Indie Wheel – April

April 10, 2013 |

by Linda Victoria

Conventional wisdom in Tucson typically says that unless you have the political support to do something, you will fail miserably.This same source of wisdom often perpetuates the myth that local businesses and neighborhoods have nothing in common and are destined to be at odds with each other. We have seen examples of both proving to be true, yes, but this is not always the case. Tucson has an encouraging amount of people who – how can I put this in a P.G. way – could care less about this paternalistic and cynical wisdom.

One very significant yet little known example of this brand of healthy defiance is showcased every year during a street fair in Tucson that draws tens of thousands of people. This festival takes place along an avenue that is dotted with locally owned businesses and is surrounded by historic neighborhoods. Once a year, sidewalk to sidewalk, this avenue turns into a river of Tucsonans flowing along to the soundtrack of local bands covering popular cumbias, Tejano and old school jams. And yes, there’s food. A lot of food.
Unless the cumbias, Tejano and old school gave it away, you are probably thinking I am describing the 4th Avenue Street Fair. I’m not. I love that one, too. But, no, I’m talking about the the Fiesta Grande Festival in Barrio Hollywood on Tucson’s Westside. A surprising amount Tucsonans still have no idea about this event (it’s on April 13 & 14 this year, by the way). When asked about it I playfully describe it as the Other One or the Chicano Street Fair. Then I share the festival’s slogan – ‘Welcome to Barrio Hollywood where everyone is a star’ – making it clear that all are  welcome.
In a nutshell, this is what makes this event special: After a gigantic sinkhole opened up on Speedway and Grande Avenue back in 2003, residents and business owners were devastated with a traffic nightmare, the stench of oozing sewer everywhere, and empty restaurants and retail businesses. It was pretty bad. The solution? Clean it up and throw a party, of course.
Ten years later, this annual event has accomplished more than anyone ever expected; it has provided businesses with branding and marketing worth tens of thousands of dollars; it raised over $100,000 in funding for the Midnight Hoops program keeping hundreds of kids off the street; it leveraged one million dollars to establish the Cambio Grande initiative which funded street improvements, new sidewalks and benches along Grande Avenue; it secured private foundation funds to create beautiful, historic murals, and so on.
This was all made possible because of a little known street party in the barrio. According to that conventional wisdom I mentioned earlier, the Fiesta Grande should never have succeeded. But it has. Neighborhoods and businesses were not supposed to seek a solution together for mutual benefit, yet that is exactly what happened. Throughout the years, Barrio Hollywood organizers have called the shots first, then invited elected officials to follow their lead. To this day, there has never been a question about who is in charge.
And Barrio Hollywood is just like many neighborhoods around Tucson that exhibit this kind of independent instinct. Recent efforts by the newly organized Sunshine Mile on Broadway and the longtime and fiercely independent production of the annual All Souls Procession come to mind. They don’t wait on political blessings or depend on agencies or city bureaucrats to determine their fate. They go ahead and do it for themselves.
So the next time you want to make a difference in your neighborhood or advocate against that ubiquitous chain about to squash and replace your favorite locally owned cafe don’t ask for permission prior to acting. Just step up and do it.
I love visiting St. Mary’s Mexican Food on Grande Ave and St. Mary’s Road. It’s like being in an old episode of Seinfeld. The food is excellent and super affordable. But never once has my food been ready to pick up when they said it would be. Yet I keep coming back. They used to have an ordering system that consisted of cut out cardboard squares with the numbers written with a magic marker. Don’t care. I still go back. And not a piece of furniture matches. Whatever. I’ll eat standing in their parking lot if I have to. They are that good.
I have this urge to go to The Loft, pay full admission for the next random movie but ask not to be told what I’m about to see. Then, right after that flick, I want to do the exact same thing at the Arizona International Film Festival over at the Screening Room downtown. And to finish things off, I want to go check out a thought proving documentary at Casa Video, grab an extra bag of their free popcorn to go and watch it at home. Is that just weird of me? Is a person allowed to do that in Arizona?
The following is a public service announcement: Beware of a sudden epidemic of Marco Rubios popping up around town and across the nation. They may be wearing sombreros. Maybe not. They may speak to you in Spanish and may be accompanied by a full mariachi in the background. But perhaps not. If you encounter one, stay calm. Call you nearest GOP headquarters and have him picked up. We will issue a similar PSA to warn you about whatever the Democrats come up with in four years. This has been a public service announcement. Thank you.

Category: Community