In a city with no prior bookstores, art galleries, or full-fledged cultural spaces, three activists– renowned author Luis J. Rodriguez, his activist wife Trini Rodriguez, and their brother in-law Enrqiue Sanchez —created a space for wellness and empowerment to address the blatant neglect of a historically marginalized community they call home. Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural was named after Luis J. Rodriguez’s favorite aunt Maria de Jesus, known as Tía Chucha. Tia Chucha was seen as the eccentric member in Luis’s family, always with a guitar on her back, painting, dancing, and creating poetry. Her creative and courageous vibrancy inspired opening up a cultural space with life-enhancing artistic and literary options for the Northeast San Fernando Valley community.
Originally established as an LLC cafe and bookstore in 2001, Tia Chucha’s quickly became a home for artists, activists, and community members seeking expression in the arts. 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. By 2007, the LLC disbanded, donating all assets to the nonprofit to carry its mission forward.
After three relocations within the Northeast San Fernando Valley, in 2021 Tia Chucha’s moved to its 4th location, three times larger than the previous space, providing year-round, onsite and offsite, free to low cost arts and literacy programming to an intergenerational and bilingual community. We offer visual arts, music, dance, creative writing, Mexica indigenous language and cosmology, healing arts, culinary arts, young reader storytimes, author events, reentry arts classes, cultural informative workshops, art galleries, film screenings, internship opportunities and more. In line with our mission, our independent bookstore and small cross-cultural press, Tia Chucha Press, continues to make culturally relevant books accessible to our community, representing stories by People of Color, promoting social activism, and highlighting voices from our own community. The core programming that was developed and strengthened throughout the years was first initiated by volunteers from the community who then began to work at Tia Chucha’s and then organically grew into leadership positions. Co-Founder Trini Rodriguez had served as Executive Director for 17 years before passing the leadership role to Michael Centeno in 2018. Michael, a volunteer in the early years of the center, a former board member, and development director, became Tia Chucha’s first full time Executive Director. Melissa Sanvicente, who was a barista during the center’s cafe days and years later came back as program coordinator, became Tia Chucha’s first Associate Director.
As Tia Chucha's 22nd year anniversary approaches, we celebrate not only the growth within our organization, but the positive transformation we continue to witness within our community as we all work towards improving the quality of life through the arts and literacy for generations to come.
The mission of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural is to transform community in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and beyond through ancestral knowledge, the arts, literacy and creative engagement.