La Quinta Raza and The Infinite Race

in Notes From A Native Daughter/TV/Film by

The first time I heard the phrase la quinta raza (the fifth race) was way back when Bernardo Ruiz’s first production company was called so. The logo was a hand with all this graphic stuff drawn inside. I can’t remember the details. My memory tells me the drawings aimed at the destiny lines inside our hands. The name made perfect sense to me because it connected to Bernardo’s purpose to tell stories that matter to him.

We spoke about the production company la quinta raza at the juncture in his career when he changed it to Quiet Pictures. I remember he said it was too hard to pronounce para los americanos. I was a bit sad about it but understood why he felt he had to do away with the name. Through the years, Soldanela has mostly come out as Soldana or SoldaniaLa quinta raza is a reference found in and sometimes used as the title for a monograph by Mexican writer José Vasconcelos called La raza cósmica: mision de la raza Iberoamericana (1925). It’s a very good and illuminating read. Don’t know if Bernardo read it, but he is fulfilling one of Vasconcelos’ reasons for being: to fight the oppressor with history.

In the 30 years I have known Bernardo, his ferocious Mexican blood has propelled an amazing gamut of work, that arrives at distribution eerily in time. A few days back he sent a beautiful letter where he announced another project, The Infinite Race, a 30 for 30 documentary.

 “With the engine dead, I coasted towards an exit, almost willing the car forward. There’s a special feeling you get when all you can do is coast towards an exit … hoping, unreasonably, for the best …

“Many sports docs profile celebrity athletes or cover well-known sports controversies. This one focuses on a little-known race in the Copper Canyon of Chihuahua, Mexico, home of the indigenous Rarámuri people, which became the epicenter of a debate about cultural appropriation, exploitation, and who gets to tell the story of a community. It recently premiered in Mexico through DocsMX and will have a U.S. broadcast on ESPN on December 15th (unless 2020 continues to behave the way it has.) With the many, mostly genuine, conversations about how to reinvent the documentary field, I think there is also something to be said for careening forward with a dead engine—and willing the next destination into being.”

Eso mismo. That’s it.

Many of the artists I have met who are of la quinta raza live invested in an infinite race towards redemption.

Last night Comité Noviembre launched its 34th Annual Comité Noviembre Puerto Rican Heritage Month celebration in the virtual sphere. From the beginning, Comité Noviembre has been all about helping young Puerto Ricans stay in school. The student scholarship clips are worth watching.

I was one of this year’s Lo Mejor de Nuestra Comunidad honorees—they said because of the work I did with displaced families from Hurricane María. Perhaps. That moment in time was indeed life-changing but it was also an all-hands-on-deck time, so many people helped. My heart could not turn away once I saw the desolation of all the ones that came. But to me, the real service to the community has been this audio blog. No one pays me to offer this space to artists running the infinite race; I do it from the heart and for the love of art.

It is an honor to be next to the rest of “Lo Mejor” recipients: Maximo Rafael Colón, photographer/documentarian of the history of the Puerto Rican community in NY; Carmen Cruz, change agent and founder of Silent Procession NYC4PR!; Carlos de Jesus, documentarian of the Black-Latino-Puerto Rican experience; Eric Díaz, Lower Eastside community activist and executive director of Vision Urbana; David López, community builder and chairman of Southside United HDFC-Los Sures; Esperanza Martell, artist, human rights and peace activist, co-founder of Casa Atabex Ache Women of Color Healing Center; Hector Pereira, volunteer for the American Red Cross; Nydia Ocasio, Latin music educator; Wanda Salaman, founder Mothers on the Move; George Daniel Santiago, volunteer for Hope Worldwide and NYC Church of Christ; Vincent Torres, director of Positive Workforce, vice-chair of operations for the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, a humanitarian volunteer in Puerto Rico, and Miguel Trelles, executive director of Teatro La Tea and founder, co-producer and visual arts curator of Borimix.

In the past few weeks, I have received notes from people asking why I’ve been missing Sunday shares. One of those notes came from Josie De Guzman. I was so happy to hear from her. She’s one of my sheroes. I met her when I was a young 14-year-old mesmerized with her beauty and that she was on Broadway… a true fighter. Our exchange recognized the sinister feeling of the moment and she sent this Copeland’s Lincoln Portrait project along. Take a listen.

I spoke with Mino Lora and will share that talk after the election is over. She’s in the running for a special election in March for District 11, where I live in the Bronx. I’m not supposed to openly support a candidate because of my job, but these are desperate times, and we need artists in public office.

The Creative Justice Initiative had a slamming program of talks in October. Try to check them out.

See: The Peace Poets | Songs to Stop a Coup | Stop this Coup

The songs are to be sung in action defending elections and stopping attempts at a coup. They were written by The Peace Poets in collaboration with social justice orgs. The songs have specific purposes—there are songs for energizing, de-escalation, deepening commitment, expressing love for each other and articulating our vision. They recommend practicing them and being ready to use them for whatever situation arises, and planning to use them as a way to hold space and close the space of your actions.

#ThePeacePoets #UnstoppableVoters #WeAreTheMovement

For some reason, this marvelous version of “Rocket Man” at the Ephesus Amphitheater in Turkey has taken a hold of me. Something about it that makes me miss how it used to be… Sir Elton John is so free. Will we ever be?

May the vote be swayed by the people and for the people—another infinite race.

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