Things That Matter

One Of The Major Artists In The Chicano Art Movement Has Died At 75

On May 29, René Yañez, a man instrumental in shaping and cultivating the Chicano art scene in the Bay Area, died from prostate and bone cancer at age 75. Yañez, an artist, curator and social justice activist was the co-founder of Galería De La Raza and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Yañez has been curating the beloved SOMArts’ annual Dia de Los Muertos group art show in the Mission District for years. However, he was one of the first curators that presented arts shows centered around Day of the Dead in the U.S. back in the early ’70s. Yañez was also Director of Special Projects and Building Manager at SOMArts.

Rio Yañez, René’s son, posted the news of his death on Facebook and wrote that he had been preparing for this exact moment for the past four years.

Hi Everyone, my Dad passed away this morning about an hour ago. He was surrounded by people who loved him and having…

Posted by Rio Yañez on Tuesday, May 29, 2018

“Rene is my Father, my creative partner, and my best friend,” Rio writes. “I miss him so much already. These last two weeks have been the hardest of my life but I’ve had a partner and extended family that have taken such great care me. I may be grieving but please know I that feel incredibly loved and supported right now.”

René had been working until the very end. In March, he presented his retrospective exhibition titled “Into The Fade.”

René put on his retrospective all the while receiving weekly infusions of chemotherapy or blood, according to Mission Local.

“The artist, who has lived in the Mission District for most of his adult life, said that when he told his doctor earlier this year that he was thinking of doing a show in the fall, ‘the doctor told me, ‘You’d better do it sooner.’ So I’m doing it sooner.’ He laughed at the thought that he might beat his prognosis. ‘I’m playing this out.'”

His last show included one of his most known works titled “The Great Tortilla Conspiracy” which featured the face of Emma Gonzalez.

The concept behind “The Great Tortilla Conspiracy” is that it brings “the gospel of tortilla art” to the masses.

People took to social media to remember René and all that he contributed to the art scene, social justice movements and to their lives.

According to an interview in Mission Local, René was born in Tijuana and migrated with his family to San Diego.

René’s family has requested that SOMArts establish a memorial fund in his honor. All proceeds from this fund will be dedicated entirely to continuing René’s legacy of hospitality, beauty and creativity in SOMArts’ garden. Help us honor René by contributing to the memorial fund. We were truly blessed to work with such an incredible mentor, artist and friend for so many years. SOMArts will host a community memorial for René in the coming weeks.

Rene’s coworker at the Somarts Cultural Center said: “You bless all you know and meet by sharing your talents and humor.”

I had the privilege of working with Rene Yanez for over 16 years at SomArts Cultural Center. I miss sharing an office…

Posted by Mary Molly Mullaney on Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Rene was also a military veteran having served in a medical unit during the Vietnam War.

René is remembered as “El Padrino de la Mison.”

Grammy nominated emcee, DJ, actor, Wonway said that Rene inspired him.

“Que viva René Yáñez!”

Alicia Cruz, has worked with Rene for several years for the Day of the Dead exhibition and said that he took a chance on her and her altar vision.

 “He nurtured my evolution as an artist.”

CREDIT: Instagram/@mexichicastyle

“He was a gentle soul, very personable, lots of humor, he was a guide,” Cruz described Rene.

She says he also inspired her activism.

“He was my social media,” Cruz said. “He would tell me when there would be a march and say ‘you should join us.'”

Adding that “He’s the glue, he’s the heart of the SOMarts.”

An altar has been placed in front of the SOMArts Cultural Center in his honor.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Alicia Cruz

René was once asked what advice he would give to young artist, which he responded with: “Do what you like and be passionate about it, because you can’t be mediocre and be successful at it. Try to be as diverse in your skills, from computers, theater, performance, set design — all different aspects — because if you can’t get one thing, something else will come out.”

