Mantones de Manila at La Pena Cultural Center

An installment of the five part series “Enlaces” exploring the Spanish, Indigenous, Arabic, and African influences in the music and dance of the Americas, on February 20 at La Pena Cultural Cultural Center in Berkeley, “Manton de Manila” showcased the beautiful embroidered silk shawls introduced across the globe by the Spanish.

Featuring:
María de la Rosa & Rudy Figueroa – Mexican Dance
Parangal Dance Company – Philippine Folk Dance
Theresa Calpotura-Classical Guitar
Asociación Cultural Kanchis – Peruvian Dance
De Rompe y Raja – Afro-Peruvian Cultural Association
Javier Trujillo – Peruvian Guitar
Virginia Iglesias – Flamenco Dance
Jorge Liceaga – Spanish Guitar
Edwin Lozada – Poetry
Paul Flores – Narrator
Exhibition of Mantones de Manila – Courtesy of Edwin Lozada (Carayan Press)

Curated by Edwin Lozada, editor of Field of Mirrors and member of PAWA Inc., Lozada owns an impressive collection of mantones de manila that span from 1820 to present time, gathered from all over the world. The show traced the history of these embroidered shawls back to Canton, China, purchased by the Spanish in Manila, which starting from 1571 through 1811 served as an integral port to the Galleon Trade. The popularity of these shawls spread to Mexico, Peru, and Spain, just to name a few countries. Weaving song and dance while chronicling the shawl’s diaspora, we start first in Veracruz, Mexico.

Unfortunately, no videos or photographs were allowed by the audience, but to get a feel for the similar threads that run throughout these cultures across the globe, here are some samplings from other sources. The first performance was Mexico’s National Dance, the Jarabe Tapatio:

After the dance, the dancers told the story of La China Poblana who was neither from China or Puebla but may have been a Mughal Princess named Mirrha taken captive by the Spaniards and brought to Puebla where she was bought by a wealthy Dona and Don and christened Catarina de San Juan. She’d fashion the most beautiful embroidered skirts that glittered and shimmered, and wear them when she went to the market. The ladies of Puebla soon adopted her style, and the skirt spread across Mexico. For more on Mirrha’s history check out Stitches in Time.

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Image from Yucatan Living

The evening’s performance then transported us to the port that made the embroidered shawl so famous. From Manila, “El Paseo”:

We also learned of Saint Martin de Porres (1579-1639) the Black Saint or La Santa Negra, the first saint of the Americas. Born illegitimately from a Spanish nobleman and a young, former black slave, he grew up poor but learned the medical arts at the age of ten and was already devoted to taking care of the sick. Porres later joined the Dominican Order and led a life committed to charity.

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Image from Novena

In honor of the Saint of Peru, two dancers performed La Marinera:

The dancing ended with a rousing and riveting flamenco from Andalusia Spain:

And the rest of night belonged to the mantones themselves. Spanning from 1820 to 1940 (?), the later the shawl was made the more elaborate the embroidery and the longer the fringe, each one more beautiful than the next. From striking reds, gorgeous greens, vibrant blues and purple, the mantones de manila are marvelous creations made more unique and more lovely by the many different cultures that have stylized this shawl and called it their own. This show made me wonderfully proud to be a Chicapina.

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Image from Museo Oriental, Valledolid

For more information check out “Truth about the manton de Manila” by Bea Zobel Jr. on TravelSmart.net and watch for Lozada’s much anticipated book on the history and influence of the manton de manila.

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Enlaces (Connections That Bind Us) El Mantón de Manila presented by La Peña Cultural Center in collaboration with Gabriela Shiroma (CulturARTE), Carayan Press, PAWA, Inc., Community Music Center-San Francisco

The story of our time and the City of Ourselves

At Home in Venice, Los Angeles

In search of a suitable port for Spanish galleons coming from Manila, Antonio de la Ascension arrived on the island of Santa Catalina with Spanish troops in 1602. Ascension recorded one of the first written historical accounts of Los Angeles and it’s native peoples, who would later be called the Gabrielinos, after the San Gabriel Mission.  Antonio de la Ascension recorded the encounter in “Along the Coast, 1602” published in Los Angeles: Biography of a City.

The soldiers ran all over the island and in one part of it fell in with a place of worship or temple where the natives perform their sacrifices and adoration. When the soldiers reached this place inside the circle there were two large crows, larger than ordinary, which flew away when they saw strangers, and alighted on some nearby rocks. One of the soldiers, seeing their size aimed at them [the crows] with his harquebus, and discharging it, killed them both. When the Indians saw this they began to weep and display great emotion. In my opinion, the Devil talked to them through these crows because all the men and women hold them in great fear and respect.

Ascension depicted a very violent genesis of a city where cultures have always seemed to clash and collide. Today, over eighty languages are spoken in the City of Angels. Culture clash is a way of life. In his, inaugural address, “A City of Purpose” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa  affirmed, “Los Angeles is not only the one city that best embodies bold dreams. It is the destination of people’s imaginations, all around the world, whether or not they ever set foot here.” For some Los Angeles is a dream of promised American ideals and for others it is a nightmare of urban sprawl and catastrophe. In commemorating the death of Raymond Chandler, the LA Weekly also commemorates El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles. Judith Freeman in her article, “Raymond Chandler: 50 Years Dead,” writes:

He said he was the first to write about Los Angeles in a realistic way. To write about a place, he said, you have to love it, or hate it, or both, alternately, the way you do a woman. Vacuity and boredom were futile. L.A. never bored him. He found it banal, maybe, but never vacuous. He both loved it (when he first arrived in 1912) and hated it (by the time he left in 1946), until finally, he said, it became a tired old whore to him. Never mind that he, more than any other writer, helped to turn Our Lady of the Queen of Angels into a woman of the night. He got this city better than anybody else, its rhythms and rudeness, its gas stations filled with wasted light, the houses in canyons hanging in the blackness, the smell of the air, the feel of the winds, the very pulse of the place, which is why his novels never seem dated: He captured the essence of the city, not just its temporal surface…

Toward the end of his life Chandler said, “The story of our time isn’t the story of war or the atomic bomb. It’s the story of an idealist married to a gangster and how their children and home life turn out.” He could be describing The Sopranos.

Only it isn’t The Sopranos. It’s us. It’s the story of our time, just as he said, the unending and timeless tale of America, with its idealists on one end of the ideological spectrum, and its gangsters on the other, be they Wall Street crooks or your ordinary garden-variety thugs. We are the children he spoke of. And we are still waiting, 50 years after Chandler’s death — with ever more urgent concerns filling our minds — to see just how our collective home life will turn out.

Seismically fractured and infinitely diverse, the experiences Angelenas/os face are not strictly unique to the City of Angels but mirror the world. Chandler knew this and gave us to ourselves. His words still haunt a city that represents the very best and the very worst of our nation. Our City of Angels, the place that I called home for so long, will always be a reflection of ourselves and our inextricable links to [an]other.