“Up in Smoke” star sees more states legalizing marijuana.
By Kimberly Caballero
Chicano art is American art and will become world art, Hispanic comedian and art collector Richard “Cheech” Marin said at the April 25 SAC Fiesta Brunch, “Chilaquiles con Cheech.”
“Defiance to what they see as a political landscape, what they see as inequities in the social landscape – that’s what Chicano art represents in an artistic way,” Marin said to more than 300 people in the ballroom of Hotel Emma at the Pearl.
“Defiance as a way that you can see that message clearly, clearly, when you see these paintings and these artworks, and it strikes a cord wherever you go.”
Marin starred in cult classics such as “Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke” and “Born in East L.A.” He is also a director, author and Chicano art collector.
Marin walked onto the stage with a welcome from this college’s mariachis, Estrellas del Alamo, blaring string and percussion instruments while the audience clapped and whistled and gave a standing ovation.
“Thank you very much,” Marin began. “It’s always nice to be here in San Antonio, one of my favorite cities in the world.”
Dressed in black shoes, pants, jacket and socks, he sported only a spot of color — a pink rabbit with the letter X as eyes.
“Do you like my T-shirt?” Marin asked. “It’s by this new Chicano designer, John for Vatos.”
So began a nearly hourlong speech filled with humor and passion for art, along with a slideshow presentation of pieces by Texas artists Vincent Valdez, Alex Rubio, Marta Sánchez and the late Melesio “Mel” Casas, a former art professor at this college.
Marin discussed the importance and lasting impact of art in culture.
“Art is the only thing we leave behind as a culture,” he said. “It’s the part of our culture that says who we are, who we were, what we believed in, what we held dear, what we held valuable.”
He also discussed the importance of education.
“Education is our path and our superhighway to a bright new future,” he said.
Marin offered advice to younger generations seeking to create art without being concerned about the political correctness of it.
“Chicano culture is not being concerned with being politically correct because from the beginning everything we do is politically incorrect,” Marin said. “Chicano is a Mexican-American defiant political attitude. That’s part of the mission. It’s crying (expletive) when we see it. And praise at the same time. It’s not always negative.”
A collector of numerous works, Marin’s love for art began at an early age in Los Angeles. He and his cousins studied various topics and collaborated about what each learned. Marin’s topic was art.
He visited a library in East L.A. to study books on his topic.
“OK, that’s Rembrandt — oh, that’s cool. That’s Picasso, that’s van Dyck,” Marin recalled, gesturing with his hands as if flipping through pages. “And so I learned about art that way.”
Marin stressed paintings must be seen live “because of the nature and the quality of the paint.”
“If you don’t see it live, it’s like looking at a neon sign that’s not been turned on,” he said.
The Trump administration was not off limits.
“Trump is like gas; he will pass,” Marin said. “It’s going to be stinky, it’s going to hurt your stomach, people are going to move away from you, but it will pass. Believe me. Because our constitution and our democracy are much stronger than anything else.”
When Marin opened the floor to questions from the audience, local attorney Rosie Gonzalez thanked and gave him a lotería-themed Fiesta medal displaying a caricature of Donald Trump with the words “El Pendejo” imprinted below the image.
Marin laughed as he received the medal and thanked Gonzalez. The crowd clapped and cheered.
“I’m going to put it right next to my roll of Donald Trump toilet paper,” Marin said.
Unsurprisingly after starting his career in comedies revolving around marijuana use, Marin addressed the controversial substance.
“Twenty-nine states have some form of legalized marijuana. We have passed the tipping point, and now the boulder’s going to roll down hill from there, as it should,” he said.
“There is a medical aspect of marijuana that we are just now starting to touch on, even without the ability to experiment, legally experiment. It’s going to happen. So far, I’ve never heard any arguments for medical beer.”
In the works is a 61,420 square feet Chicano art center, Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture and Industry, in Riverside, Calif.
“It is an international center for academic research,” he said. “We’re going to make Riverside one of the world’s biggest art destinations, and the city is helping me with that.”
Local artist Cruz Ortiz, graduate of this college, designed a graphic for the event, which read, “SAC Proud” strung above the words “Chilaquiles con Cheech” with an image of Marin at the center.
The graphic was screen-printed onto paper and distributed to attendees.
“(SAC is) where I started my whole career, and I actually never wanted to leave,” he said. “It’s so awesome to see the giveback from the community, so when they asked me to come jump in, I was totally excited about it.”
President Robert Vela said the fundraising event had support from the community.
“I am so happy, so thrilled because at the end of the day we’re going to have funds for students that really need this money,” he said.
Although he did not know how much money had been raised, proceeds will go toward the President’s Unrestricted Fund, which will provide financial assistance for students.
Faculty and staff will begin designing and establishing protocols, which could include a one-page application. The fund will help students who need temporary financial assistance to be able to continue in their classes.
“I have a feeling that we’ll be able to finalize this over the summer, so that when fall rolls around we have an established protocol,” he said.
Students will be able to apply for assistance from the fund “through all these areas where students traditionally go to get help,” including the advocacy, empowerment, and victory centers, Vela said.