READ: This New Exhibit Shows The Incredible Evolution Of Lowrider Culture

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She Immigrated From Mexico And Now She Is Going To Be Selling Her Tamales To Fans At The New Warriors’ Arena


She Immigrated From Mexico And Now She Is Going To Be Selling Her Tamales To Fans At The New Warriors’ Arena

Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas / Facebook

This year is the start of a new era for Golden State Warriors basketball as the team has packed its bags from the old Oracle Arena in Oakland to the shiny new Chase Center in downtown San Francisco. The move across the bay will also coincide with a new line of food options that represent some of the Bay Area’s diverse foodscape. This will include the addition of tamales from an entrepreneur that has waited close to 20 years for an opportunity like this. 

Say hello to Alicia Villanueva, 58, who just landed a contract to sell her tamales at the new arena. Her story is one that represents the best of the American dream and shows the value of hard work.

Credit: Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas / Facebook

Born in the city of Mazatlan, in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, Villanueva immigrated to the U.S. with a dream to start a business selling tamales. Since a young age, she had been stuffing tamales with her mother and her abuelita. She believed tamales could be a way to connect her story to those of the people around her and as a way to make a living for her family. But this wouldn’t be easy and it would also take a lot of sacrifice on her behalf. 

So Villanueva hustled. During the day she would clean houses and take care of the disabled. Then at night, she would turn her attention over to tamales where she would make close to 100 tamales a day and up to 500 tamales in a single week. She would then take to the streets going door to door in her Berkeley neighborhood and at local job sites selling tamales. 

“I would knock on doors and introduce myself” after picking up her two young sons from school, Villanueva told the Mercury News. “Some of them became huge customers.”

Thanks to the help of San Francisco-based kitchen incubator La Cocina, who is also her partner in the contract with Chase Center, Villanueva’s dream is slowly becoming a reality.

Credit: @santacruzsentinel / Twitter

Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas is now getting its time in the spotlight thanks to its partnership with La Cocina, a nonprofit that provides kitchen space and financial training for talented women entrepreneurs. There was also assistance from the Opportunity Fund, another nonprofit that lends money to entrepreneurs who might not qualify for certain loans from other banks. Thanks to that money, Villanueva has taken her tamale business from her Berkeley kitchen to a new 6,000-square-foot facility in Hayward, where she and her 24 employees are able to make 40,000 tamales a month.

“We have a moral obligation to say yes to people like Alicia,” Luz Urrutia, CEO of San Jose-based Opportunity Fund told the Mercury News. “She embodies the American dream, the entrepreneurial spirit.” She says that when entrepreneurs like Villanueva get financial assistance it creates a “ripple effect in our communities.”

All she ever wanted was for someone to take a chance on her tamales and now this the start of what Villanueva hopes is a growing food business that has been years in the making. 

Credit: @juansaaa / Twitter

The sky now seems to be the limit for Villanueva as she is looking to grow even more. As of now, she is having conversations with Whole Foods to hopefully sell her frozen tamales at hot bars in certain stores this December. This will be in addition to the tamales she already sells at Berkeley Bowl and UC Berkeley.

With an increasing demand for her tamales, there is also an opportunity to try new things like introducing organic and vegan options. As well as having her business become zero waste and hopefully start a community garden for the public. 

Things are moving quickly for Villanueva and her family, who assist her every day making tamales, as the business has come full circle after years of just getting by. Tamal orders are coming in every day and with her new partnership with the Warriors, who just last week asked her to deliver 5,000 tamales to the Chase Center, things are finally falling into place. 

“I just can’t believe it,” Villanueva said while showcasing all of her new cooking equipment she was able to purchase due to the loan. “I’m living a beautiful dream.”

