With A New Book, Louie Pérez Of Los Lobos Is Master Storyteller
"There is no such thing as Chicano hippies! And playing Mexican music??"
That was my father's reaction when I described seeing five honest-to-goodness Chicano hippies with beards and ponytails playing mariachi music at a Chicano student leadership retreat at UC Davis in 1975. Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles, the group called themselves.
Three years later, there was a bright yellow album cover with a drawing of a nopal plant and an inlay photo of those very same Chicano hippies that proclaimed themselves as 'Just Another Band from East LA.' They were still playing Mexican folk music and that record was a staple of Chicano activist parties during my college years in Fresno, Calif.
Then, nothing. For five years. Until they came roaring out of the LA punk scene with electric instruments turned up to 11 rocking corridos, a Ritchie Valens song and the first three originals by David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, a song writing team that would redefine Chicano musical expression and win legions of fans around the world.
Good Morning,Aztlán : The Words, Pictures and Songs of LouiePérez (published by Tia Chucha Press) has just been published and it is a breathtaking examination of Pérez 's masterful storytelling in the name of sharing the lesson that we have more in common than we are different.
This week, Pérez sits down for a wide-ranging interview about the book, his own story, his creative bond with David Hidalgo that stretches back to the 11th grade and his commitment to telling the stories of the world as he has seen it from countless tour buses.
Good Morning, Aztlán has songs as well as short stories, poetry and philosophical riffs all written by Pérez and we selected a few to include in the show. Big thanks to Alt.Latino contributor Marisa Arbona-Ruiz's multi-talented acting skills for the dramatic readings on the show this week. Get your tissues out for her reading of "Little John Of God" one of Pérez 's most powerfully emotional songs.
With David Hidalgo as his writing partner and the rest of Los Lobos as the vehicle that brings those stories to life, Louie Pérez has created an imaginary world full of real life joys and pains and wonder that seems worlds away from the hippie mariachi I saw. But the through line going back to 8-year-old Louie Pérez of East LA has been his fascination with the written word. And we all have benefited from that.
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