Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore
As we mark our 20th anniversary of supporting the transformation of our community through the arts, literacy, creative engagement, and ancestral knowledge, we are excited to be in a new home. Still in Sylmar and only a mile from our previous location, our new space is three times larger and allows us to do so much more with a greater impact on individuals and families.
The Northeast San Fernando Valley has a population of about 500,000 – the size of the city of Oakland – yet it had no bookstores, art galleries, or full-fledged cultural spaces until Tía Chucha's opened its doors in 2001. Thankfully, various local organizations have for decades provided services to address the many survival needs of a large number of economically insecure families and individuals in this area. Believing that it is also everyone’s right to explore and develop their innate creative gifts, Tia Chucha’s founders set out to correct the historic absence of life-enhancing artistic and literary options for this sector of the population. Melding vision with conviction, Tia Chucha’s was created as a space to embrace the equally important artistic development of our lives as human beings.
Tia Chucha’s began as a café, bookstore and cultural space owned and run by Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez, his wife Trini, and their brother-in-law Enrique Sanchez. In 2003 Luis, along with singer/musicologist Angelica Loa Perez and Xicano Rap artist Victor Mendoza established a next-door sister nonprofit to incorporate a full range of arts workshops. When in 2007 the cultural café and bookstore disbanded as an LLC, it donated its assets, including inventory, shelves, equipment, and more to the nonprofit to carry its mission forward. Tia Chucha’s cultural center now provides year-round on-site and off-site free or low-cost arts and literacy bilingual intergenerational programming in mural painting, music, dance, writing, visual arts, healing arts sessions (such as reiki healing) and healing/talking circles. Workshops and activities also include Mexica ("Aztec") dance, indigenous cosmology/philosophy, and two weekly open mic nights (one in Spanish, the other in English). We host author readings, film screenings, and art exhibits as well.
Tia Chucha’s independent retail bookstore makes culturally diverse and relevant books and literary events accessible to a population hungry for this service. Aware of the positive social impact it can engender, the organization practices social engagement through our community dialogues, internship opportunities, and since 2005 also offers the only outdoor literacy festival for the greater San Fernando Valley--the annual Celebrating Words Festival: Written, Performed and Sung. Other projects include Tia Chucha Press, one of the country’s leading small cross-cultural presses that focuses on socially engaged poetry and literature; and Young Warriors, our arts-based inner-core focused youth empowerment program.
Our 2012 "Rushing Waters, Rising Dreams: How the Arts Are Transforming a Community" book and documentary film (watch here) offer a glimpse of the many ways Tia Chucha's and the arts impact and save lives in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and beyond.