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Latinx Files: Introducing ‘LA Vanguardia’

Becky G, Alice Bag and Chris Estrada are part of the inaugural LA Vanguardia class.
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times; Ruby Broobs / For The Times)
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Back in 2021, the Los Angeles Times rolled out a 16-story package that took a critical look at Hollywood’s Latinx culture gap.

The verdict? It was pitiful, and continues to be. Not much has changed between now and then. Despite the potential windfall that comes with catering to a very loyal audience, Hollywood insists on pretending like we don’t exist.

As a result, the Times’ Entertainment and Arts team has taken a different approach this year. Rather than point out the failures of the industry yet again, they have chosen instead to highlight the people actually doing the work.

Say hello to LA Vanguardia, “a survey of the rising writers, actors, directors, architects, thinkers, musicians and other artists who are shaping the culture you are living in now and certainly the culture you’ll be living in tomorrow.”

It’s not a power ranking. Far from it. Think of it instead as a list of cool people doing very cool things. The inaugural class features the likes of punk legend Alice Bag, as well as comedian and “This Fool” co-creator Chris Estrada. The list also includes several creatives whose work I didn’t know but am now looking forward to checking out.

“Latino representation in so many fields within arts and entertainment is appalling,” assistant managing editor Craig Nakano, who’s spearheaded the project, told me.

“We wanted to amplify the conversation about how that needs to change, and we wanted to share the stories of artists who have managed to beat the odds — to shine more light on those talents and celebrate their successes.”

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In addition to the list, the LA Vanguardia project will also include profiles like this one on L.A.’s own Becky G. These will be rolled out today and Friday, so check this space.

For more LA Vanguardia coverage:

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¡Gracias!

On Wednesday, “The Times” podcast put out a special Día de Muertos episode that featured audio ofrendas from listeners. It was the final component of our multimedia effort to celebrate a holiday that has been woven into the fabric of Los Angeles.

Like last year, our coverage also included a digital altar where readers could leave an ofrenda by sharing a photo and a memory of a loved one who had passed. We even added a section for pets! Over the span of a week, we received more than 900 submissions. I encourage you to read through them, though I warn you that you will cry.

This year we also built an actual altar, which was part of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s annual Día de Muertos event. We also made a video —it’s a Steve Saldivar joint, so you know it’s good — and even had a print component. The Sunday Weekend section of the paper included ofrendas submitted to last year’s digital altar.

Our Día de Muertos celebration was truly a cross-newsroom collaboration. This project was made possible thanks to our Data Graphics, Features, Design, Utility, Events, Audience, Video, Podcast and News Desk teams. Thank you to everyone who helped out, and to our colleagues who contributed their own ofrendas.

But the biggest words of praise I have are for you, dear reader. Thank you from the bottom of my cold, shriveled heart. None of this would have been possible without you. Your willingness to share such an intimate part of yourselves, to entrust us with these memories, is not lost on us. We don’t take that responsibility lightly, and we sincerely hope that we did right by you and those you have lost.

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We still need your help!

Now that I’ve thanked you for all your help, I’m here to tell you that, uh, I need your help. LOL.

The 2022 World Cup is 17 days away, and we are working on a little project we are calling “Gracias Futbol.” It is meant to be a loving tribute to the beautiful game, and will feature personal essays and comic strips about the biggest sporting event in the world. I, for example, plan to relive the trauma of the 2006 Maxi Rodriguez goal.

Here’s where you come in: Tell us about your favorite mundial memory.

Maybe it was watching Maradona hoist the World Cup trophy in 1986, or the Chucky Lozano goal against Germany, or (if you’re into that type of thing) the infamous “dos a cero” match. Email your memories to us at latinxfiles@latimes.com.

Things we read this week that we think you should read

— For Día de Muertos, columnist Gustavo Arellano spent some time with Zeferino Garcia, a successful entrepreneur from Oaxaca who has built a mini-business empire in Los Angeles. His latest venture is growing cempasúchiles, the beautiful marigold flower essential to the holiday.

— For The Times, Frank Rojas wrote about Club Tempo, one of the few remaining Latinx gay bars and the only one that caters to the queer vaquero community.

—Metro reporters Brittny Mejia and Ruben Vives have this story about the growing number of Latinxs in Los Angeles falling into homelessness. As they point out, the number of homeless Latinxs in L.A. county has been on the uptick for several years and the pandemic only made it worse.

“It’s not that we don’t want to pay rent,” said Maryann Sanchez, a 72-year-old woman who lives with her husband and daughter in an RV parked in Boyle Heights.

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“We can’t afford it.”

And now for something a little different...

My first birthday far away home
(Chica Banquete / For The Times)
I'm from Argentina, but I'm in Mexico. Empanada, mate, chocotorta, choripan.
(Chica Banquete / For The Times)
I'm so excited. And nervous! I can't believe I'm turning 24 in CDMX
(Chica Banquete / For The Times
)
I love this city and people here. Also the food is so good. I don't even miss choripan!
(Chica Banquete / For The Times)
But CDMX is so big and noisy that sometimes I feel lonely and tiny.
(Chica Banquete / For The Times)
And I miss my family and friends. Yep I'm crying at the supermarket.
(Chica Banquete / For The Times)
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Luckily I have mexican friends and they are so cool... and very unpunctual!
(Chica Banquete / For The Times)
I organized a dinner at 8 and no one came until 10 and I freaked out.
(Chica Banquete / For The Times)
Suddenly they started to arrive. We ate and drank beer and mezcal. They sane "Las Mañanitas" to me.
(Chica Banquete / For The Times)
My friends gave me so much love. That I felt home again.
(Chica Banquete / For The Times)

Chica Banquete is a visual artist from Buenos Aires. She currently lives in Mexico City. Her work combines compositional candor and digital anxiety. A sensitive intimacy sketched with brushes on the texture of the paper, in permanent dialogue with the “meme language”

Banquete says that drawing and painting have become a natural language for her.

“Food, desserts, pizzas and tables shared with friends, as well as loneliness, demands and mental health are some of the topics of my comics. I like to add humor and acidity to life. I laugh at my little daily misfortunes.”

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Are you a Latinx artist? We want your help telling our stories. Send us your pitches for illustrations, comics, GIFs and more! Email our art director at martina.ibanezbaldor@latimes.com.

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