This day in Chicano history: Louie Pérez (1953)

January 29, 1953
Louie Pérez, of Los Lobos and Latin Playboys, was born in Los Angeles and grew up in East LA

I’ve been to many concerts over the last 15 years. Few moments stand out from the others. One of those was the 2005 UCLA Royce Hall concert featuring Los Lobos and Perla Batalla. I went to that show alone as I found about it last minute and just had a chance to buy a discounted student ticket. Overall, the show was pretty amazing. I wished dad and Danny could have been there too. They would’ve loved it. I’m glad I wrote about that show while the memories were still fresh:

Last night, Los Lobos primarily stayed away from their blues-rock repertoire and focused on classic Mexican tunes. They played boleros like “Gema” and “Sabor a Mí,” as well as son jarocho, rancheras (“Cielito Lindo” and “La Pistola y el Corazón”), cumbias, blues-rock (“Saint Behind the Glass” and “Kiko and the Lavender Moon”), and songs from other Latin American countries (“Guantanamera” and “El Cuchipé”).

At one point, all of Los Lobos sat on stools in a half-circle. They recounted a story about playing the same tunes at parties for friends and families when they were just starting out as a band. At that moment, I thought of you [Dad] and was reminded of the dozens of times throughout my childhood when you did the same thing at a party or around the campfire.

That performance definitely made me emotional. I probably cried as Louie Pérez sang “Saint Behind the Glass,” my favorite Los Lobos song. There’s something magical about the opening jarana and the soothing nature of Pérez’s voice. In this live version, co-songwriter David Hidalgo sings along. I like it because Pérez explains the song’s biographical roots. It hits home, especially since my dad grew up in the same area. Some of the places he drives by in this tour of East LA are quite familiar. [Listen to the original version of “Saint Behind the Glass” with only Pérez’s vocals here, right-click to download.]

Over the years, Pérez has played guitar, jarana and drums for Los Lobos. I believe now he primarily plays drums. He’s also the principal lyricist. Original Los Lobos songs are frequently credited Hidalgo/Pérez.

In an interview with Six String Soul, Pérez describes the songwriting relationship with David Hidalgo that has evolved since they were teens: “Ideally I would sit with David and work lyrics and music together. But since time is so much a premium for us these days, we’ve chosen to split the chores between us. But to say that David is the music and I’m the lyrics would hugely discount us. We’re songwriters, top to bottom.” Pérez goes on to say that the starting point for lyrical inspiration comes from his East La roots.

Today marks Pérez’s 59th birthday. I hope he has many more birthdays and continues to write meaningful songs for a band that’s way more than just another band from East LA.

To celebrate, listen to your favorite Los Lobos album. Might I suggest Kiko and the Lavender Moon?

Photo credit: LA Times.

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Hella hills: Carlsbad Half Marathon race report

Pre-race in the mall parking lot of doom

Okay. That’s how I’d describe my performance at the Tri-City Medical Center Carlsbad Half Marathon.

Yeah, just okay.

I should be happy that I met my goal for the race, to negative split. I didn’t set out to run a PR, but definitely wanted to run <1:55. It was a tough course, not sure how much better I could have done based on my recent training.

Results:
1:54:20 [8:43 pace]

In the weeks leading up to the race, I looked at the course elevation detail several times trying to figure out how tough it would be. I saw a lot of climbs and drops. The highest overall elevation was 75 feet. It couldn’t be that bad, right?

I was wrong. The hills kicked my ass yesterday. I felt like we were climbing the whole time and never got a break. Even when we got to a short plateau or a downhill, I was too spent to push it against the headwind. Mentally, I also knew that I’d have to face each hill again since the course would be an out-and-back. One would think that views of waves crashing on the beach and surfers might make up for a tough course, but it wasn’t enjoyable yesterday. Plus, the fishy odor cancelled out the nice views. The course passed by a lagoon called Agua Hedionda (translation: stinky water).

Unlike the Holiday Half, running 13.1 miles at sub-9 pace didn’t feel easy and fun. There was no happy running yesterday. While I enjoyed the hills in Pomona/San Dimas, here I was cursing and dreading them. The climbs were much longer and steeper, especially the one around mile 6. I wanted to stop and walk on the uphills rather than power through them. I didn’t fly on the downhills or speed up during the plateaus because for some odd reason I didn’t feel like we were going downhill. I never felt like we got a break.

In the final 3-4 miles I thought I might manage a PR. After studying the elevation chart I thought the final 2 miles were all downhill, but I was wrong. I didn’t have anything left in me to kick in the end, especially not on a few short climbs.

