LaVidaEnBlackHistory Month Day 5

LaVidaEnBlackHistory Month Day 5

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…

MimiTVA posting from the DMV, Friday February 5, 2016

Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando has been an inspiration to me for quite some time.  Her films are treasures of knowledge presented in the way of a modern day Griot, proud and brilliant; they make me eager to connect to my ancestors and fill me with pride in the way my father’s booming voice did oh so long ago.

BalconGloria Rolando’s first film; “Un Eterno Presente: Oggún” is an audiovisual homage to the Yoruba diety Oggún.  Oggún is the blacksmith diety resenting the modern world of industrialization, and works with metals and technology through the songs of the immense Yoruba vocalist, Lazarro Ros.  In this film Rolando explains how the men and women of Lázaro’s generation, are the last bridge tying us to the Africa that gave birth to its roots in the Americas. “We must recognize that it contains legends and universal values that explain the world. My personal experience with Oggún demonstrates to me that this is possible.”

 

In”Eyes of the Rainbow,” was made in 1997, is a documentary about Assata Shakur, the Black Panther and Black Liberation Army leader who took refuge in Cuba after years of struggles in the US. The film integrates AfroCuban culture, including the Orisha Oya, to show Assata’s place in Cuba, where she has lived for the past three decades. In English.

Gloria’s latest film effort is about the Indepedientes de Color or The Independents of Color a Cuban Political party that was formed after the largely Mambi Army ousted the Spaniards from Cuba in the late 1800’s.   Recent research in Cuba has established that this army was overwhelmingly made up of Cubans of African descent (80% and perhaps as high as 90%): consequently  it was thus one of the largest slave revolts in the hemisphere.  When the Mambises had ejected the Spaniards from Cuba, the plantocracy  / plantation owners became allies of the Americans.  These events led to the little known Massacre of 1912.

Evaristo Estenoz founded the Independents of Color in 1908 in order to secure a rightful share for Afro-Cubans in all aspects of  Cuban society; specifically the government which had successfully marginalized them. He was murdered by Cuban troops in 1912 along with over 6,000 other AfroCubans, fellow party members, after an intense media campaign carried out by the plantocracy to demonize the party.  As famed sonero Arsenio Rodriguez says: “Hay que adorarlos como a Martí!”  Roots of my heart is the first treatment on film of a  history that has been largely ignored by both sides of the Florida Straights.

 

 

 

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LaVidaEnBlackHistory Month Day 4

LaVidaEnBlackHistory Month Day 4

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai… Gracias Profe. Evo!

Posting from the DMV, Thursday February 4, 2016

Cheo Feliciano’s smooth distinctive voice was loved and revered by salsa fans throughout the world.  Unfortunately in 2014, Feliciano passed away in a car accident losing control of his car and hitting a light pole.  But Feliciano’s brushes with death were not uncommon and his is a story to be remembered and admired.

Feliciano (birth name: José Luis Feliciano Vega) born in Ponce Puerto Rico.  His childhood nickname, “Cheo” came from his family, a colloquial version of José. And the name stuck plus he was not to be confused with the other Jose Feliciano who was of no relation.  At a young age Cheo was influenced by the boleros of the Trio Los Panchos. When Cheo was just eight years old he started his own group named “El Combo Las Latas”.  Their musical instruments were made out of cans because that’s all they could afford at the time. And as a young teenager in Ponce, he went on to study percussion.

Feliciano and his family moved to Nueva York to the heart of Spanish Harlem.  Once in New York, he auditioned and got the gig as a percussionist in the “Ciro Rimac’s Review” band.  After that famed Puerto Rican crooner, Tito Rodriguez offered Feliciano a spot in his big band that played at the Palladium Ballroom.   In 1955, Rodríguez found out that Joe Cuba was in need of a singer for his sextet and he knew what a talented singer Cheo was; so he recommended Cuba that he try out for the position. Feliciano became a vocalist for the Joe Cuba Sextet one of the most popular bands at the time. Feliciano was the rare baritone of salsa singers, and his deep voice and quick humor in improvisation made him un favorite dentro del public Latino.

la-vida-de-cheo-feliciano-5

On October 5, 1957, was Feliciano’s professional debut  as a vocalist with the Joe Cuba Sextet, singing “Perfidia”. He sang with Joe Cuba for 10 years. In 1967, he joined the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra singing for them for two years. Sadly at the same time he developed a drug habit at just 21 years old. Cheo quickly fell into a heroin addiction which threatened his life and professional career. Feliciano decided to quit “cold turkey” and eventually joined Puerto Rico’s rehabilitation center, Hoagies CREA.  Feliciano credits Tite Curet Alonso, the author of most of his hits and best friend, with pushing him through  rehabilitation. As a result, Feliciano was a vehement anti-drug spokesperson, who volunteered to assist in the rehabilitation of fellow salsa artists who fell prey to drug addiction.

