Story and Photographs by Raoul Pascual
The Santa Fe Springs Art Festival is an annual Mexican art fair at the tip of Los Angeles’ southern border. The city is predominantly of Mexican ancestry so it really should have been billed as the Mexican Art Fair. I confess I’ve never really been to Mexico but walking among the crowd I think this was what it must be like in a Mexican festival. All around were large families dressed in clean simple fashion – cowboy boots, cowboy hats, T-shirts, vests with strings, gelled black hair, frizzy hair adorned with flowers, and strong makeup.
The fair offered different activities. The aroma of food and the line of people in front of food trucks was the first section I gravitated to. It was a Friday evening and proud parents corralled their children to mingle with other well-behaved kids. I imagine this was the big event of the week for these hard-working families. Spanish-Mexican chatter competed with the sound of blaring music from the musicians on stage. I helped a family take selfies as we lined up for delicious $8 hot dogs. “Are you sure you want the Azteca Hot Dogs?” warned the food truck cashier. “It’s really hot.” “Yes!” I proudly retorted. Of course, I was expecting all those spices. No Mexican is worth his salt if he can’t stand a little heat. Among the hungry crowd were sprinkles of teenage Mariachi performers filling their tummies before their big performance.
There was a narrow corridor that led to a craft area. Young creative children were busy coloring and pasting cut colored paper. Around them were craft booths – a guy selling his paintings of Freida (I mean, what’s a Mexican craft fair without a Freida collection, right?). Another booth was selling wood carvings. Yet another was selling handmade jewelries. There were many onlookers, but I didn’t see any takers. But everyone was having fun.
I was surprised to find a Korean art club, who had secured a large tent full of paintings, collages and relief mixed media paintings. The club president was only too excited to show off their work.
A young man was doing a black and white chalk art of Einstein on a flat pavement. A local video crew was covering the event and took photos of him and their reporter.
There was also a flamenco dancer with her guitarist inviting kids to stump their feet with them. Beside them was a stage for different dance styles. Kids with red flowery blooming dresses doing the Mariachi and kids with white T-shirts doing hip hop.
The main stage was a good sized ampitheater with chairs surrounding it. An all-girl band was finishing their hard rock segment. On the side were other bands waiting for their turn to show off their talent. A small open area was reserved for dancing.
In the middle of all the activity was a two-story house-turned-museum, with all of its walls covered in an assortment of paintings. Some of the paintings were really good. In the middle of the house was an open stage area showing short videos of student film artists.
If you’re in the Los Angeles, California area during the first Friday of May you should come and check it out and enjoy a culture south of the border.