Entertainment

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

Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

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

Mexican Marijuana Traffickers Are Behind The Poisoning Of California Forests Caused By A Banned Pesticide

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Mexican Marijuana Traffickers Are Behind The Poisoning Of California Forests Caused By A Banned Pesticide

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There are growing concerns in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains due to illegal pesticides that are being used for illegal marijuana-growing sites in the area. Law enforcement officials on Tuesday announced major operations are underway targeting these sites. Officials say that Mexican drug traffickers are the culprits behind the marijuana grows and have already discovered close to 25,000 marijuana plants cultivated illegally within California’s national forests in the last month. 

“These are federal lands, and they are being systematically destroyed through clear-cutting, stream diversion, chemicals, and pesticides,” U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said at a news conference

Law enforcement is most concerned about the pesticide, carbofuran, that is being used on these plants. The pesticide is toxic to wildlife and humans and can cause permanent reproductive damage. 

Credit: @LATimes / Twitter

While the large marijuana grow is enough to cause concern for law enforcement, the banned pesticide, Carbofuran, being used is making matters worse. According to Quartz, the substance was very common for farmers as it was once sprayed on American corn, cotton, potatoes, sunflowers, and other crops. The pesticide in question was pulled off the legal U.S. market more than a decade ago due to its deadly harm. It’s also been known to cause permanent damage to human nervous and reproductive systems and is toxic to wildlife and waterways. 

The pesticide also happened to kill more birds in the U.S. than any other pesticide ever known. It would also be banned in Europe, Canada, and Brazil, shortly after. 

Carbofuran has been a continuing problem in California despite its ban. The pesticide has been a known favorite for illegal pot operators, nine out of every 10 illegal pot farms raided in California were found to be using it last year, according to the Associated Press

Another issue that has risen is the water usage that these illegal cannabis farms in California are wasting. The LA Times notes that on average one illegal farm uses a minimum of 5.4 million gallons of water annually to cultivate 6,000 plants. 

“Water is the most important issue in California, and the amount being used to grow an illegal product in the national forest is mind-boggling It’s a vitally important issue,” Scott said. 

Investigators say there’s been a spike in illegal marijuana grows in California that is being operated by Mexican drug traffickers. 

Credit: @pablorodas / Twitter

The news conference came less than two days after two men from Michoacan, Mexico, Lester Eduardo Cardenas Flores, and Luis Reyes Madrigal, were caught operating an illegal marijuana-growing site in the Sierra Mountains. Both men were formally charged Tuesday in Fresno federal court with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute large quantities of marijuana.

Scott says illegal immigrants from Mexico have been a common theme when it comes to finding these marijuana operations. Both Madrigal and Flores were illegal immigrants and were linked to other Mexican marijuana traffickers. The penalty for both of their charges could be anywhere from 10 years to life in prison.

“We’ve prosecuted hundreds of person, without exception..they’re all here illegally and all undocumented from Mexico,” Scott said.”We want to find the people funding these operations.”

There is hope that these latest arrests send a signal to traffickers and legislative change follows as well.

Credit: @MarilynM / Twitter

Marijuana-growing sites being connected to Mexican drug groups have been a growing issue for years. But Scott says with the recent spike of chemical use being found it only adds to the urgency of shutting these operations down. Back in July, agents and officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife closed in on another illegal grow operation deep within the Stanislaus National Forest. The raid turned up with over 2,500 marijuana plants and one loaded handgun.

While this has been an issue for years, officials says with the legalization of recreational marijuana in California back in 2016. Environmentalists and scientists agree that legalization of the cultivation of marijuana could be the best solution to prevent this from happening in the future. But for now, this is an issue that law enforcement doesn’t see stopping anytime soon. 

“I want to be perfectly clear, none of what we are talking about is legal under anyone’s marijuana laws,” Scott said. “This isn’t about the marijuana, it’s about the damage that’s being done. What is happening here is illegal under anybody’s law. Everything that we are talking about is as equally illegal under California law as it under federal law.”

