Entertainment

Cheech And Chong Might Be Over But Cheech Marin Is Saving Chicano Art With An Exciting Art Exhibit

Cheech Marin is one of the most successful comedic voices to come out of the Mexican-American community in the United States. As part of the comedic duo Cheech & Chong, he has toured the nation offering acts full of caustic humor and political references that get our heads thinking and our hearts racing. He was born Richard Anthony Marin on July 13, 1946, in South Los Angeles. He has lived and worked in California his whole life and has appeared in such iconic films as Machete, and TV shows like the classic Nash BridgesHe has also done voice work in children’s classics such as The Lion King (where he voices one of the despicable hyena) and Pixar’s Cars trilogy. Culturally, Marin identifies as a Chicano, even though he does not speak Spanish. Guess where his nickname comes from? The story goes that when he came back from the hospital his uncle said that he looked like a chicharron (pork crackling), so the apodo of Cheech stuck.

But he is much more than an actor and comedian, and he has made a very important contribution to Chicano cultural life. Read on to find out more about it.

He is a famous actor, but his true love is not acting.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

Cheech has been collecting Chicano art for years, something that his fame and fortune has allowed him to do. It is believed that he possesses the largest individual collection of Chicano art in the world. 

He found his love for art at church, of all places.

Credit: TheCheechCenter / Instagram

Cheech told The Orange County Register that he first fell in love with art as a kid when at 11 he would stare at the ceiling at church. He said: “There were all these paintings there, guys in togas and some of them getting barbecued. What’s the deal? So art was very important to me and I learned as much as I could about it by going to the library to check out the art books.” Gracias a Dios! 

As a generous collector, guess what he decided to do.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

Yes, you guessed it, he decided to donate his entire collection to a museum. The lucky institution? The Riverside Art Museum (http://www.riversideartmuseum.org/) in  3425 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, California. 

The new Chicano art center: simply The Cheech.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

The museum and Marin decided to call the new center simply The Cheech, which both speaks of the main benefactor’s generosity towards the arts and Mexican-American identity, and to an iconic symbol of Chicano culture. 

But of course, money is needed for this project.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

So Cheech and the museum relied on what Latino’s do best: community organizing. Through both online and offline fundraising he got the attention he needed and the rest, as they say, is history. 

It has taken him four decades to amass his great collection of Chicano art, after all.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

Cheech told the Las Vegas Sun on August 2018: “It’s more than I could ever ask for. I’ve been putting together this collection of Chicano art going on 40 years, and it’s been touring close to 30 years visiting various museums across the nation and Europe. It’s kind of a unique thing because it’s a private collection and museums don’t like to show those for a lot of reasons. It’s like, I have this collection because you don’t “. Talk about perseverance! If you truly love something, then nothing will be able to stop you! 

His motto: “Chicano art is American art.”

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

Cheech is a proud American, and he considers, and rightfully so, that Mexican-American communities have contributed immensely to the social and cultural fabric of the United States. He didn’t want his art collection to be just his, but everyones. He toured with the collection but not he found a permanent home for it. He told the Las Vegas Sun: “When you’re sifting through those materials, you come to the realization of what good does it do you? What am I going to do, stuff it under the bed? It’s for the people to see where previously they have not had that chance. It’s going to a special place that can expand the outreach of Chicano art and better include it the American canon. Chicano art is American art.” Preach, carnalito

His passion got young people interested in art that speaks to our cultural roots.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

The only way for culture to survive throughout the years is to be communicated to the next generations. During his fundraising efforts, Cheech found an echo in young adults. As reported by The Orange Country Register in December 2018, the group known as The Pick Group of Young Professionals organized the Pick 100 x 100 campaign, which urged 100 young professionals to give $100 each by October 2019 for a total of $10,000. The group’s president, Lauren Lee, said in a press release: “Imagine the difference we can make in our community by deciding to give back as young professionals to a community that has given so much to us.”

He got the State of California to donate $9.7 million for the museum.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

In June 2018, after Cheech had already raised $3 million dollars for the museum, the state government pitched in an extra $9.7, which came from the 2018-2019 budget signed by Governor Jerry Brown. Cheech told the Associated Press shortly after the government funds were made available: “I have dreamed for many years of finding a home for the hundreds of pieces of art that I have spent much of my life collecting, protecting and showing, when possible, at major museums around the world. The Riverside community has made this dream a reality.”

The museum will have over 700 paintings.

Credit: TheCheechCenter / Instagram

The depth and breadth of Cheech’s collection encompass both established and upcoming talent, as well as painters who are great but haven’t been able to break into the highly elitist art circles of Los Angeles. Among the paintings, drawings and sculptures are works by such artists as Gilbert (Magu) Lujan, Frank Romero, and Carlos Almaraz.

The Cheech Center will revitalize Riverside.