I finished in 1:54:20, an 8:43 pace. My time/pace wasn’t that much slower than what I ran a month ago (1:53:10). However, I felt like I worked much harder yesterday. I managed to eke out a tiny negative split only because the course was an out-and-back and after the halfway point we had the wind at our back.

Overall, I’m okay with Carlsbad. I was always hurting out there and pushed through it and still managed to keep a sub-9 pace on a tough course. I know why I struggled. I haven’t been running much, and when I do run I avoid hills. I think the cross-training (elliptical) and strength training twice a week helped me out yesterday.

Almost all of the runners

While the race was only so-so, I’m happy I got to share the experience with some great friends. David and Adriana ran the marathon. He finished his first and she ran a PR on her third attempt. The rest of the crew ran the half. Sean and Elena both managed PRs. Sean had been having some foot issues but felt much better out there today and Elena greatly exceeded her expectation to finish ~3 hrs. Lori ran one of her better times out there. Mario and Nathan both had hurt themselves recently, but still managed to have a good run. Only regret, we missed Gustavo cheering for us.

***

Catching the gorgeous sunrise before the race

More notes/thoughts on the race:

  • Pre-race logistics were all simple. We had not trouble getting to the race, parking and getting pre-race business done. We chilled in the car for a little bit and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise. I didn’t have time for a proper warm-up. Oops.
  • Lori joined me in Wave 3 even though she was in 2. We started together, but split after trying to weave at the crowded start. This always annoys me and stresses me out. I need to learn to chill rather than waste energy weaving around other runners.
  • Although Carlsbad is slightly smaller than most of the other half/full marathons I’ve run, it definitely had the best crowd support. The nice weather definitely helped. I’m glad there were people out cheering as this was one of those times that I needed it.
  • Favorite sign: Run like a zombie is chasing you! Zombies don’t like fast food.
  • Second favorite sign: Motivational Sign
  • I tried out arm sleeves I picked up at the expo, they were fine for the start but I got warm later on.
  • I wore my traffic cone orange LA Marathon tech t-shirt and got a few comments/questions. I don’t understand runners who asked if I ran it. Why would I wear a shirt for a race I didn’t run?
  • I recognized Julie from A Case of the Runs around mile 6. I was running near her, but wasn’t sure it was her until we got to the water stop at the top of the hill. I hope she wasn’t startled when I called out, “Go Julie!”
  • I had a second blogger sighting near the finish line when I saw Angry Runner walking in the opposite direction. No surprise that she was done and taking a cool down walk while I was still running. She’s fast.
  • Getting out of the mall parking lot was a nightmare. We left around 10:45 after finding everyone in our group. We spent 1 hour in the mall parking lot simply trying to exit. It took us another hour to get home. Ugh. I heard there were other logistical issues with bag check, but no one in the group checked anything so we didn’t deal with that.
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Carlsbad goals and blogger reunion

T-shirt at the Carlsbad expo

Earlier in the month I said that my only goal for the Carlsbad Half Marathon was to negative split. It’s the first time in my rather short race history that I don’t want to PR. Even for the Long Beach Marathon when I was entering a bit injured, I wanted to best my previous time.

This time around, [I think] I’m okay with just negative splitting. A PR seems a little out of reach considering my recent mileage is rather low and I’m still not one hundred percent okay with the IT band issues. In addition, since I’ve decided to run LA, this should be more of a training run.

Anyway… I’m more or less scared I can’t get back to the speedy-for-me pace that felt so easy at the Holiday Half. 

We’ll see.

***

While I’m being a weenie about the race, I’ve been excited for this weekend. I signed up in November with some long time friends I met through blogging years ago. Back then we called our little blogging community Blogotitlán (or Blogtitlán). Although we weren’t all Latino and lived all over the country, we found that we had a lot in common and could relate to one another’s posts about everything from identity to our education. Through travel for school, I had the opportunity to meet people in NY, Chicago, Austin, and all over California. It’s been pretty cool. 

I don’t know who came up with running Carlsbad. I think it was David’s (Oso) idea. He tagged some others in our little community who were in to running. Soon enough four of us were registered for the full or half. Sean decided to run as did my sister. Elena’s friend also registered. We all made plans to come in from Chicago, Columbus, Mexico City, LA and Bakersfield and rented a house for the weekend. A few others in the area said they didn’t want to run, but would come out to cheer. César was down to run and train for a race, but couldn’t make it out to California.

Seven years ago when I first met and got to know Elena, David, Alfonso, Adriana and Gustavo via the interwebs, I thought one day we’d all hang out (with some others in the informal crew too!). We even tried to plan a reunion but it fell through because I’m flaky like that. I didn’t think the reunion would finally happen on a race weekend. 

