Conversion of this weekend’s annual Street Scene Festival in downtown Los Angeles into a 12-hour, internationally televised fund-raiser for victims of Mexico’s devastating earthquakes was announced Monday evening.
“This is a go, we’re on our way,” said a jubilant Danny Villanueva, president of KMEX, the local Spanish-language television station.
Villanueva said daylong negotiations resulted in agreements for such international Latin entertainment figures as New York operatic star Placido Domingo, singer Julio Iglesias and Mexican comedian Cantinflas to appear on the show through satellite hookups.
“The plan right now calls for a telethon from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday,” Villanueva said. “It’ll be broadcast over SIN, the U.S. Spanish-language network, with part of it carried by the Turner network. It’ll reach over 300 markets in the United States, Europe and Latin America.”
As currently envisioned, Domingo, Iglesias, Cantinflas and other entertainers--some of whom had already been scheduled to appear at the festival--would make televised appeals for donations to be funneled to Mexican earthquake victims through the International Red Cross.
“We’ll have 400 volunteers on hand to take pledges over the phone,” said Villanueva, who will be coordinating the show, called “Mexico
He said the idea of turning the festival, an annual event for the past eight years, into a fund-raising telethon was developed in cooperation with the offices of Sylvia Cunliffe, general manager of the Los Angeles General Services Department, and City Councilman Arthur K. Snyder.
Snyder, back from a weekend trip to Mexico City, said Monday that relief officials there are calling for heavy equipment and volunteers with expertise in demolition, rescue and communications work.
Saying the City of Los Angeles cannot provide the equipment, Snyder appealed for donations from the private sector. Snyder and Deputy Mayor Grace Davis met Saturday with Mexico City officials to obtain a list of needs.
The list includes machinery to cut concrete rubble, water purification systems, large-scale insecticide applicators, air blowers to ventilate areas where people may be trapped, and skiploaders, compressors, dump trucks, bulldozers, mobile cranes, back hoes and people who know how to operate such equipment.
The councilman said that the Los Angeles Board of Public Works will coordinate collection and transportation of the equipment, which should be on the way to Mexico City by the end of the week.
Snyder and Red Cross official Ralph Wright said enough medical supplies, food and clothing have already been collected in the relief effort. Wright said a “fantastic” amount was donated to Red Cross offices over the weekend--including a $100,000 grant from the Weingart Foundation.
Snyder and Davis, who returned from Mexico City Sunday evening, said they made a brief tour of the city.
“All you have to do is walk down the streets and smell the stench of rotting flesh and see the rescue workers swarming like ants across the wreckage to know that there has been a gigantic disaster,” Snyder said.
Asked his reaction to a State Department request that local U.S. officials not travel to Mexico in the aftermath of the quakes, Snyder replied, “I never comment on the federal government’s attitude toward Mexico.”
Davis said that it was Snyder’s contacts in Mexico City that enabled Los Angeles officials to begin responding to the needs of the earthquake victims.
Meanwhile, California’s elected officials set up a statewide task force Monday to coordinate relief efforts for Mexico. State Sen. Art Torres said he helped arrange the task force here and spoke with officials in other border states, hoping to extend the task force’s work to those areas.
“It’s clear to me there is no specific coordination occurring,” he said. “Nobody is grabbing the bull by the horns.
“The key in this dilemma is that help has to be channeled in a specific direction. The outpouring has been tremendous.”