Credit: TheCheechCenter / Instagram

Besides being culturally important, the arts center will draw attention to Riverside. Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey said in 2018: “But there is also a business side to the equation. A world-class art museum draws visitors to our city, potentially from all around the globe. These visitors book hotel rooms, pay bed tax, eat in our local restaurants and frequent our coffee shops and nightspots. The arts are one of the drivers that make Riverside a good place to do business”. Dinerito habla! 

By the way, Cheech Marin is also a marijuana advocate.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

Yes, his other passion is pot: he is an active promoter of the legalization of marihuana, and of course is good friends with other pothead celebrities such as Snoop Dog! Un toquecito para Cheech! And yes, he has entered the legal pot growing business.

READ: 20 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Actor And Comedian Cheech Marin

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Uber Says It May Shutdown In California As It Fights Against Gig Worker Law

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Uber Says It May Shutdown In California As It Fights Against Gig Worker Law

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Is it possible that you won’t be able to get an Uber or Lyft in California? Well, it’s actually very likely that your apps won’t work much longer. The two companies are threatening to go dark in the Golden State as the two fight back against AB5 – a state law that offers protections to gig economy workers.

Uber says that they’ll need to rethink their entire business model if forced to follow AB5, hence the likely shutdown. But many find it suspicious that the company will be shutting down through the November election, when voters will be asked to vote on Prop 22, a ballot measure that would exempt Lyft and Uber from the new regulations.

An Uber shutdown is looking more likely in California as the company plans its response to new state laws.

All the drama started when California (among some other states) started enacting ‘gig worker’ protection laws that were meant to force companies like Uber to reclassify drivers as employees. Currently, drivers are classified as ‘independent contractors’ and are not eligible to receive any benefits, such as healthcare, retirement plans, and overtime.

Uber moved to limit the impact of that law while also admitting that change was needed to better protect their drivers. Not too long after Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi published an op-ed in The New York Times with the headline “Gig Workers Deserve Better,” a San Francisco judge ruled that Uber and Lyft had to reclassify their drivers as employees within 10 days.

In his ruling, Schulman wrote of Uber and Lyft, “It is high time that they face up to their responsibilities to their workers and to the public.” He rejected the argument that Uber and Lyft are simply technology companies, asserting “drivers are central, not tangential, to Uber and Lyft’s entire ride-hailing business.”

Two days later, Khosrowshahi responded with an ultimatum: If Uber had to abide by California labor law, it would require a business model change so extreme the entire company would have to pull out of the state until November. Which is convenient, since California has an initiative in the November election that would overturn much of the state’s gig economy law.

The shutdown would be used to fight back against a recent gig economy law that Uber says would eat away at profits.

Over the last five years, several states have enacted legislation against Uber and Lyft’s operating methods. The companies have come to rely on a tried and tested playbook: threaten to suspend service in the area. The threat, which the companies would sometimes follow through on, appeared designed to rile up customers and drivers, and put more pressure on lawmakers. And it often worked: look at Austin, TX.

Now, both Uber and Lyft say they are once again considering suspending service to get what they want. They say they may suspend their operations in California as soon as this week while simultaneously pushing for a referendum in November to exempt them from the law, known as AB-5.

Although the pandemic has reduced demand, a shutdown would largely impact Black and Brown communities.

Credit: Mark Ralston / Getty Images

Although the companies are planning on going dark in the next week or so, many industry experts don’t think the shutdown will have the impact they hope for. The pandemic has greatly reduced demand for ride sharing as people are staying at home and many more are working from home.

However, much like the pandemic itself, the shutdown would likely have an outsized impact on Black and Latino communities – two groups who have largely come to reply on the companies for commuting to and from work or school. Several studies have shown that Black and Brown workers make up the majority of ‘essential workers’ – so many don’t enjoy the privilege of working from home.

An Uber or Lyft shutdown would force many of these workers back on to buses and trains, further putting already impacted communities under increased risk for contagion of the virus.

The companies are betting on a November ballot initiative to help bail them out from new regulations.

Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images

Although a judge has tried to force the companies to follow the law – the legal system may not have the last word. Uber and Lyft are counting on California’s voters to help them circumvent AB5, which went into effect in January and makes it more difficult for companies to use independent contractors. Uber and Lyft built their respective businesses on the concept of using freelance drivers who aren’t eligible for traditional benefits like health insurance and paid leave. 

Earlier this year, the companies, along with DoorDash, raised nearly $100 million to place a question on the November ballot. They succeeded, and this fall, voters will be asked to permanently classify ride-hailing drivers as independent contractors. The measure, called Proposition 22, also directs the companies to adopt certain labor and wage policies that fall short of traditional employment.