In 1972, Feliciano came back to music with the album Cheo, his first solo recording. The album, which featured compositions by Tite Curet, broke all sales records in the Latino music market. The album was loaded with hits like “Anacaona” and “Mi Triste Problema”

During the 1970s, Feliciano recorded fifteen albums for Fania Records and had hits with “Amada Mia” and “Juan Albañil”. He also recorded one of his first albums of Boleros – La Voz Sensual de Cheo. Recorded in Argentina and directed by a famed composer Jorge Calandrelli Cheo’s star rose to new levels. And Feliciano became a part of the first salsa opera by Fania pianist “El Judio Maravilloso”, Larry Harlow, entitled Hommy.

Cheo_Feliciano

In 1982, Feliciano began his own record label – “Coche Records”. In 1984, he was honored by artists like Ruben Blades and Joe Cuba in a concert entitled A Tribute to Cheo Feliciano. The next year, he became the first tropical singer to perform at the Amira de la Rosa Theater in Barranquilla, Colombia. In 1987, he played Roberto Clemente’s father in the musical Clemente. Feliciano also became a hit in Spain, and was a regular in the Tenerife Carnival. 

In 1990, Feliciano recorded another album of Boleros, titled Los Feelings de Cheo. He also traveled all over Europe, Japan, Africa, and South America. In Venezuela, he had a reunion with Eddie Palmieri. In 1995, Feliciano won a Platinum Record Award for La Combinación Perfecta.

In 2000, Feliciano recorded Una Voz, Mil Recuerdos as a tribute to various Puerto Rican singers. The album was listed among the 20 outstanding recordings of the year by the National Foundation of the Popular Culture of Puerto Rico. In 2002, he recorded Cheo en la Intimidad. In 2012, Feliciano and Ruben Blades released a collaboration album titled Eba Say Aja where both artists performed each other’s previously recorded songs. In June 2013, Feliciano confirmed that he was suffering from liver cancer and was already undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Doctors discovered the illness when they were treating him for a dislocated shoulder.  In 2014, Feliciano celebrated being “cancer-free”.

 

A memorial service in honor of Feliciano was held at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan on April 20, 2014. The service was attended by thousands and several artists paid their respects to Feliciano with songs plus kept guard by Feliciano’s coffin. Artists and groups like Danny Rivera, José Nogueras, Fania All-Stars, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Rubén Blades, Víctor Manuelle, Andy Montañez, Tito Nieves, and others were present.  The next day, his body was taken to the city of Ponce, where he was born. A public service was held at the Ponce Convention Center, led by Governor Alejandro García Padilla and Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez. After that, a private ceremony was held for the family and close friends inside La Piedad Cemetery. Although the public was not allowed entrance at first, the gates were opened once the family finished their memorial.  Feliciano became part of Sergio George’s group called Salsa Giants whom he was touring with when he died.  Feliciano traveled and sang across the globe until his last day.

LaVidaEnBlack History Month 

LaVidaEnBlack History Month 

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…

Posting from the DMV, February 1, 2016

MimiTVA commits to post about different Afro-Latinos throughout Black History Month and beyond.  I’ll start out with my personal favorite … El Negro Primero, the Venezuelan soldier, Pedro Camejo!

In Venezuela, Simon Bolivar known as the liberator of South America realized the vital role Black men played in the colonies quest for freedom from the Spanish Crown. One of Bolivar’s fiercest soldiers was El Negro Primero, Pedro Camejo. Born a slave, Camejo’s nickname was a testament to his bravery for Pedro was always the first to enter the battlefield.

 Frightening the enemies with his vicious spear, Cameo rose to the rank of Lieutenant.

