Jose Sueiro

Jose Sueiro

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Eddie PalmieriJust a couple of weeks ago, on Sunday, December 9th, I was able to attend a jazz concert in Baltimore at the new Keystone Corner Jazz Club and listen to the incomparable Eddie Palmieri and his Jazz Sextet. It happened to be the day of Eddie's 83 birthday and he was in fine spirits and even better form. We celebrated together backstage since my good friend, Rene Lopez, a close Eddie friend for more than 40 years, had come down from NYC to attend the concert as well.
Eddie Palmieri is the last remaining great salsa and Latin Jazz planer of the golden era of New York salsa. Gone is his brother Charlie Palmieri, Machito, Tito Rodriguez, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz, all great musicians who lit up the salsa scene from New York City from the early 50's through the new century. Palmieri remains a working musician who tours with his Sextet. He also performs with his big band salsa orchestra when the occasion permits and continues to travel the world (he is booked here in DC in June of 2020).Jonathan Powell He has surrounded himself with a tight, highly skilled group that includes the gifted trumpet player Jonathan Powell and saxophonist Luis Fouché, he of Late Show with Colbert fame. His percussionists are always famous top of the line guys (Jerry Rivero and Luisito Quintero in this case) and his offerings mostly self compositions. He began the evening with a jazz version of 'Adoracion', one of his most classic tunes and extended into a piano solo riff that all of us who know the tune and follow his music could understand and relate to. The group played everything from bossa nova to Cal Tjader and Thelonious Monk.
Louis FouchéIt was my second visit to the Keystone Corner Club (both times to see Eddie) and we were very pleased to see a thriving new jazz club down in the new neighborhood of Baltimore they call Harbor East. Palmieri is one of those 'swinging' music legends like Tony Bennett or Willie Nelson who just dazzles the public with his virtuosity, joy and sense of humor eon stage.
Eddie recently put out an album with Gilberto Santarosa and Carlos Santana. Still going strong, with a fabulous sense of humor and strong chops, it's a wonder to just watch him play. Generations of Puerto Ricans were influenced by his recordings such as; 'Muñeca', 'Vamonos P'al Monte', 'Nada de Ti', 'Oyelo que te Conviene' and many, many more. Music that has defined our times as Latinos living in the U.S.

It's Franklin

I first collaborated with Franklin Garcia in the early 2000's during a community exercise envisioned to create a game plan, a road map for where the Latino community could progress and become more empowered and powerful in the District. A group of us led by veteran community leaders such as Angel Irene, Alberto Gomez, Jose and Sonia Gutierrez and the scholarly Enrique Rivera, created a document entitled; "DC Latino Agenda", out of the process.

