Watch DVDs of Chicano Poets from the 1973 Festival de Flor y Canto
USC alumnus Michael Sedano recently donated 39 DVDs he converted from ¾" U-matic videocassettes of poets reading at the landmark event on the USC campus. You can view performances by Oscar Zeta Acosta, Alurista, Tomás Rivera, and other influential voices in the Chicano movement.
Organized by El Centro Chicano, the Festival de Flor y Canto inspired subsequent events in New Mexico and Texas. Most of the readings were captured on video, and Sedano donated the 39 DVDs to the Boeckmann Center for Latin American and Iberian Studies in Doheny Library.
"Many of these writers now are dead," said Sedano. "Acosta, Ricardo Sánchez, Abelardo Delgado, Tomás Rivera, raúlrsalinas, Omar Salinas. As this first generation of writers passes, the videos provide the only means to appreciate these writers in propria persona, in their own voices."
Sedano—who earned a doctorate in communication arts and sciences from USC—covered the event as a photographer for the Daily Trojan, taking photographs of emcee and former USC graduate student Maryann Pacheco, USC English professor Teresa McKenna, and other principal organizers. He also captured historic moments, such as Acosta's impassioned reading of a chapter from his Revolt of the Cockroach People, detailing an autopsy of a Chicano youth killed by L.A. police under suspicious circumstances.
Acosta was an attorney and Brown Power activist in the late 1960s and early 1970s, working in East Oakland and East Los Angeles. He also played a significant role in the work of his friend Hunter S. Thompson. Appearing as a "Samoan attorney" named Dr. Gonzo, Acosta's road trip with Thompson is documented in the latter's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Many people credit Acosta's influence in the development of Thompson's practice of "gonzo journalism."
Prior to seeing footage of Acosta’s Festival de Flor y Canto reading on the DVD of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Sedano had believed his photographs were the only record of the historic moment. At the 1973 event, Acosta had famously demanded that television film crews shut off their cameras before he began reading.
"Students and scholars alike will want to see these literary giants on tape," said Sedano, "not only owing to the rarity of these recordings, but also because the tapes make U.S. cultural history come alive…Writers will enjoy these rare moments with their literary forebears. Just being in their company is a privilege, but you also get the pleasure of learning by watching maestras and maestros work their texts…[in front of]…an audience."
Sedano urged students to read along with the DVD performances, noting that they can find two copies of the anthology, Festival de Flor Y Canto, edited by Alurista and Mary Ann Pacheco, in Doheny Library. "A poem sitting on the page is limited by the reader's ear,” he said. “But when its author reads it aloud, even folks with little interest in poetry will sit up and take notice."
You can learn more about the Festival de Flor y Canto on Michael Sedano's blog. In addition, he is organizing a 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto on the USC campus featuring original participants in the 1973 event, as well as more recent writers and artists who identify with the cultural and political legacy of the Chicano Movement.
We'll be featuring video clips from the 1973 festival in future posts. See below for some of Sedano's original photos and a complete list of performers appearing at the event. To view the DVDs, contact librarian Barbara Robinson of the Boeckmann Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oscar Zeta Acosta (right) in discussion with event organizer Frank "Pancho del Rancho" Sifuentes (left) and Alurista (just visible over Acosta's shoulder) about the film crews covering the event
Former USC English graduate student Maryann Pacheco, the event organizer and emcee. Pacheco went on to teach literature at Rio Hondo Community College in Whittier and take leadership roles at the National Education Assocation and the California Teachers Association.
The late poet and prison rights activist raúlrsalinas, author of the seminal poem, "Un Trip Through the Mind Jail"
Alurista, the influential author of "El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán," a vivid and imaginative preamble to the political manifesto of the Chicano Movement. His writings popularized an Amerindian or indigenist perspective in Chicano literature, through such poems as "Dawn Eye Cosmos" and "Tortilla Host."
Acosta during his famous reading from Revolt of the Cockroach People
The writers and artists who performed at the Festival Flor y Canto in 1973:
Pedro Ortiz Vásquez
Juan Gómez Quiñones
E. A. Mares
Antonio G. Ortiz
Enrique La Madrid
R.R. Hinojosa Smith
Juan Felipe Herrera
Jose Montoya - MISSING. NO DVD.
Roberto Vargas - MISSING. NO DVD.
Ponce Javier Ruiz
Teresa Paloma Acosta
Benjamin Rochin Luna
Oscar Zeta Acosta
El Teatro de los Ninõs
El Teatro Pequeño
El Teatro Mestizo