After fighting valiantly in the Battalla de Carabobo, Camejo was mortally wounded and before taking his last breath he uttered this unforgettable phrase to say goodbye to his trusted leader, General Josè Antonio Pàez, “Mi General vengo a decirle adiòs porque estoy muerto” (My General, I came to say goodbye because I am 
dead.)
Camejo has a municipality named for him as well as a statue in Caracas, the only such statue of a black man in all of Venezuela.  He fought for freedom and died a brave and unforgettable death.

BatallaCarabobo01

Sara Gòmez; The Documentary Gem of Cuba! 

Sara Gòmez; The Documentary Gem of Cuba! 

#LaVidaEnBlack #TheBlacksideofHispanicHeritage

  Sara Gómez (November 8, 1942 – June 2, 1974) was an Afro-Cuban filmmaker. She was born into a middle-class family in Havana and she was afforded an education in literature, piano and Afro-Cuban ethnography. 
She became a journalist before joining the newly-formed ICAIC in 1961, Castro a fan of film as art developed ICAIC as a new center for film in Cuba.   Gòmez quickly rose in the ranks as an assistant director to Jorge Fraga and Tomas Gutierrez Alea, as well as to the visiting French director Agnes Varda. 

One of only two black filmmakers at ICAIC at the time, and for several years its only woman director, Gomez made a series of documentary shorts. One of which is featured here…

“De Cierta Manera” was her last film and her first feature although Sara died after filming.  

De Cierta Manera (One Way or Another) a 1974 Cuban romantic drama was Directed by Sara Gómez. Considered Avant Garde; the film mixes documentary-style footage with a fictional story that looks at empoverished neighborhoods of Havana right after the Revolution of 1959. 

The film illuminates the history before the Revolution and the development that occured after Castro took over in 1959 Cuba. 

Its plot shows how tearing down slums and building modern settlement will not change the culture of its people. 

Gómez wrapped filming with Mario Balmaseda and Yolanda Cuellar just before her death; technical work was finished by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Julio García-Espinosa y Rigoberto López before its posthumous release.

As De Cierta Manera reveals, Sara Gómez was a revolutionary filmmaker at a crossroads; the Afro-Cuban community, its cultural traditions to include the African based religions, Abakuá and Santería, women’s issues, the treatment of marginalized sectors of society, and the role of family within the context of the revolution and workers’ rights. For its time, the film was extremely radical both in form and content.  Sara Gómez remains one of the most significant filmmakers from Latin America.  There is an award named for Sara Gòmez in the Women in Film and Video Chapter of Cuba. 

La Reina de Azùcar y los Afro-Latinos

La Reina de Azùcar y los Afro-Latinos

Ay Celia… I celebrate her this September – October in my La Vida En Hispanic Heritage Month posts and I would be remiss to not celebrate La Reina, So here ya go! 
As a constant source of inspiration you never fail to impress, Celia you still reign supreme in a world where you were meant to be just a this or a that.  But it was your destiny to touch hearts it was your purpose to make your people proud, that those who looked like feel as though they to could be respected and revered by their grace, talent, beauty.  

  
As the ONLY Afro-Latina with her very own expansive exhibit displayed in the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington DC, you had weaved yourself into the very fabric of this country, unlike any other Afro-Latina in the world.  The exhibit was complete with costumes designed by you and your music it was such an amazing thing to see and enjoy. 
 A Grammy nominee, ten times over, Celia sang only in Spanish because as she used to claim her “English was not very good looking.”    

She received a Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement award, a National Medal of the Arts, and honorary doctorates from Yale and the University of Miami. A street in Miami was also renamed  in her honor. 

  

Her trademark orange, red, and white polka dot dress (an original Celia design) and her personally designed shoes have been placed in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute of Technology. According to the European Jazz Network, Celia “commands her realm with a down-to-earth dignity unmistakably vibrant in her wide smile and striking pose.”

   

Celia was a big star in Cuba before she came to the US.  She replaced the Puerto Rican singer Myrta Silva in the famed Cuban Orchestra, La Sonora Matancera in 1950 much to the chagrin of the white aristocracy in Cuba.  This singular move would propell the orchestra and Celia to international stardom. She became one of the first Afro-Latina women to lead an orchestra and Sonora Matancera took Cuban music around the world with Celia Cruz as “La Guarachera Cubana.”

