Juan Escobedo is one of those characters that you must know to understand the rhythm of life in this city. Sociable and cultured, wearing his signature hat, he keeps one foot in Los Angeles and the other south of the border. His heart was divided between those two loves.
He was born in San Diego, but has deep roots in the state of Jalisco, by the way, his fondness for hats stems from there. His passion for hats made him famous here, after the Los Angeles County Department of Culture and Arts selected him. “El Sombrero de Miguel Lopez” for a group show that was on display in downtown LA Gloria Molina Grand Park from 11 to 18 March.
The photo was taken in 2018 and is a self-portrait of Escobedo wearing the wide-brimmed hat of his grandfather, Miguel López.
“He’s from Jalisco and he comes to the United States when travelers pay 50 cents to cross the border,” Escobedo said. “He didn’t find out that he was part of the braero program for many years to come.”
“My grandfather always wore a hat when riding or working in the fields. The hat is an extension of who he is and the land he cares about. I am honored to be chosen from among many great artists to display my work in this exhibition. It was like bringing it to life on the streets of this city.”
Escobedo knows very well that his home is here, California, but he also listens to the voices of his ancestors, who constantly beckon him to experience the traditions, flavors, and everyday life of the towns. Mexico.
That’s why he feels at home in a market in Boyle Heights, talking to young people who want to be filmmakers, like when he works outside a church in Oaxaca, or in a town in Jalisco, enjoying people, feeling sheltered, but at the same time foreign.
“How many of us do not feel that feeling when we return to a foreign land?” Escobedo asked with a smile.
Escobedo’s taste for shadows and angles comes from afar, especially from Huejuquilla, Jalisco, where he was raised by his grandparents.
“Between dogs, cats, chickens and pigs, the house was always in darkness,” he recalls. “The candles lit the image of the Virgin that my grandmother had, and the hats were part of the furniture…. In Huejuquilla, in Los Altos de Jalisco, there was no electricity, only kerosene lamps, and I remember that there was always a hat, a virgin and a prominent image of San Martín de Porres, the saint of animals.”
In that chiaroscuro environment, reminiscent of landscapes and photos by Mexican writer Juan RulfoEscobedo has developed his sensitivity to images and his need to find his roots.
From those childhood memories, he had a need to experiment with darkness, light and shadows. And the best way to express that need is through photography, which he started practicing at the age of 15 while studying at La Jolla High School.
Through practice, he understands that the camera is not only a tool, but also a means to raise awareness of various social issues. Thus was born “Trash and Tears,” a series of photographs that Escobedo began working on in 2017, in which he depicts actors and models in the midst of marginalized urban landscapes.
In this series, Escobedo explores issues of object accumulation, mental health, poverty, graffiti, and drug addiction through images of garbage-filled areas where homeless people often tie have to make their home. “Trash and Tears” is a reflection on the ambiguous and precarious value of objects.
“What for some is trash, for others is treasure,” says Escobedo.
Although he felt like he belonged in Los Angeles, where he went in 1991 to study theater with a focus on directing and photography at Cal State LA and East LA College, Escobedo gave a good portion of his career. his photographer career to restore his Mexican identity. , both in Jalisco and Oaxaca, where he took pictures that left him very pleased.
Although his foray into photography began during his student days, he happened to find another of his inclinations.
In 2007, a friend asked him to recite a poem titled “I am a soldier in Iraq,” in which he recounted how veterans were treated when they returned to the United States, where too many of them are often forgotten and even scorned by the rest of society.
After reading the poem, he illustrated it with pictures and sent the video to the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the award for best short film under 4 minutes from the Swiss Department of Culture and Arts. It also won the Conscience Film Award from the 2008 Sonoma Film Festival.
“When I get back to Los Angeles, I think we should have a festival like this in East Los Angeles,” Escobedo said.
So he got to work. With the support of former LA County Supervisors Gloria Molina and Guadalupe Bojórquez of Casa Cultural, he organized East LA Film Festivalhas been going on since 2008 and is a gathering place for the works of many local artists trying to stand out in this competitive industry.
Accompanying the film festival, the East LA Film and Arts Association, better known as TELASOFA, was born, a non-profit organization with the goal of bringing together young people from the neighborhoods. disadvantaged areas of Los Angeles the opportunity to learn the art of cinema.
As a filmmaker, Escobedo has made a name for himself. He has been nominated for the prestigious Premio Imagen (2009), which recognizes Latinos’ active roles in film and television. His other works as a director include “Ruby”, a series for Current TV.
In 2018, “Marisol,” a short film dealing with the horrors of domestic violence and child abuse; won best dramatic short film at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival and best actress awards for both women. starring, Siennah Ortiz and Toni Torres, at the Women’s Independent Film Festival and at the Playhouse Western Film Festival. In May 2022, this short film won best director, best child actress and best short film at the San Diego Film Awards in Balboa Park.
The screenplay for “Marisol” also became part of the permanent collection of the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where it was made available to researchers.
But Escobedo has a long way to go. Among his future projects is a film addressing the black issue in Mexico. “It’s a part of society that has been forgotten, marginalized and, for centuries, tried to erase,” said Escobedo, who will soon travel to the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero to restore that piece of history. of Mexico.
“If we forget who we are, we will lose our way,” he said.