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SanTana’s Fairy Tales

Neither Sarah or I can remember where we met. A bar? A literary event? Las Comadres meeting? Regardless, I’m proud to call Sarah Rafael Garcia a friend. She slept on my couch right after I moved out on my own and she returned from a walkabout through Australia. She taught me how to live frugally at a time I didn’t know how to be anything but comfortable middle class. We organized and gave book readings at schools, stores and universities. We started Wild Womyn Writers. I was one of the first writing teachers for Barrio Writers, an organization she started. Sarah went on to gain her MFA (impressive) and then she won an artists’ year-in-residence (wow!) to gather Mexican American community-based narratives to create contemporary fairytales and fables. I love having creative, smart friends!

The culmination of this research, writing and organizing skills occurred last Saturday at a literary event called SanTana Fairy Tales in Downtown Santa Ana that included an impressive collection of local visual, musical and performance artists, bilingual single-story zines, a fully illustrated published book, an ebook, a large format classical book with graphic art and interactive ipads. The exhibit will be up at the CSUF Grand Central Art Center through mid May.

For me, this performance brought to life the different experiences of the devastation and sorrow of becoming obsolete and marginalized in your own hometown. On display were excerpts from the collection of fairy tales, graphic illustrations for each story and central in the room were parts of the carousel that was taken down to make room for gastropubs and other hip businesses that would attract urban youth.

I was mesmerized by the carousel horses, the marque letters spelling “Fiesta” (the “s” is missing) and Aztec artwork that had once adorned the quaint carousel. I never rode the carousel but I have always adored it’s mythical quality and seeming permanence as the very fabric of this Hispanic community.  I remember seeing the carousel for the first time while driving home our live-in maid Rogelia. I was twelve. The image was so clear with the fruit stands and men in their large vaquero hats and huge belt buckles, I included the scene in Rogelia’s House of Magic.  Now that the carousel is gone there is a gaping hole – as if there is still a ghost of its presence. “Vas a ver, first the carousel and quinceañera shops, soon los fruteros, and one day it might be us!” – SanTana’s Fairy Tales.

The event began with a monologue from a circus ring master in which she attempted to win over the crowd for the revitalization of the “rundown streets of Santa Ana.” Her wicked laughter and the jingle of coins in her pocket gave her true intentions away. The next performance was a haunting instrumental while two children wove in among the crowd as if they were crossing the border, or perhaps just crossing town, and afraid to be caught. The following song remembered the first trans who was murdered. Other fairytales included the woman who refused to move her house for the traintracks and the young vato who painted a mural, a vision of oral history honoring the Mexican American veterans, which provoked the mayor to understand the difference between public art and graffiti.

My takeaway from the event was a deepening of my humanity and pride for la gente who hold onto each other and keep their stories alive despite the powers that are tearing down their safety and cultural cornerstones. I’m so proud of you Sarah!