Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cesar Chavez, the Azteca Theater, and the march to Sacramento

The Azteca Theater in 1965 as Cesar Chavez and the Delano marchers reach Fresno enroute to Sacramento. Photo by Gerhard Gscheidle, for The Movement, April, 1966.

By David Owens

The story of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) is well known, especially in California. What is less known is the role of the Azteca Theater in that famous march to Sacramento.

It started in 1962, when Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) with Dolores Huerta. It was later called the United Farm Workers (UFW).

In 1965, Chavez  led a strike of California grape pickers on the historic farm workers march from Delano to the California state capitol in Sacramento. Fresno was the largest city on the route as well as the agricultural center of the San Joaquin Valley and proved pivotal to the momentum of the march.

The UFW asked all Americans to boycott table grapes to show support for farm workers. The strike lasted for five years and encouraged many improvements for farm workers.

When the march reached the Azteca Theater it gained critical mass. Over 1,000 people gathered around the theater in support  Politicians, middle-class Mexican-Americans and enlightened general population were joining the line. The Movement, April 1966. Photo by Gerhard Gscheidle.
When the Mayor of Fresno learned of the march heading to Sacramento through Fresno he was concerned on how to avoid a potentially volatile situation.  He contacted Police Chief Hank Morton who in turn called upon Arturo Tirado, of the Azteca Theater, to help make sure there were no problems for the marchers or local residents. 

Tirado was well-known in the state and his theater had become the center of Hispanic culture in the San Joaquin Valley.  With his help, the route through Fresno was arranged and his guidance helped keep the peace. The Azteca Theater on F Street -- with it's 760 seats and location just off the main highway -- made it a good gathering point.

Fresno was the largest city on the route to Sacramento. When the march reached the Azteca Theater it gained critical mass. Over 1,000 people gathered at the theater in support of the farm workers.  Politicians, middle-class Mexican-Americans and enlightened general population were joining the line.

Over the ensuing years Cesar Chavez stopped at the theater several times, including a visit with presidential hopeful Bobby Kennedy.
In addition to running the Azteca Theater, Arturo Tirado was well-known for bringing the most famous stars and musicians from Mexico to California, often hosting them for their tours. And on occasion, served as a liaison between the Mexican-American population and local government.
Oral history from Dick Avakian, 1915-2009, known as the unofficial mayor of Fresno's Chinatown, holding court at Dick's Menswear for over 60 years.

The Movement, April, 1966. Published in San Francisco.

California History Magazine Volume 83, No. 4
Arturo R. Tirado and the Teatro Azteca: Mexican Popular Culture in the Central San Joaquin Valley, by Manuel G. Gonzales 83-46

L.A. Times, Mark Arax, Standing Tall in Fresno, a short background in Fresno's wild and wooly days.  A colorful synopsis of the Fresno Police and the events that lead to California's Three Strikes law.

Photographer Gerhard Gscheidle came to San Francisco in 1964 and became a photographer there and in NYC before returning to Germany.

For events and activities at the Azteca Theater
For Spanish language centered events and activities at Teatro Azteca:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Grand Re-Opening Celebration

The Azteca Theater is holding a Grand Re-opening event on Friday, September 26, 2014, 6:00 -9:00 p.m.
The current effort to save the theater began back in 1999, but it has been Laura Barboza and her supporters working on the space for the past year who are making this happen. The first grand opening was in 1948, a mere 66 years ago. For the many who have asked for a peek inside, this is your chance!
Teatro Azteca Grand Re-opening event on Facebook

 Check your Calendar!

Besides getting a look at the theater and meeting the people who are involved there will be several performances. A Bi-lingual friendly event.
     -  Los 3 Ambrios (English language)
     -  Dance performance by Caris and Company
     -  Bachata singers You're It from San Franciso,
     -  Singer Irma Trujillo

     -  Caricatures by S.W. Parra
     -  A mini video clip of a man telling some old stories from when the 
       theater was open. Also a little bit of the history and the future plans.
     - Expresiones Teatro. Is doing a drama show
     - Art exhibit by local painters

And more! 

Come share a happy milestone in the history of the Teatro Azteca.  Event is free, but donations will be accepted if you wish. Want to get involved? There is more to be done!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Classic Cantinflas 'El Circo' at the Azteca Theater

Mario Morena "Cantinflas" in El Circo 1943
Azteca Advertisement

Classic comedy El Circo showing at the Azteca Theater!

Welcome to the Teatro Azteca in 1970 for a showing of the 1943 B&W classic El Circo!

Cantinflas (Mario Moreno) is a cobbler who gets a job in the Circus as a janitor, recommended by a beautiful girl circus performer.

El Circo poster, 1943

Soon, Cantinflas gets in trouble when he participates  in dangerous acts, such as the flying trapeze!

Clearly, our friend will risk his life for the love of his new girlfriend!

Cantinflas masters the trapeze as only he can!
Watch it now!

This 1943 version with Moreno is a version related to Chaplin's The Circus (1928)

Mario Fortino Alfonso Moreno Reyes, known as Mario Moreno, (August 12, 1911 – April 20, 1993) was a Mexican comic film actor, producer, and screenwriter known professionally as Cantinflas. He often portrayed impoverished campesinos or a peasant of pelado origin.

Cantinflas - El circo

The character came to be associated with the national identity of Mexico, and allowed Cantinflas to establish a long, successful film career that included a foray into Hollywood.
Charlie Chaplin once commented that he was the best comedian alive, and Moreno has been referred to as the "Charlie Chaplin of Mexico."
El Circo title

El Circo, 1943, Posa Films
Director Miguel M. Delgado
Música Manuel Esperón
Fotografía Gabriel Figueroa (B&W)
Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" (el zapatero), Gloria Lynch (Rosalinda), Estanislao Schillinsky (Shilinsky), Eduardo Arozamena (don Martín), Ángel T. Sala (el Coronel Buitrago), Rafael Burglete (bailarín), Tito Novaro el doctor Tanner), Leonid Kinskey (un agitador).