READ: A Judge In Mexico City Has Approved One Couple’s Request For Recreational Cocaine

Artwork Created By Detained Teenagers Are On Display In El Paso In An Exhibit Called ‘Uncaged Art’

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Artwork Created By Detained Teenagers Are On Display In El Paso In An Exhibit Called ‘Uncaged Art’

UTEP

Between June 2018 and January 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services detained more than 6,000 teenagers from Central and South America in a tent city 40 miles south of El Paso. It was called the Tornillo Children’s Detention camp and was the largest detention center for children in the United States. While detained there, the teenagers, aged 13-17, were asked to participate in a social studies project to create art that reminded them of their home. Their art was on display around the tent city until a story by The New York Times shined a light on the teens’ paltry living conditions, and the government shut the facility down in January 2019.

As Tornillo Children’s Detention Camp was being shut down, workers trashed nearly all of the 400 pieces of art. However, one priest and several community organizations came together and were able to save 29 of the pieces.

Father Rafael Garcia, a Jesuit Priest, was one of the few outside visitors allowed into the camp.

Credit: Sacred Heart Church, El Paso, TX / Facebook

“It is hard to describe the mood there; some kids were very glum and sad, others had no expression,” Father Garcia told NBC News. “Then there were others interacting like normal kids.” The artwork was on display until January 2019, when the U.S. government decided to close the camp. As officers were tossing the artwork, Garcia asked for permission to redistribute the art to others who may want it.

“If I hadn’t been there, and received permission to keep some of the pieces, it probably would have all been thrown in the dumpster,” Garcia said.

With the artwork in hand, Garcia called Yolanda Chávez Leyva, Ph.D., University of El Paso Texas Professor and co-founder of El Paso’s Museo Urbano.

Credit: Borderzine Reporting across fronteras / YouTube

Leyva would go to the Tornillo Children’s Detention Center on her days off to visit with the kids. Garcia knew that she co-founded El Paso’s community museum known for preserving borderland history. Garcia wanted the museum and the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to protect the artwork. They did one better and put all the art on display at UTEP’s Centennial Museum. 

Father Garcia sees the final outcome–an exhibit featuring their work–as “a ray of light from a grim experience.”

Credit: UTEP

The Museum website describes the exhibit as reflective of “the resiliency, talent, and creativity of young men and women who trekked 2,000 miles from their homes in Central America to reach the United States.” The exhibit, titled ‘Uncaged Art,’ “provides us with a window into the personal world of migrant children whose visions and voices have often been left out of mainstream media accounts,” reads the website.

Still, the art is on display behind a chain-link fence, to remind visitors of the conditions the young artists were in at the time.

Credit: Borderzine Reporting across fronteras / YouTube

The social studies teachers allowed the students four days to create the art and allowed them to create individually or in groups. There were no other instructions other than to think of their home. Those instructions resulted in an array of mixed media art including dresses, sculptures and hundreds of drawings and sketches. Then, “camp officials” judged the art and selected their perceived best works to display around the camp.

Human rights attorney, Camilo Pérez-Bustillo thinks that the camp released the artwork as a PR stunt to look good.

Credit: UTEP

Pérez-Bustillo had interviewed about 30 children from the camp and believes the artwork was essentially curated by the facility. “I think they released it to look good,” Pérez-Bustillo told The Texas Observer. “They had so much negative publicity at the end from the national media, especially after news reports that their employees did not have to submit to FBI checks, they decided to shut it down and cut their losses.”  

For now, we don’t know the faces behind the artwork.

Credit: UTEP

In June 2018, Beto O’Rourke led hundreds of protesters to the tent city demanding humane conditions for the ever-expanding tent city. Temperatures were over 100 degrees while the children were living in tents. A DHS spokesperson told the public that the tents were air-conditioned. Some of the children told an attorney that the worst part of the facility was never knowing when they’d get out. Some kids would keep track of the days that passed by scribbling numbers on their forearms.

Still, the government’s response to the problem was to loosen the strict requirements for sponsorships. All of the children are now sponsored by people around the country.

Wherever they are, we hope that they see their artwork is cherished by our community.

Credit: “tornillo art” Digital Image. Texas Observer. 23 August 2019.

We know that the symbol of the quetzal bird created in this artwork is a symbol of freedom for Guatemala. In the words of one of the artists, as told by The Texas Observer, “The quetzal cannot be caged or it will die of sadness.”

READ: Texas Detention Officer Charged With Sexual Assault Of An Undocumented Mother’s Child

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