To help build support, the companies are turning to their customers. Lyft has taken a very active approach with urging its customers to vote yes on Prop 22 – they’ve emailed them and added pro-Prop 22 messages to the app. Meanwhile, Uber is considering similar tactics to ones the company used in 2015 in New York, when the company added a pop-up feature in its app to troll the mayor of New York City and encourage the company’s customers to pressure him to back off on proposed legislation that could seriously hamper Uber’s growth efforts in the city. It worked, and Mayor Bill de Blasio relented.

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Farmworkers Are Testing Positive For Covid-19 At Record Numbers, So What Are Officials Doing To Help?

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Farmworkers Are Testing Positive For Covid-19 At Record Numbers, So What Are Officials Doing To Help?

Brent Stirton / Getty Images

Every day, California farmworkers worry that the pandemic plowing through agricultural hubs will catch them and kill them. They also worry that not working will kill them. Now, there is further evidence that their worries are grounded in reality.

A recent survey – the Covid-19 Farmworker Study (COFS) – points out the grim reality this vulnerable community faces as they work to support the nation’s ongoing need for food services.

California’s farmworker community – now considered essential – is being hit hard by the Coronavirus.

California’s agricultural communities have been hit the hardest by the Coronavirus pandemic. From Imperial County along the U.S.-Mexico border to Fresno County in the Central Valley, these counties are also home to large migrant communities who are considered ‘essential workers’ as they work California’s farms and ranches.

As new details emerge, a grim picture of the virus among farmworkers is emerging. The Covid-19 Farmworker Study (COFS) reinforces the dire warnings that farmworker advocacy organizations made when the coronavirus lockdowns began: The least protected essential workers in the country, toiling under environmental conditions like excessive heat, pollution and dust, are being devastated by the coronavirus, directly and indirectly. 

Now, five months into the pandemic, infection rates are spiking. Fresno County is experiencing 435 cases for every 100,000 residents; in Tulare it’s 472 and in Merced it’s 564. The statewide average: 269.

Though county figures say about 31% of overall cases are in the Latino community, some on the front lines estimate that up to 70% of cases from the recent spike have hit in that demographic, in a region where they account for about 42% of the population, according to census figures. Experts agree that official case counts across the state may be low because of testing problems.

And experts agree that fighting Covid-19 in the Central Valley could be an uphill battle. Many farmworkers live in crowded, dorm-like buildings. And thanks to a hostile government, many migrants are fearful of seeking any sort of medical or legal or financial help. Many of the people most at risk do not speak English and are traditionally hard for government to reach. Therefore, packing plants have emerged as coronavirus clusters in parts of the state.

The state is struggling to get a hold on the outbreak but officials have launched a new program they hope will have an impact.

The recent spike in infection rates within the Central Valley has drawn national attention, and now seems to have the attention of Gov. Gavin Newsom. His administration is dispatching three of his Coronavirus ‘strike teams’ to the region to help local officials track cases of Covid-19, inspect workplaces, quarantine the sick, and ramp up testing within vulnerable groups.

Each team, consisting of about a dozen experts on health, housing, public outreach, agriculture and other fields, will try to contain an alarming spread through the region. Much of their work will focus on the San Joaquin Valley, where agricultural fields and crowded food-processing plants have become fertile ground for the virus.

“If you asked me today what our biggest area of concern in a state as large as ours, it is indeed the Central Valley,” Newsom said recently in announcing the deployment. “We need to do more for our agricultural and farmworkers.”

In addition to the strike team, the state is allocating $52 million in federal money to help improve testing and contact tracing within the valley. It’s also spending $6 million in private donations to buy food and other basics for low-income Valley residents whose livelihoods have been threatened by the pandemic.

But for many farmworkers, despite the risk, they have little choice but to continue to work.

Credit: Brent Stirton / Getty Images

California’s farmworkers have long been one of the state’s most vulnerable communities. Now that the pandemic has ravaged the state’s economy, migrant farmworkers are considered ‘essential workers’ and are exempt from many of the protective lockdown orders, forcing them to risk their health while at work.

Meanwhile, the collapse of food service (restaurants and institutions) has le to the shutdown of farms across the state and roughly 20% of farm jobs have been cut – that amounts to nearly 100,000 workers. Those who are still working have largely seen their hours cut. So for many, they have little choice but to return to a dangerous job or risk juggling bills and going hungry.

On the job, however, workers lack control of their own safety. Fewer than half of those surveyed said they had received masks from their employers. Even among those who had, they had received them once or a couple of times. (Farmworkers generally wear face coverings to protect themselves from pesticide dust, dirt and the sun. More than 95 percent of those surveyed said they are masked in the fields.) 

Social distancing is still an idea, not a reality, for many of those surveyed. In some cases, farmworkers who asked for better protections, such as more distancing in the fields, or hand sanitizer, have faced retaliation. Crew bosses have punished them by cutting their hours or days, advocates said. 

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