  

I will never forget the way I felt driving down Constitution Ave, when I saw this mega building sized poster of Celia emblazoned with her battle cry to sing  Azùcar! in DC.   Our national museum of American History had this beautiful icon covering the front of their building it was a win.  And I remember thinking ..wow Celia, you were

A Cruz Original
 
It was amazing to see An entire exhibit devoted to our queen, our music, the ancestors were so very pleased.  Couldnt you feel it in her voice? I can, to this day, still hear her singing in my heart,  felt her spirit in my soul, “La Vida Es Un Carnival”
La Vida Es Un Carnival Live  

I was filled with an inexplicable level of pride at who Celia was and what Celia Cruz means to me and people who look like me.  She is irreplaceable our Queen, La Reina! It was confirming to see that Celia Cruz a naturalized citizen, of these United States was still honored and revered with her own exhibit. She was a treasure. 

 

   I have my favorite songs of Celia’s I love “Usted Abuso” with its lovely arrangements and of course “La Negra Tiene Timbao” my anthem because I am Ese Negrita que esta caminando… 

But the song that just breaks my heart in its mastery of lyrics is a cover En Español of I Will Survive.  Recorded just months before she succumbed to brain cancer. Her voice rich but strained emmitted the wonderful Adios of this legendary singer. 

“Yo Vivire, en el alma de mi gente, en el cuero del tambor, en las manos del congero, en los pies del bailador, yo vivire, ahi estar, mientras pase una comparsa, con mi rumba cantare, sere siempre lo que fui con mi azucar para ti, yo vivire, yo vivire…” 

(Translation) “I will survive, in the soul of my people, in the skin of our drum, in the hands of the drummer, in the feet of the dancer, I will survive, and there it is, while my song is playing, with my rumba I will sing, always being alive with my azucar for you I will survive… I will survive” 

Below every latin vocalist from Gloria Estefan to Jose Feliciano and Marc Anthony come on stage with Celia to sing one last song with her. A truly proper goodbye.   I am always rendered to tears each time I see it. 

An All Star Tribute To Living Legend Celia Cruz

I Still cant listen to any of her music without breaking out in dance either… So this post is in gratitude… Thank you God, Mil Gracias a Dios por la Vida En Black of La Reina, Celia Cruz! 

An Angel Formed Today

An Angel Formed Today

Trini-Vene Tribe, Today

an Angel formed on this day

Today, March 15th ; I honor the making of our personal familia Angel, the woman who formed our being, the Madre We are blessed to call our own… I cannot begin to describe the level if blessing we all have had by being a part of her beautiful family. 

I can however share one story she told that truly guided my faith and ordered my steps to “do good” so that “good would always follow” me, and all of us. 

Mummy used to go on pilgrimages to different sites around the world where the Blessed Virgin Mary appears with Catholic church groups from Canada, the US and the Caribbean.  She was dedicated to these pilgrimages so mych so that, even our vacations as kids were made around these sites.   A trip to Portugal was begun in Fatima and when we went to France, a stop in Lourdes was on our itenerary. 



One of her pilgrimages was to a town known at the time in Yugoslavia, called Medjugorje.  The apparition of the Virgin began in 1981 and of the six children that saw the “Lady of Medjugorje” on a daily basis three continues to see “Gospa” (Croatian for “Lady”) today.  

About 1987 Mummy and one of her groups from Canada went to Yugoslavia to “make a pilgrimage” to the Medjugorje site.  It is one of the newer sites for apparitions and the conditions at this location were not really designed for a woman in her late 60s, so I expressed my concern.  Mummy responded to me in her loving but firm way telling me that she was compelled to visit this site.  And I thought, really who was I to say where my world traveling Madre with her tremendous faith could go and visit.  I knew by then Any journey rooted in prayer was blessed and protected, so off she went. And when Mummy returned she told me about it in very much this way with her sweet Trini lilt and charming way. 

The town circa 1987


“I wanted to help an elderly lady so me and dee lady was walkin’ up behind the group up the Hill.  Crnica Hill was dee name, in their language you know.  We stop just before the place where The Virgin was appearing, and there was a man selling water. So I got water for us, and we continue to the spot on this hill.”

“It was like a bluff or an opening; decorated pretty pretty wit rosaries, flowers, candles an’ ting.  We went to kneel in front of what we thought was a statue but as we were praying the statue took on another form.  It looked so true and real with a glow around her that felt warm like the sun.  I felt a peace and was a little shocked because I didnt believe I was worthy to see this.  I look to the elderly woman and she look at me in this same kinda way.  We prayed a few more minutes and we got up to go back down the hill behind everyone else. “

” When we reach the little bus we all start talking about the place.  Only nobody else is talking about what we saw neither the man selling water nor the statue we both had seen.  Right there I knew what we saw was for us alone. I wanted to drop to my knees right then but was on the bus and couldnt.  So gurl I just shout out thank you God praise the Father that,  I would be chosen in this way.  I was both humbled and proud.” 

