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Celebrating 50 Years of Self Help Graphics

Self Help Graphics & Art at Fifty: An Appreciation

by Tomas J. Benitez


It began as a simple idea. Establish a place in the community to make art. The founders knew that if the doors were open, the artists would gather, exchange ideas, create new images and foster their development as artists. The mechanism was printmaking.


The concept was instead of creating one image for a few audiences, create an image in print multiples for many audiences. Although serigraphs were often dismissed in the hierarchy of contemporary art as a market entity, the true value was in creating access to Chicano expression for everyone, fostering Chicano art and artists, sharing the art with a range of audiences, and empoering the imagery of Chicano artists with impact upon the mainstream art world through proselytization.


The buzz word in the mission was “local” artists. In a community based space in the heart of East Los Angeles, the largest homogeneous population in the nation, this meant the majority of the artists were Chicanos, Mexicanos and other Latinos.


Yet, SHG&A was a model of multi-cultural inclusion from the onset, with artists from the Asian, African American and the mainstream communities, plus visitors from around the world, coming by to participate in the opportunity to learn from the cluster of Chicano/Latinx artists.  What drew the artists into SHG&A and into working together was simply the chance to make new art. The creative collaborative process was the key to the success of the printmaking studio, each Atelier.


In the early days, an old wino in the neighborhood would climb the stairs up to the floor where SHG lived and view the next show that was self installed by different artists. He exclaimed “Otra Vez!” because the show changed once a month. Thus, Galeria Otra Vez was born, which for many artists was the first and only venue they could show their art for years.


But SHG&A was never intended to be a commercial vehicle, other than splitting the prints so the artists could do their own selling.


As Chicano art grew in mainstream popularity and demand in the late 1980’s, SHG&A’s value diminished for direct professional development. But it was never intended as a broker, never a commercial art gallery, never a representative for artists.  Ironically, as Chicano artists struggled to claim professional and financial status, well known mainstream artists Like Ed Moses, Robert Graham and Paul McCartney came to SHG&A to create, work in appreciation of the value of printmaking. However, SHG&A was very instrumental in preparing numerous artists for application and competition into the swarm of public art projects opportunites, and indeed, we see the lasting results and success today. 


Further, exhibitions of prints from SHG&A were seen around the world through the seminal shows such as Chicano Expressions, and numerous other major national shows and venues. The body of work has been archived by UC/ CEMA Chicano art archives, the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, LACMA, and the National Museum of American Art in Washington DC.


Yet some have has raised the question over the years: Is SHG&A a truly Chicano arts center?


Have you heard of Day of the Dead? Have you heard of the Vex? Have you ever owned a print from SHG&A? Have you seen any of the images that were created in its glorious fifty-year history? 


Self Help Graphics & Art has earned its role in the pantheon of Chicano Art as one the most significant progenitors and producers of Chicano Art and Culture, from the apex of the Chicano Art Movement until today. Day of the Dead has become the most popular vehicle for community participation in Chicano art and culture in the U.S. today. The message was visual, the source was visceral, the expression was genuine, the impact was lasting. The result was more Chicano art and images created by more artists and seen by more audiences around the world than any other U.S. cultural institution in history.


Self Help Graphics has had a stellar legacy of success during its first fifty years. There is no doubt it will continue to be a leading cultural center of art and creativity. Just let the artists come together and let them create new art.


This essay is dedicated to the memory of Sister Karen Boccalero. 


Vamanos a Vegan!

Chef Kate Ramos isn't a traditionalist. A Midwesterner who has traveled the country working as a chef in restaurants from New York to Los Angeles.


It was while working in Los Angeles Kate's love for traditional Mexican food and recipes developed.


She soon began to experiment with flavors and in her latest book, Plant Powered Mexican, Kate explores various uses of vegetables used in traditional Mexican cooking.


If you are tired of overcooked burgers, tasteless hots dogs, and guessing if the sausages are fully cooked at your summer gatherings, /you might want to try some of Kate's fresh and health recipes.