Franklin Garcia at his recent holiday celebration with DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelsohn and Silvia Martinez of the DNC. During that time Franklin was the glue that held us together. We met Saturdays at what was then EOFULA (Vida Center today). Franklin called us to order, organized the documents and later would request government officials visit to discuss our research. I remember Dan Tangerlini showed up one Saturday morning when he became City Administrator, as did the head of the Housing Authority, Councilman Graham and various agency heads. At the time Franklin also created the DC Latino Caucus. He was quite active even then.
Subsequently, he went on to work with the DC Democratic State Committee. He became their Communications Director at one point and worked closely with Chairperson Anita Bonds, David Meadows, Phil Pannell and other Democratic Party activists. He ran successfully for the DC DSC on various occasions and was responsible for numerous initiatives including a modern newsletter and wide distribution of videotaped hearings and meetings.
Franklin made himself central and indispensable to the local party leadership and became a political figure himself. He first ran District wide for public office approximately 5 years ago. He won the election for Shadow U.S. Representative with over 110,00 votes. In fact, he has won the position in 2 subsequent elections ever since. Even running unopposed or with limited opposition, this is no easy feat. It means that over the last 3 elections more than 350 thousand voters have pulled a lever or punched a card with Mr. Garcia's name on it. If he can translate that into votes in a Council run he's golden. Franklin would have to win somewhere above 60,000 votes to win the At-Large Council seat. He's running for the seat now held by David Grosso who is retiring. This is the one seat on the Council reserved for non-Democrats. Garcia will have to resign from the Democratic party to run. Franklin Garcia poses with Bibi Otero long time Latino community leader at the December 14th reception celebrating the life of Pepe Lujan. Franklin is a master about town. Rarely a night goes by when he is not at some civic meeting or attending a public activity related to statehood politics or District affairs. His life is dedicated to public service. He carries a miniature DC flag in his pocket wherever he goes. When he takes a picture or appears in a video, he pulls it out of his pocket and waves it at the camera. He is not only active, but knowledgeable. He can gauge his audience instinctively and deliver excellent remarks no matter what the scenario, who is in the audience or where he is in town. He's a master at the public arts. He also has integrity wrapped in a cautious, measured attitude. He's an honorable man of his word.
Franklin straddles both the Latinx as well as the African American community. He is likeable, knowledgeable and helpful. For this article we took a photograph at Franklin's recent holiday celebration at his home. In attendance were Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Phil Mendelsohn, Shadow Sen. Brown, Silvia Martinez from the DNC, diplomats, professors and videographers, residents young and old from the African American, Latino and white communities, a broad cross section of this town.
No one in our memory has been this engaged, this prepared and this ready to accede to a position of authority and power on the DC Council and in the life of the District as Franklin Garcia. We wish him well and promise to support him throughout. As they say in the movies; 'May the force be with you!!"

The Legacy of Casa Patas at GALA Theater Flamenco at its Finest

It has been 15 years now since the experiment of presenting, on a yearly basis, the finest flamenco in the world began at GALA Theater in Washington DC. Conservatorio Flamenco Casa Patas, the renown center for the study and promotion of the authentic expression of flamenco, has been at the center of this initiative from the very beginning. This Madrid based foundation is among the most serious and dedicated preservationists of the folkloric music of Andalusia. The study of the art form is limited to a few highly distinguished performance sites throughout Madrid, Barcelona and southern Spain. The roots of the music trace back to Moorish Africa, gypsy populations of eastern Europe and the Middle East and as far as India. Each year the Casa Patas performing group tours the United States and Latin America with performances that test the limits of flamenco expression and expand the range and artistry of the music.
On this tour the performers, led by Director / Choreographer and dancer Rafael Peral, dig deep into the origins of the music with a traditional ensemble that includes a female dancer, guitarist, two singers and a percussionist. In prior journeys to the new world the Casa Patas ensemble has included violin, clarinetist, saxophonist and multiple and sundry percussion players. This year "Raiz de 4", title of the performance, is a much more classic and basic flamenco ensemble, one you might find in the 'tablaos' of Madrid, Seville or Cadiz.
There are, nevertheless, interesting features to this latest work. What "Raiz de 4" does is pare back flamenco to its most basic elements and break them down. Each performance within the show highlights a different aspect of this beautifully passionate, emotional and inspiring music. They begin the show with two dancers swaying and swirling to the guitar, the singers and percussionist. They proceed with a solo guitar performance and then the 2 singers and percussionist take turns at their own solos. Mr. Peral returns by himself doing a breath taking pieces without the singers and then Marisa Adame, the female dancer, performs alone on the stage as well. Then at the end of the show all of these elements are fused back together once again and the company leaves the stage in one boisterous, cheering finale.
The presentations of flamenco at GALA Theater, including its own repertory company headed by the remarkable Edwin Aparicio, represent a rare and highly qualified opportunity to preserve and present the artistry of flamenco to local audiences. They enrich and amplify Spanish culture and make Washington DC what it is, a truly international urban center. It is a remarkable effort achieved under great strain. GALA not only stretches to bring a company such as Casa Patas to Washington DC, but through its local work attempts to popularize the art form in our community. The partnership with Casa Patas guarantees a top quality result.

