón de Los Angeles
I met some other folks worth mentioning, but I'll add them to whatever might transpire tomorrow...