Recognizing the Music of Mariachi's thru the Mail

The United States Postal Service has just released a new series of stamps honoring Mariachi, the Traditional Music of Mexico.


The U.S. Postal Service celebrated the sounds of mariachi, the traditional music of Mexico that has become widely popular in the United States, with a first-day-of-issue ceremony unveiling a pane of 20 Mariachi Forever stamps at the 30th Annual Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque.


News of the Mariachi stamps is being shared with the hashtag #MariachiStamps.


“The Postal Service is proud to unveil these new Mariachi stamps to celebrate the exuberant sounds of this music that is an integral part of Mexican American culture and has fans around the world,” said Peter Pastre, the Postal Service’s government relations and public policy vice president, who served as the stamp ceremony’s dedicating official.


“Today, the sound of mariachi is in the air, with singers infusing the music with tales of life and love and vibrant dancing as this celebration will continue with these 18 million postage stamps that are now on sale at Post Offices across America,” he said.


Other participants at the stamp ceremony were Monica Trujillo, the Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque’s educational and artistic conference director; Brian O’Connell, chief financial officer and chief operating officer of Atrisco Cos.; and Amelia Garcia, assistant principal of Ysleta High School in El Paso, Texas.


Rafael López designed the stamps and created the art. Derry Noyes served as art director.





Latino Businesses Demand Representation

Posted August 23, 2018

The James Beard Foundation, a pioneer in promoting culinary excellence and diversity within the culinary industry, has been urged by concerned culinary professionals and esteemed Latino organizations to enhance its commitment to diversity and inclusion through proportional representation of Latinos on its Board of Trustees. In a heartfelt letter addressed to Ms. Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation, culinary enthusiast and advocate Lilly Rocha highlighted the need for fair and equitable representation of Latinos in leadership roles.


The letter acknowledged the Foundation's efforts to foster diversity but emphasized that there is room for improvement, particularly with regard to proportional representation of the Latino community. Latinos are a significant and influential segment of the United States' population, contributing immensely to the country's culinary landscape. Their rich tapestry of flavors, techniques, and traditions has left an indelible mark on the culinary world.  Ms. Rocha's letter emphasized that including qualified Latino individuals in leadership positions is not just symbolic but also a practical step toward embracing the diverse perspectives that drive the Foundation's success. The letter stated, "Achieving diversity requires a concerted effort to identify and invite individuals who can contribute meaningfully to the Foundation's mission.


By actively seeking out qualified Latino candidates who embody excellence, innovation, and a deep understanding of culinary arts, the Foundation can elevate its impact and relevance within an ever-evolving culinary landscape."


Supporting the initiative are several esteemed Latino organizations including:

• National Latino Restaurant Association

• Latino Food Industry Association • Latinx Business Council

• Sabor Latino Restaurant Association

• Antojo Expo

• Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

• Hispanic Coalition of Small Businesses

• National Latina Businesswomen’s Association

For Angelinos, the Pico Rivera Sports Arena will no doubt raise memories of Antonio’s, and a young Pepe’s, performance of banda and Norteńo music while riding horses around the arena.

Now touring and promoting his Jaripeo Sin Fronteras, Pepe is reviving the tradition with an updated version of the Jaripeo.

Part traditional with familiar music and outfits, this new concept includes much more making it part circus adding surprise elements like guests, magnificent horse riding skills and characters to the mix.

Bold in its presentation, Jaripeos Sin Fronteras is an evolution of perception on traditional Mexican music in a modern-day forum. By bringing el rancho to major stadiums and forums across the country, Aguilar has revolutionized the concert experience.

Although the production is a major undertaking, Aguilar and his family make it familiar and personal. When asked by reporters what the most difficult aspect of creating the show was, Aguilar’s son noted “singing while bouncing on a horse. It’s really hard to keep your voice stable when riding – that’s when I learned to add lots of cushioning and standing to keep it steady.”

If you have never seen Antonio Aguilar perform in a Jaripeo, Jaripeo Sin Fronteras pays great tribute to this legend and will hopefully make this a new tradition Latinos across he country look forward to every year.