“Always remember girl, The blessed Virgin will Guide you through any trouble, you must pray to her every day. Do good and good will always follow you.”  



Josefa surrounded by her grandchildren, Lena, Louis and Desi



Today Mummy you went home to your rightful place in heaven. And I shout out to God in Praise to say thank you Lord!  Thank you for all the love you gave us all. Thank you for our beautiful family.  Thank you for the wonderful memories.  Thank you for the life we all get to live today.  We love and miss you every day.



Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar, Dancing En Clave

#BlackHistoryIsGlobal

Today’s La Vida En Black History Month message hails from Bayamòn Puerto Rico… A Boricua who influenced ballroom dance so much that his signature moves are now Latin dance competition standards, Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar was the original Mambo King.apollo1 Crowned in 1952 as the “greatest Mambo dancer ever” by Tito Puente and Life Magazine, Cuban Pete launched a nationwide Mambo Craze with his Afro-Cuban dance style that was all the rage.

This story is one of triumph and tragedy and Pedro “Cuban Pete”Aguilar was always its star. A showman from the start; he emulated Bill Robinson, tap dancing to the music of El Manisero when he was just a toddler of three. Pedro was a natural born dancer.   Wrenched from his mother’s side as a five year old, Pedro & his siblings were mandated to an orphanage for the rest of their childhood.  As a young man in the 1950’s he catapulted to international fame on the dance floor of New York’s Palladium Ballroom. Pedro’s dancing mesmerized the world with his originality, grace and instinct sense of rhythm. Dancing made him the popular one. Dancing gave him freedom. Dancing brought him love.

Coming out of an institutionalized childhood at 18, with a serious axe to grind; Pedro tried his hand at boxing. Beaten viciously in a match; famed singer, Miguelito Valdes told Pedro he should be dancing.   Aguilar took his advice and entered a contest, winning a thousand dollars his first time out. He was so proud! He had never seen that kind of money in his life! From that day on, Pedro never stopped dancing.

Cuban Pete & Millie Donay
Life Magazine Photo originally read “Sambo Does Mambo”

The original king of the Mambo; Cuban Pete created steps that are standards in today’s Latin dance competitions. Machito, Tito Puente & Tito Rodriguez, played rhythms specifically arranged with Pete’s dancing in mind. He set the Palladium dance floor on fire with his moves, becoming the root of the national 50’s mambo craze.  And in 1951, Pete broke the color line in on stage by dancing with his Italian wife, Millie Donay to the very sensuous “Love For Sale”.

In 1954 the couple broke the color line nationally, appearing in a spread for Life magazine about the Mambo.  The dance team of Cuban Pete & Millie created magic, enchanting audiences clear across the country.   Their impeccable style is still revered in the dance community. Cuban Pete, honored in several museums, received numerous awards and accolades for his contributions to Latin dance, its culture and history.

In 1991 Pete was contracted by the movie producers of “The Mambo Kings.” He was the image consultant to Antonio Banderas & Armand Assante; entrenching them both, with the 1950’s Palladium attitude. He choreographed dance scenes and consulted on set designs; bringing authenticity to the film.

Pete with clave from Pasos Latinos
Pete appears in MimiTVA’s doc “Pasos Latinos; A Mambo-mentary”

In 2000, Aguilar, with then dance partner, Barbara Craddock, was choreographic consultant to the Miami City Ballet’s innovative “Mambo No 2 a.m.,” under the direction of Edward Villela.

Pete has danced before Presidents Eisenhower & Johnson, Prime Minister Ben Gurion and given a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. Yet no one was more in awe of his fame than the legendary dancer himself.

Cuban Pete
Pete at Smithsonian Latin Jazz Exhibit

A humble soul, a tender giant, Pete was unaware of the genius he emitted on the dance floor.  His is the story of a great American dream, Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar was an icon symbolizing the clave-based Afro-Latin Dance, exactly like Tito Puente is an icon symbolizing the Music.  Cuban Pete was a hero in which we can all take pride, for his steps, his accomplishments…his life “en clave.”