Community festival empowers women

By Dorany Pineda 

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Las Fotos Project held its 3rd annual Viva la Muxer event—an all-women art and music festival in East Los Angeles on Saturday. “[Viva la Muxer] showcases a lot of the community and the art.

I feel like it’s a safe space for women, and to see what other women can do,” Diaz said. “Men always dominate all the spaces. That’s why I think there’s a need for events like this.”

The event featured an array of food, drink, art, activities, workshops, vendors and other entertainment fronted by female talent. Resource booths, including the East Los Angeles Women’s Center—which provides resources at East Los Angeles College—were also in attendance.

Arlene Torres, a youth organizer for the ELAWC, said that the center, which first opened its doors 41 years go, offers free services to women, children, families and men of all ages for domestic violence, sexual assault, counseling, therapy, education, and much more.

Torres said that many of the people that walk into the Women’s Center aren’t necessarily aware of the services they offer. She said that the biggest need they see in their clients is someone to talk to. “Talking about what you’re going through with someone is definitely needed and it makes one feel much better and that they’re not alone,” Torres said.

The main stage hosted an eclectic variety of musical and cultural performances, including ballet folklorico, a hula performance and an african rhythms dance. Among the musical performers was Irene Diaz and her ukulele accompanist, Carolyn Cardoza, who performed at the first Viva la Muxer festival several years ago.

Both Diaz and Cardoza urged women to support each other by building clubs and collectives. “Band together and showcase and support each other. That is already happening, I don’t want to say that it’s not, but I think on a bigger scale it needs to happen more,” Diaz said.

Some of the most powerful, tearjerking performances of the night took place in the auditorium. Chingona Fire—a latina feminist poetry collective—presented a spoken word with both novice and veteran female poets.

Yesika Salgado, co-founder of Chingona Fire, brought audience members to tears with her poem “All of my poems are about love.”

It begins with the title, and follows with: “…All of my poems are about some boy. All of my poems are about my fat…about my El Salvador, my English, my Los Angeles, my pre-gentrification Silver Lake…”

Salgado’s poem then unfolds and talks about her depression, her mourning the death of her abusive, alcoholic father, the joys of watching her niece grow up, her hard-working immigrant parents, and the gratitude she feels for having been blessed with the gift of words.

The festival was a benefit event for Las Fotos Project, a nonprofit photography program for teenage girls based out of East Los Angeles. Jesenia Quijada, a photographer and a mentor for Las Fotos Project, said they specifically invite teenage girls because the nonprofit saw a need in the area for programs like it.

“We looked at the communities we wanted to serve and we saw that there was a very specific need to reinforce positive self-esteem within teenage girls in these communities,” Quijada said.

For Quijada, who first picked up a camera when she was 16, photography helped her come to terms with her identity as a woman of color and how she learned to develop her self-esteem. She hopes that Las Fotos Project and woman centered festivals like Viva la Muxer can do that for others.

“Essentially, what I love about (Viva la Muxer festival) is that it presents, not just the girls in the program but the community at large, an opportunity to see what it’s like to see women come together and support each other,” Quijada said. “It’s a really good example of community and the kind of strength we can really flex when we come together.”

The festival was sponsored by Univision, Jack Daniels, Red Bull, Ford, 89.3 KPCC radio, and more. All funds raised will go toward field trips, equipment, renting exhibit spaces and getting more girls involved in Las Fotos Project.

SWEET MELODIES—Irene Diaz (front) and Carolyn Cardoza perform on the main stage
during the third annual Viva la Muxer festival at Plaza de la Raza. C/N Diego Linares

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