the Lalo Guerrero Film & Arts Festival Gala
March 23, 2007
by Mark Guerrero
On Friday, March 23,
2007, the documentary "Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano,"
produced by my brother Dan and Nancy De Los Santos, was screened
at the UCR Palm Desert Graduate Center, University of California,
Riverside - Palm Desert campus in Palm Desert, California.
It was part of the opening night gala for the Lalo Guerrero
Film and Arts Festival and premier of the film in the Coachella
Valley. A concert featuring yours truly with an acoustic
trio and legendary Chicano band, El Chicano, followed the
screening outdoors. The festival was presented by Raices
Cultura, a grassroots action organization of young educated
Chicanos who want to further the cause of advancing the social,
economic, and political position of Chicanos in the community.
Raices had the support of U.C. Riverside, who provided the
venue for the gala. Proceeds from the festival went
toward scholarships for East Valley youth and the development
of an East Valley youth Leadership Institute. Since
my brother Dan was unable to attend because he was producing
a show at the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.,
I introduced the film. Before my introduction, there
were speeches by the young mayor of Coachella, Eduardo Garcia
and the chairperson of Raices Cultura, Victor Manuel Perez.
These two young men are dedicated to helping their community
and are a big part of the future of the city of Coachella.
Eduardo is a graduate of U.C. Riverside and Victor, whose
parents were farmworkers, went to graduate school at no less
than Harvard University. After the screening of the
documentary, which was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience,
I did a question and answer session. Next we all went
outside for some Mexican food, followed by the concert.
The concert was opened by an energetic young band called Kura,
whose style has elements of ska, rap, and Latin. My
trio followed. I sang the following songs for the occasion:
"The Ballad of Lalo Guerrero," a song I wrote about
my dad's life and music; "El Corrido de Delano,"
my dad's song written in the 60s about Cesar Chavez and his
movement; "Los Chucos Suaves," one of my dad's pachuco
songs which was featured in Luis Valdez' play and movie, "Zoot
Suit"; "Pre-Columbian Dream," a song I wrote
which was covered by famed trumpeter Herb Alpert; and "El
Chicano," my dad's song about Chicano pride. Accompanying
me were Alex Armstrong on requinto guitar and Lorenzo "Lencho"
Martinez on guitarrón. I was on a nylon string guitar.
So the trio was in the traditional Mexican style. All
the songs were done in a way that would work with that sound.
(Alex and I have worked together on and off since 1981, most
often in rock and popular music situations. He also
played with me in a band backing my dad on many occasions
in the late 90s, as well as in my band Mark Guerrero &
Radio Aztlán since 2003. Lorenzo Martinez also played
in the band with me that backed my dad in the late 90s, including
a historic performance in Paris, France.) Following
my performance on this night with the trio, I introduced my
friends, El Chicano. They performed a set which featured
some of the instrumentals they've recorded such as Tito Puente's
"El Cayuco," their own composition "Mas Zacate,"
and their first national hit, "Viva Tirado."
I was pleased to sit in with them on their hit version of
Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl." I shared
the vocal duties with leader and bassist, Fred Sanchez.
Fred formed the V.I.P.'s, who would evolve into El Chicano,
in the mid-60s in East Los Angeles. My teenage 60s bands
Mark & the Escorts and the Men From S.O.U.N.D. performed
on the bill with the V.I.P.s on several occasions so we go
way back. The members of El Chicano on this night were
founding members Fred Sanchez on bass, Bobby Espinoza on organ
and piano, and Rudy Regalado on timbales and percussion.
The band was rounded out by Eddie Avila on drums, Ray Carreon
on guitar, and Victor Baez sitting in on congas. Lead
singer Jerry Salas was out of town and not available to perform
on this night. El Chicano sounded great and rocked the
valley. I was very pleased and honored that El Chicano
came out and performed for the event, members coming from
Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas to do so. When the
organizers contacted Fred Sanchez about performing, I was
told that Fred asked if I was involved. When they answered
in the affirmative, Fred said they were in. They waved
their fee for the good cause, with only their travel and hotel
expenses being covered. I will always be grateful for
their generous gesture. After their performance I presented
them with the first Lalo Guerrero Lifetime Achievement Award.
After the show El Chicano and I posed for photos and were
interviewed for a local television show. It was a very
inspiring and meaningful night for all of us, including the
On Saturday afternoon, March 24th, in the city of Coachella,
there were screenings of other films such as "The Life
and Times of Frida Kahlo" and "From Mambo to Hip
Hop." There were also musical performances by Brown
Boy, Quinto Sol, Son de Centro, Los Autenticos de Juan Sanchez,
and Kura on the streets of Coachella. I caught Quinto
Sol's performance and was impressed with their sound and energy.
The East L.A. band are definitely an up and coming band to
watch. Aztec and folkloric dance groups also performed
that afternoon. The Lalo Guerrero Film and Arts Festival
was capped off with an awards ceremony in the evening at the
Coachella Valley High School Auditorium. The festival
was the second one for Raices Cultural, but the first bearing
the name of my late father, Lalo Guerrero. There are
many people, businesses, and corporations to thank.
Far too many to list all of them. However, there are
a few I would like to mention. One key person I would
like to acknowledge is U.C. Riverside graduate student Ernesto
Rios. Ernesto worked very hard on the organization of
the gala. He and I worked very hard together on securing
the back line (drums, amps, keyboards, etc.) for El Chicano,
as well as the lighting, P.A. system, and generator.
Community business leaders such as Martin Martinez and Dave
Skinner also deserve thanks for their help, as well as sponsors
such as Univision, Rabobank, the City of Indio, LATV, Latino
Public Broadcasting, S.I.R. Entertainment Services, and many
others. Special thanks are also in order to Terry Green
of U.C. Riverside and Las Casuelas Nuevas, who provided food
for the gala.