By Mary Castillo
Poetry, literary readings, documentaries, music, dance, and art rang out from galleries, restaurants, bakeries, alleys, and plazas at the 3rd Annual Boca de Oro Mouth of Gold Festival of Literary Arts & Culture with over 150 Authors and 2,500 Youth Elevating the Arts. Literary lovers, families, students, teachers, and artists braved the rainy day for the annual event on Saturday, March 2nd in Downtown Santa Ana. Boca de Oro is the only literary festival of its kind in Orange County. It celebrates the written word in all its incarnations, invites community participation and includes not only visual and performing arts but also showcases the talents of our local Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) youth.
“Every year this event grows to include all colors, genders and ages to show that Orange County is an interwoven tapestry of individuals, groups and communities,” said Madeleine Spencer, festival co-founder and consultant to Santa Ana Business Council. “In a world where it appears we’re polarized and cut off from each other, Boca de Oro creates the space where we share our stories and understand how interdependent we are individuals in a human family.”
More than 50 events took place in and around Downtown Santa Ana with a series of readings curated by Marcus Omari of Poetic Reform Party and SAUSD. For local residents and visitors, Boca de Oro transformed their perception of OC’s literary and arts scene and the downtown area.
“Having grown up in Santa Ana and being very familiar with the downtown district from the '70s through the '00s, I am thoroughly amazed and thrilled at what has transpired. There hasn't been anything like this in Orange County in my lifetime,” said Doug Lord, instructor, Villa Fundamental Intermediate School.
A YEAR OF FIRSTS
One of the many “firsts” for this year’s Boca de Oro was SAUSD LITCON 2019, an annual school district literary contest. Winners of the competition took to the stage at the Frida Theatre to share their award-winning poems, short stories, and multimedia productions. The reading was hosted by Long Beach native and spoken word ambassador, Philosophy. Students astounded the audience with their original, thought-provoking and insightful works.
"The artwork created by these students reflects the high caliber of arts education that Santa Ana Unified students are receiving on a daily basis," said SAUSD Board President Valerie Amezcua. "We are very proud of all of our students for participating in the contest."
The literary arts contest and student participation at Boca de Oro is a dream fulfilled for Jason Crabbe, English Language Arts Curriculum Specialist, and Robyn MacNair, Visual and Performing Arts Specialist, at SAUSD. But they assert that this is just the beginning.
Crabbe, who taught for 16 years and is a published poet, feels an emotional connection to the literary arts festival. "Sometimes it takes a teacher to bring out the writer or poet or creator within the student," he said. "The literary contest gives them a goal and an outlet where their work matters."
The importance of linking the District's literary arts contest and festival with Boca de Oro and SAUSD's Almas Sonadoras performing arts event, stimulates self-advocacy in future creative leaders to find and assert their unique voices.
For three years, the District has collaborated with organizers of Boca de Oro to bring student dancers, musicians and vocalists to perform in Downtown Santa Ana. Through the Literary Arts Contest, this year included creative writing, poetry and new media presentations as well as Dancing with Brushes, in which District teachers and students lead art-making projects.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled at the collaboration of love to pull off this huge arts and culture celebration between the businesses, downtown, and SAUSD,” said MacNair. “Students and their families were able to witness a true pipeline for what they could grow into. The ripple effect lives on beyond this event.”
The Orange County Center for Contemporary Art hosted this year’s keynote, Author Justin Torres who read from his novel, We the Animals. Torres spoke candidly of his family’s reaction to his book and the film adaptation as well as his incredible journey as a published author.
Orange County Center for Contemporary Arts was also the setting for an extraordinary experience, WOMEN: A TAPESTRY OF WORDS BETWEEN SYRIA & IRAN, as curated by Lady Narrator. As the Syrian revolution continues in its seventh year, tensions with Iran grow, further hindering the relations between the citizens of those two countries. Four women poets broke that tension with their love and creation of poetry. Because there are so few female poets from Syria and Iran, the audience was witness to the emergence of a renaissance as Lady Narrator, Azin Mafi, Mouminat Damer, and Sheila J. Sadr shared their intensely personal and moving works.
“The poet said her grandfather loved citrus. She wasn’t able to have closure because he died 7,000 miles away. But he grew citrus and when she peels back the skin of a clementine, the spray of the fruit touches her face and she said it’s her grandfather kissing her goodbye,” said Annabella Pritchard, chair and curator for the Festival’s keynote address. “She says the dead live in the things that they once loved and we who survive must go to those things they loved, and we will see their faces.”
Attendees of CHICANA: HER STORY were the first to screen a mini-documentary, Here to Stay about the life of Santa Ana Artist Marina Aguilera. The director Jenny Lynn and Aguilera were on hand to talk about their work. The session was moderated by Manny Escamilla of the Santa Ana Public Library.
“This was the first Boca de Oro I was able to participate in, and I am grateful that Chicana art in Santa Ana was not only showcased but highlighted as one of the main events to attend,” said Lynn. “For the first time in a long time, women of color held space in the Historic Santora Building and celebrated La Cultura, shedding light on a history that was never adequately represented and instead erased. Personally, I believe it shows the demand to document and celebrate this history and narrative voice in the community.”
The festival came to a joyous conclusion when Santa Ana Sites brought Banda Magda to The Copper Door. Attended by festival volunteers and fans, Magda invited the audience to complete the performance by singing, whistling and clapping.
“Watching Banda Magna at the Copper Door was a great fusion of various musical ‘voices’ - vocal, instrumental, and percussion-and a great way to end our night,” said Mathew Cruz, Avid Arts Advocate and Retired Principal from Cesar Chavez High School.
But echoes of last year's event at Boca de Oro are moving toward this year’s event scheduled for Saturday, March 7, 2020. We are excited to invite you back to enjoy and participate in workshops, disussions, readings, visual and performing art, and upcoming Book Fair in this burgeoning festival.
Stay in touch Boca de Oro’s community of presenters, sponsors and hosts by joining their newsletter at www.BocadeOro.org.
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