California State University, Northridge, home of the largest Chicano Studies Department in the nation and an epicenter of activism ,was an appropriate venue to host “Vote or Die Laughing” with Culture Clash, the pioneers of Latino political satire.
With one week before the election and on Dia de los Muertos, the popular trio of Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Sigüenza were joined by a powerful lineup of talent that included La Santa Cecilia, Cristela Alonzo, Pacifico Dance Company, Buyepongo, and comedian Marga Gomez. The show was directed by Dan Guerrero.
It was a fusion of music, dance and teatro, described as a post-modern political vaudeville. Dance troupe Pacifico carried large calacas on stage to commemorate Day of the Dead and used both ballet and folklorico to communicate.
Buyepongo was the musical thread for the acts that combined a variety of musical genres from hip hop to Latin jazz and all sounds in between.
While this particular show didn’t have as much of the no-holds barred bite that Culture Clash is much loved for, their were many moments during the performance that the audience appreciated including segment called “Viva la Raza Jeopardy” with contestants Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and a parody of the Neil Diamond song Coming to America.
VPAC’s Executive Director Thor Steingraber described the event as a “one-of- a -kind” fusion of politics and culture.
While the expectation was for Culture Clash to slam into the tall piles of material from this sordid election, it was a softer bipartisan message to “Get Out The Vote.” On a public state university campus where free speech should be embraced, it was a bit disappointing not to get a full dose of the Culture Clash that we have come to expect, especially days before one of the most reviled elections of our time.
There were somewhat mild hand waves over very controversial recent events including Standing Rock. But even in a toned down performance, the multi-talented Culture Clash is always entertaining.
Comedians Cristela Alonzo and Marga Gomez are equally talented. As Gomez took the stage referencing Trump, she said, “I am a nasty woman!” and noted that the next President is going to pick the next Supreme Court Justice. She noted the lack of Latino presence in media and asked Why a person like Sonia Sotomayor isn’t portrayed on television.
“I am so over this election,” said Alonzo. “You only hear white people saying going back to the ‘good ‘ol days.’ You never hear black or brown people saying this. You never hear a black person saying let me go work for free like in the ‘good ‘ol days.’”
There were some very special moments when a video of Lalo Guerrero was played performing his song, “No Chicanos on TV,” and when vocalist “La Marisoul” moved away from microphone to the edge of the stage and let the acoustics of the VPAC auditorium carry her astounding voice and moved her message to love each other into the hearts of the audience.
Regardless of the tragedy of this election or whether the candidates aren’t worthy of being the center of a few jokes, Culture Clash in the end delivered the message, “Vote like your life depends on it. We can’t change anything unless you vote.”