'Pepe' El Polifacético Lujan, Hijo de Nuestra Comunidad

Pocas son las personas que se identifican en la imaginación popular por un solo nombre como por ejemplo, Messi' o 'Madonna'. En el pueblo de Washington DC, y en particular el barrio de Adams Morgan, por los últimos 50 años con decir 'Lujan', o simplemente 'Pepe', ya todos; blancos, Afro-Americanos y Latinos, sabían que se trataba del inconfundible Pedro Lujan.
Ha muerto nuestro Pepe!
Era hijo de Peru, pero en realidad era un padre nuestro. Trajo a toda su primera familia desde Perú a DC y empezó otra aquí. Era hombre de familia. Convivió con nosotros en el barrio capitalino de Adams Morgan gran parte de su vida. Compró casa en la Calle Lanier, abrió su primer comercio, la heladería 'The Scoop' en la calle 18, estuvo entre los fundadores de la Corporación Latina de Desarrollo Económico (también situada en la calle 18) y por unos años fue el dueño del famoso Café Avignone Freres en Columbia Road. Y por supuesto su inolvidable (y larga) temporada frente a Havana Village, también en Columbia Road.
Pero sobre todo en un principio asistió a Sonia Gutierrez en el Programa de Instrucción en Ingles para Latino Americanos (PEILA por sus siglas en Ingles) lo cual se convertiría en la Escuela Rosario del día de hoy. Ayudar a la población Hispana a superarse a través de la educación sería quizás el legado más importante de su vida. Sin embargo, Pepe era un hombre polifacético.
Lujan dedicó buena parte de su vida a la obra social. Fue de los mejores 'organizadores' que se hayan visto en esta ciudad. En los años 70, te llenaba un salón o una protesta en la calle con cientos de personas en cuestión de horas. Fue la mano derecha de Carlos Rosario, el primer gran líder de esta comunidad, y compañero y amigo de todos los líderes Latinos de su tiempo. Pepe ha sido instrumental en los movimientos pro-Hispanos de DC. Incluso, a nivel internacional, fue operativo de la campaña de Mario Vargas Llosa en Estados Unidos cuando corrió para Presidente de Perú, tal era su valor como organizador. En un tiempo, Pedro y su esposa Jeannie fueron representantes del Cuerpo de Paz en Costa Rica. Lujan fue exitoso a todos los niveles.
Pepe también fue un gran empresario. No solo su compañía de construcción, su heladería, Avigñon, Hellers Bakery, etc., pero su tiempo al frente de lo que es todavía el 'night club' Latino preeminente del barrio de Adams Morgan; Havana Village. Por cerca de 15 años casi todos los fines de semana a Pepe se le encontraba en una mesa frente a la puerta donde llegaban un sin número de amigos, compañeros de negocio, lideres políticos y personalidades comunitarias a tomarse un trago o discutir algún proyecto, pedir consejo o referencias o simplemente reírse con el gran Pepe y bailar salsa en el segundo piso. Havana Village, como Avignone anteriormente, se hizo el sitio más reconocido y famoso de la noche Latina en DC!
Mi amistad, y mis choques, con Lujan empezaron desde un principio cuando yo era Director del Centro de la Juventud. A veces tosco -y terco- Pepe siempre se comportó con honor, honestidad e integridad conmigo. Muchas son las referencias que me hizo y los consejos y apoyo que me dio. No puedo contar la cantidad de cafés, mojitos, ceviches, pasteles y helados que me tomé con él. Siempre amable y jocoso, Pepe fue un gran amigo y lo he de extrañar el resto de mi vida.
Grande Pepe, ahora a discutir con los ángeles y ver el legado de tus acciones y los éxitos de tu familia. Lo hiciste bien "Cholo". Siempre te recordaremos. Tu muerte trae a mi mente un verso de Machado:

"Algunas veces encuentras en la vida una amistad especial:
ese alguien que al entrar en tu vida la cambia por completo.
Ese alguien que te hace reír sin cesar;
Ese alguien que te hace creer que en el mundo existen realmente cosas buenas.
Ese alguien que te convence de que hay una puerta lista para que tú la abras.
Esa es una amistad eterna..."

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