Elena wrote a much better post on the reunion.

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This day in Chicano history: José Alfredo Jiménez (1926)

January 19, 1926:
José Alfredo Jiménez, one of México’s most well-known singer-songwriters, was born in Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato

Yeah, yeah, I know Jiménez is not technically a Chicano. He’s as Mexican as you get being born in Dolores Hidalgo, known to all Mexicans as La Cuna de la Independencia Nacional. For the Spanish language challenged, the Cradle of National Independence.

While Jiménez wasn’t around in the 1800s and didn’t contribute to the fight for Mexican independence, one can argue that the dozens of songs he’s penned have influenced Mexican identity on both sides of the border.

As a kid, I listened to a lot of Jiménez. I remember watching my dad sing “Camino de Guanajuato” at the top of his lungs with various other family members. I’d sing along too, even though it was probably inappropriate for a kid to sing a line about life being worthless. In my 20s, “Camino” began to mean more as I explored my roots in Salamanca, Guanajuato and actually traveled and visited the roads and landmarks mentioned in the well-known song. One of my most vivid memories of being on my uncles’ ranch just outside Salamanca was singing “Camino” with about 40 other family members, with such pride and joy. It was pretty amazing.

One of the best songwriters that ever lived

For Chican@s, knowing or singing some of Jiménez’s most popular songs may show you’re not too much of a poch@. It might be a fun way to bond with the older generations or make you look like a badass at mariachi-oke (yes, that’s mariachi + karaoke) night when you don’t need the words to get through “Ella” or “Que Te Vaya Bonito”. Or it just might make a good buzz even better.

Six ways to celebrate José Alfredo Jiménez’s birthday:

  1. Drink some tequila, but not too much as you don’t want to end up with JAJ-like liver issues
  2. Sing your favorite Jiménez-penned song, if you need an idea for something else besides “El Rey”, check here.
  3. Request the roaming musicians play a romantic song like “Serenata Sin Luna” or “Si Nos Dejan” while out on a date
  4. Make a playlist of JAJ songs interpreted by old school artist and re-imagined by newer artists. Example: “Te Solte La Rienda” by Maná
  5. Watch one of the movies he acted in. [IMDB]
  6. Try your hand at writing a torch song.

It’s a school night, so no tequila shots for me. Plus, I’m all out lime. Instead, I’ll make a playlist of the four versions of “Camino de Guanajuato” and put them on a loop while going through my photo sets from trips to the motherland. As always, I’ll ignore Jiménez’s warning to avoid Salamanca, mi pueblo adorado.

¡No te rajes Guanajuato!

[Thanks to Think Mexican for the heads up about Jiménez’s birthday.]

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This day in Chicano history: Paul Rodriguez (1955)

Paul Rodriguez

January 19, 1955:
Paul Rodriguez was born in Culiacán, Sinaloa, México

From Wikipedia:

Rodriguez was born in Culiacán, Sinaloa, México to Mexican agriculture ranchers. His family migrated to East Los Angeles, where he enlisted in the military; he was stationed in Iceland and Duluth, Minnesota. Rodriguez endorsed Meg Whitman in the 2010 California gubernatorial election.

Really? Meg Whitman? I didn’t know he was a Republican. It’s always a little surprising when I hear of a famous Latino who is not aligned with the Democratic party. Maybe there’s something about Mexicans who grew up in Compton (hey, HP!).

Like a lot of people my age, I first remember Rodriguez as the recent probably-not-legal immigrant, Javier, who shows up at Rudy’s house in Born in East LA. Javier gets freaked out by the television and telephone while Rudy (Cheech Marin) is getting accidentally deported. Over the years, Rodriguez has been in several other films, television shows, done voice over work and recorded comedy albums and television shows. If you Google him, you might get some results for his son, Paul, a pro skateboarder. P-Rod made one of my favorite commercials a few years ago. Check it out.

Reading up on Paul Rodriguez brought a question to mind. If there was a Latino version of the Kevin Bacon game, who would take the place of Bacon?

I’d choose any of the following:
Paul Rodriguez
Edward James Olmos
Lupe Ontiveros
Cheech Marin
Hector Elizondo

All actors are veterans and have been in many mainstream and Latino-focused movies and television shows. In the past, I was pretty sure it was Eddie Olmos. I wrote up mini analyses of Born in East LA and La Bamba, but got lazy and abandoned the project. One of the things I looked for in the Latino LA-based films was an Olmos connection.

Photo via Instant Riverside.

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