READ: Selena Gomez And Hailey Baldwin Just Had Another Interaction And You Might Be Shocked By What Happened Here

Congress Is One Step Closer To Passing A Bill To Create A Latino American History Smithsonian Museum


Congress Is One Step Closer To Passing A Bill To Create A Latino American History Smithsonian Museum

In a groundbreaking moment, the efforts to establish a National Latino American History Museum finally reached the House Committee on Natural Resources. Congressman José Serrano (D-NY) and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Joaquin Castro (D-TX) testified in a congressional hearing for the National Museum of the American Latino Act. The museum would become the tenth installment by the Smithsonian Institution, alongside the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History.

The bill is expected to pass in the House, with 218 co-sponsors in both parties have already signed on. The Senate has long been an obstacle to the commemoration of Latinos’ contribution to American history. An earlier version of the bill died in the Senate in 2008. But things are different now.

Advocates are pointing to education as the solution for the rise in racism against Latinos in America.

Credit: @TheTwinsPR / Twitter

Immigrant rights activist and author of “Someone Like Me” and “My (Underground) American Dream,” Julissa Arce has become a major advocate for the Latino history museum.

On Aug 3rd, a day that many of us will remember forever, a white nationalist killed 22 people in El Paso,” Arce tweeted. “Maybe, just maybe if he had learned the full history of Texas … he would not have viewed us as targets, but as fellow countrymen.”

Dolores Huerta, of course, was there to advocate for Latino-American history.

Credit: @julissaarce / Twitter

Huerta has long been an icon in our history of fighting for the same civil liberties that are granted to white Americans.

“The infrastructure of the United States was built by many, many Latinos in this country,” she told the Washington D.C. crowd. “Unfortunately, there are so many people in the United States of America who think we just got here.”

We all know that’s simply not true. Latinos are not new, nor a threat to this country. Huerta continued to acknowledge that Latinos have been contributing to United States history for generations.

Huerta agrees with Arce that “the only way we can erase racism is through understanding and through knowledge. That is what Latino Museum would create.” 

The Smithsonian itself has acknowledged that Latino stories are the most underrepresented in its collections.

Credit: @latinomuseum / Twitter

In a 1994 Willful Neglect report, the Smithsonian Institution acknowledged that Americans and visitors alike were absorbing American history as presented by the institute with a near erasure of Latino contributions. The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute recently reconfirmed the erasure in a 2018 report. 

The American Latino community has been a part of that story for over 500 years – yet those stories are still not fully represented among our iconic federal monuments and national museums,” FRIENDS board Chairman, Danny Vargas, commented. “American history is incomplete without the stories of Latino and Latina leaders, artists, scientists, and trailblazers, which is why we need a National American Latino Museum to educate, inspire, and honor our shared history.”

During the hearing, Latino legislators and their allies passionately shared their case for the establishment of the Latino Museum.

Credit: @HispanicCaucus / Twitter

“As full partners in the American story, Latinos need to have their place of prominence,” Rep. Raul Grijalva testified during the hearing. “When walking down the National Mall patriotism should overwhelm every American’s spirit. But for nearly 60 million Americans there is a void,” Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) shared

Rep. Serrano was adamant that the U.S. can’t wait any longer for a Latino Museum, and later tweeted “#LatinoMuseumNow.” Meanwhile, the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate, Senator Cortez-Masto told the House, “Our children and our children’s children … if they were to go to that museum and see people who look like them and learn the sacrifices that we have made … how proud they would be.”

If passed in the House, the bill will then move to the Republican-majority Senate to allow the National Museum of the American Latino to represent the 60 million Americans absent from Smithsonian history.

Credit: parksproject / Instagram

Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution has long been acknowledged as the official benchmark of immortalized United States history. It garners over 30 million annual visitors, admitted without charge. It’s where every 5th grader dreams of visiting on a field trip. It’s also where one-sixth of the U.S. population sees U.S. history without true reflection of their ancestral history on these lands.

If you want to help make this a reality, you can call your U.S. Representative and urge them to support the Smithsonian American Latino Museum Act.

READ: The Smithsonian Is Opening The First Permanent Latino Gallery In 2021 Highlighting Latino Contributions