For the past ten years, LA Chicano All-Stars (as we like to call them) have put together a community event known as the 'Anti-Mall' every December. The annual "People B4 Profit Marketplace" brings artists, musicians, craft and food vendors together in one place to celebrate conscious consuming and it's coming to OC on Saturday!
The event's roots trace back to activist connections made in Chiapas with Mexico's Zapatista rebels. "Since my very first visit there in 1996, I talked to activist and musician Rosa Martha Zarate," says Anti-Mall co-founder and lead producer Laura Palomares. "We wanted to help the Zapatistas and instead of just donating money, they asked us to sell things for them." Since that visit and every subsequent trip back, Palomares would return with products from cooperatives and set up vending booths wherever she could in and around LA.
By 2002, the idea to centralize a marketplace centered on the ideals of zapatismo started humbly in the Highland Park driveway of Quetzal Flores and Martha Gonzalez of the seminal East LA Chicano band Quetzal. "The first year it didn't have a name. It wasn't called 'Anti-mall," Palomares reminisces. "Martha and her sister made tostadas. We had fifteen vendors and a fandango." Gonzalez later came up with the name 'Anti-Mall' and the tradition continued through various locations including outside of Antigua Coffee House, the El Sereno Community Garden, and most recently this past year at the Downtown UCLA Labor Center.
The idea to bring LA's Anti-Mall to Orange County was something Palomares had on her mind for quite awhile. "I had visualized it four or five years ago," she says. "Even before that, when I went to art districts in Orange County, I felt that the vibe was very limited." To make it happen, El Puente Hacia la Esperanza, the organization that formally puts the marketplace together, will set up shop at El Centro Cultural de Mexico's new location in downtown SanTana. Flores likes that fact that reach of the event is widening. "In order to continue building community through the process of convivencia," he says, "it is essential that spaces like the Anti-Mall be re-imagined in as many communities as possible."
"This event is a real grassroots space, not just for conscious consumption, but for people who want to support artists who go beyond their art to support their community - they all share a vision of art that goes beyond individual profit," Yenni Diaz of El Centro says in the group's press release lauding the coming of a real anti-mall to OC -- as opposed the hipsterized retail outfits of Shaheen Sadeghi in Costa Mesa.
Being the introductory first time, artivist vendors from OC will mesh with established ones from the greater LA area. The artwork of internationally known painter Jose Ramirez, hand made recycled bags from Jackie Acosta and goods from cooperatives in Mexico and Central America will be on sale. "When it comes to artivists," Palomares says explaining the underpinning concepts of the event, "it's 'people before profit' because we don't charge an extraordinary fee for a vending booth. For the conscious consumers, they'll be putting that person and the work that they are doing ahead of saving money buying things that are really cheap at a mall."
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Musicians have their role, too. "The two co-founders are socially conscious musicians," she says of Quetzal Flores and Martha Gonzalez. "From the onset of Anti-Mall, there's been music." This year's event from 11-6 p.m. is no exception, only that, this time around, it features an all-OC assembled cast including Nancy Sanchez, Taino Sunz, Son del Centro, DJ Michelle, ¡ Aparato!, and more. The youth of El Centro's ballet folklorico program will open Anti-Mall. Art and music are an easy way to bring people to the marketplace, but once there, Palomares and organizers with El Centro hope that what will be taken away is a sense of what a local and just economy looks like, if only for one day.
The LA Anti-Mall has always coincided with the big-box store madness of the holiday Christmas season. For OC, this weekend's event takes place in the lead up to Valentine's Day "I understand it's a time where people express their love and purchase things as a sign of affection," Palomares says, "Why not provide an alternative?" Beyond the romantic, love has a multitude of manifestations including that of community after all.
"We don't expect radical changes from one event, but we do want to have people start questioning."
Anti-Mall: People B4 Profit Marketplace happens on Saturday, February 11, from 11-6 p.m., at El Centro Cultural de Mexico, 313 N. Birch Street Santa Ana. Free family event.