In 1965 singer Rubén Guevara acquired his huge break on nationwide TV, acting on the ABC musical selection sequence Shindig! There was only one catch. He needed to drop his actual title in favor of an acceptably anglo one: Jay P. Mobey.
There he was on black and white TV, primetime, shaking his groove factor with Tina Turner and Bo Diddley, commanding the stage, below a reputation that erased his Mexican-American identification.
“I didn’t want to change my name,” Guevara remembers within the new documentary Con Safos. “I was torn about it, but I was young and I wanted to make a name for myself. I just never imagined I’d have to do it with a made up one.”
The documentary, directed by Michael Vargas and Moni Vargas, premieres Wednesday evening on KCET, as the primary episode of the PBS station’s new season of Artbound. The movie recounts how Guevara left that phony stage title behind in 1966, and went on to construct an genuine inventive identification as Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara—singer, actor, efficiency artist, author, activist and pioneering voice of Chicano tradition.
“Rubén should be in the history of not only L.A. but in the history of the United States arts and culture as a whole,” Juan Devis, chief artistic officer of KCET and PBS SoCal, stated at a press occasion for the documentary. “It is so important to be able to give credit where credit is due.”
The movie rewinds to Guevara’s youth in a multicultural space of the westside of Los Angeles referred to as La Veinte. His father, a local of Mexico, was a famous musician and Rubén inherited his musical expertise. He discovered to sing boleros from his father, however later gravitated to a extra American sound: doo-wop and rock n’ roll.
“I still appreciated the traditional music my dad played,” Guevara says in Con Safos. “But I wanted to swing. I wanted to rock, man. Let’s face it, I was Mexican and American.”
He shaped a doo-wop group known as The Apollo Brothers, then later landed the Shindig! gig. After that present was canceled, he returned to highschool at Los Angeles City College and commenced pursuing Chicano Studies, a improvement that may elevate his consciousness. Guevara, like many youngsters of his background, had at all times been caught between cultures.
Louie Perez Jr., a member of the band Los Lobos, states the dilemma Guevara and others like him confronted: “For Chicanos in general, if we’re not completely accepted there, in México, and we’re certainly not completely accepted here, in the United States, then where do we belong?”
Guevara would come to embrace the time period Chicano as saying one thing distinct about his roots and his political engagement.
“The term Chicano originally was in some circles pejorative, especially with the upper classes in Mexico,” Guevara defined on the press occasion at KCET headquarters. “The Mexican-Americans up here knew they were Chicano—that’s just part of how we grew up. But it didn’t become politicized until the ‘60s with the Chicano civil rights movement. The students flipped that into a positive statement of empowerment.”
He continued, “Essentially a Chicano is a Mexican-American activist. I take that activism into art. So when I call myself a ‘Chicano Culture Sculptor’ I’m doing that—I’m an activist and an artist at the same time, documenting my culture.”
In the early Seventies Guevara related with musician Frank Zappa, who coincidentally had made an earlier idea album known as Cruising With Ruben and the Jets. Zappa proposed that Guevara kind an actual Ruben and the Jets band and carry out as a gap act for Zappa’s group, The Mothers of Invention. Zappa produced their first file; a comply with up album, known as Con Safos (“With Respect”) was launched in 1974.
“Ruben and the Jets was Mexican-American rock theater,” Guevara defined. Since the group’s breakup within the mid-70s, Rubén has expressed his artistic imaginative and prescient by means of theater items, albums, poetry and a memoir, Confessions of a Radical Chicano Doo-Wop Singer. He has additionally appeared in movies, together with Cheech and Chong’s Nice Dreams, starring his pal and fellow self-identified Chicano, Cheech Marin.
His inventive output and give attention to Chicano identification has earned him a few sobriquets (or maybe I ought to say apodos): Chicano Godfather and the God of Funk.
“It sounds cool,” Guevara permits with reference to “Chicano Godfather.” But it’s the latter nickname—“God of Funk”—that has extra that means for him as a result of it gestures towards what he calls his alter ego, “Funkahuatl.” He got here up with Funkahuatl initially for a theater work, and has since adopted it as his center title.
“The ‘Funk’ is my American side,” he stated, “and ‘Huatl’ was my indigenous ancestry side, although I’m not of Aztec ancestry. So I wanted to combine those two into one word. And also for me it was like naming myself, non-colonialized name… I wanted to have my own identity. My own funky identity.”
For govt producer Dan Kwon, the movie speaks to points past simply Guevara’s biography.
“There’s so many universal elements in this story, about how peoples get divided from each other. The Pocho wall—the divide between Mexican-Americans and Mexican nationals, it’s identical to the Asian-American and the Asian national divide,” Kwon famous. “It’s identical to the African-American and the African national divide… That’s a real kind of universal phenomena of the American experience of assimilation.”
He added, “The personal is very political. This story is really a classic example of how these personal, individual experiences are related to larger societal phenomena.”
Co-director Moni Vargas sees Con Safos as “a way to combat the erasure of this culture, of Chicano culture, of Latin culture, of all of the contributions that we as Latin-Americans or LatinX… that we have made to this culture as a whole… We’ve been here. The border crossed us, in a way… As much as people try to erase and invisbilize us, we’re here. And we’re not going anywhere.”
After its premiere on KCET on Wednesday, Con Safos airs Friday evening on PBS SoCal. It premieres on LinkTV, the nationwide satellite tv for pc broadcast community (Dish 3410, DirecTV 375), subsequent Tuesday.