Wayne Alaniz Healy
Healy is a visual artist and cofounder of the muralist art collective East Los Streetscapers. He reflects on his neighborhood connections to Almaraz as a youth in East L.A., and the way their paths eventually crossed as adults.
During those heady days in the early 1970s, when Chicano art was being run through the filters of Marxism, militancy, and machismo, I found myself as a newcomer in a cultural nonprofit called Mechicano Art Center. It was there that I met other young artists who would remain acquaintances, work as collaborators, and/or become close associates throughout the passing years.
It was on an autumn day in 1973, while I was hanging my first solo show, that an artist approached me and introduced himself as Charles Almaraz. He was a talkative person who offered to help me hang work, set prices, and formulate sales strategies (“Make up a good story about the piece and they’ll buy it”). As we conversed, coincidental similarities began to emerge. We were both expats, recently returned to our East L.A. barrio after living back East: he in New York, I in Cincinnati. We had attended the same neighborhood public schools. It then turned out that we had grown up only a block apart. However, because Almaraz was four years older than I, we never met. Not even the influence of our most famous neighbor, Lalo Guerrero, the father of Chicano music, had made us cross paths. I had to wait until age twenty-seven to meet the future master.
I learned a lot from Carlos, who liked to throw me zingers. We were about as different from each other as could be and yet maintain a friendship that included a passion for art, occasional performances at peñas (folk clubs) where we’d sing farmworkers’ corridos and take trips up and down Califas. I grew up with art as a pastime competing with my other pastimes. Carlos was one of the first Chicano artists that inspired me to quit my day job and embrace the muse.