Catch the SoCal performance at the Honda Center on Saturday, September 1, 2018.


The Roots of Baseball Run Deep in the Latino Community

by Tomas J. Benitez

Published on 10.24.17

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the 2017 World Series; indeed, they are the favorite. Dodger euphoria is in full swing. Dodger paraphernalia is seen everywhere, from street corner vendors to television ads in English and Spanish.

Eloteros are wearing their blue L.A. hats as they hawk their wares; bank tellers, grocery store clerks, and restaurant workers are all wearing Dodger shirts in lieu of the usual attire. A trip down Olvera Street will find Dodger stuff mixed in with Day of the Dead, Pancho Villa and Frida images, often blended into one item, “Dia de los Doyers, with a flowered skull wearing a Dodger hat. Every night the local news stations feature aspects of the coming series; local newspapers are running their special Dodger editions, and social media? Forgetaboutit, it's Dodgers 24/7. Dodgermania.

Significantly, a large portion of the Dodger fan base is Mexicano, Mexican American, or Chicano, with a new generation of Latinex joining the swelling ranks of loyal fans. There are also the righteous holdouts, the ones who invoke the memory of Chavez Ravine, an ugly episode in local history that witnessed the evacuation of several Latino families from their old barrio. The Dodgers wear some of that stink, but the land was long before sold off from a failed federal housing project, and the city invoked eminent domain to make room for the then new Los Angeles Dodgers. Most of the homes had been sold and abandoned for years, but a few squatters held on until they were forcibly removed; we have all seen the famous photographs.

Yet before the hue and cry died down, the Dodgers were embraced by the majority of the local Latino community, which has now over fifty years later become the largest segment of the Dodger gate. How did that all happen?

To begin, the Mexican and Mexican American community has been playing baseball as long as the mainstream, both here and in Mexico. People often think of soccer as the Mexican sport of choice, and indeed it is, nowadays, but at the end of the 1800's soccer was a sport, played by the elites only, in countries with elitist classes like Argentina and Uruguay, and the masses were not welcome. Instead, they played a game on the streets that was very popular, first in Cuba, la pelota; later, beisbol. It was our game. When Mexicanos came in droves to the US during the Revolucion, they came here already playing baseball. And they were greeted by Mexican Americans left over from the war between the nations, who were living in barrios away from the crowd, but who played baseball in their streets and parks. As the Mexican American community developed, they played ball. They became more American, and in turn, particularly since the advent of Fernando Valenzuela, they made baseball more Latino.

Look at the 2017 World Series rosters, they are littered with Latinos from the entire diaspora, although my favorite, Adrian Gonzalez, will not be there due to injury. What Latinos learned is that they cannot compete with professional basketball players due to height, they cannot compete with professional football players due to size, but a guy who stands five feet five, Jose Altuve, is the best player on the field. It is not the size of dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog.

The Dodgers arrived at the perfect time, just as the city was rising anew, and just as the Mexican American community was arising to a new day, in numbers and presence. The game had all along thrived in the barrio, little leagues, factory teams, high schools, the army, pick-up games in the park. A couple of guys made it to the bigs, (did you know Ted Williams was a Mexican American? You can look it up). But not until 1981, with the arrival of El Torito, El Zurdo, El Indio, Fernando Valenzuela, did the game begin to change; “Latinize”. The gate has changed too as the Los Angeles Dodgers have become the local heroes; Los Doyers, with a loving nod to the heavy Spanish accent. So as Jaime Jarrin, the legendary radio announcer says, Vamanos Doyers! Play beisbol!


The United States Postal Service’s Forever® stamps series entitled Delicioso, celebrates the influence of Central and South American, Mexican, and Caribbean foods and flavors on American cuisine. Art Director John Parra and graphic designer Antonio Alcalá focused on the bright and playful illustrations of tamales, flan, sancocho, empanadas, chile relleno, and ceviche.. Each illustration was created by applying multiple layers of acrylic paint to textured boards, using sandpaper to reveal the hidden layers and give the designs a worn, vintage look. To learn more about Delicioso visit:

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