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mission statement

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. Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural is a not-for-profit learning bookstore and cultural arts center. We support and promote the continued growth, development and holistic learning of our community through the many powerful means of the arts. The Centro provides a positive space for people to activate what we all share as human beings: The capacity to create, to imagine and to express ourselves in an effort to improve the quality of life for our community. We are dedicated to the full and complete social, spiritual and cultural growth of persons, families and communities in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and beyond. We base our work on the concept that a complete human being is a complete artist. Through arts and creativity, we can meaningfully address issues of fear, violence, addiction, rage, uncertainty, and social instability that are rampant in our communities. Creativity is the best way out of chaos and perennial crisis. Everyone is inherently blessed with gifts, attributes and capacities. People don’t come into this world as empty vessels where knowledge must be poured into them. They already have destinies and purposes intrinsic to their natures. Our job as teachers and mentors is to draw out and help activate these gifts so that each person can live out the life they are meant to live. We base ourselves on the Indigenous world outlooks that include the following realities: All things are connected. We are all relatives – including all people and all aspects of nature. We must cooperate and commit to the betterment of all people. If our society makes sure people’s basic needs are met – food, shelter, and clothing – but also their needs to be active, artistic, expressive and caring, we will have true peace and true justice. There are hungers and angers that have to be properly addressed. We also know that the world and universe are connected from the macro to the micro levels and back. Everything we need to survive, live and thrive exists in nature. Nature is both external and internal. We must be balanced in our thinking, actions and interactions. Whatever heals us can also kill us. Balance is the law of nature that makes sure we are healed and protected; when we are imbalanced, we move away from these possibilities. There are various elements in our bodies, our psyches and in the world that must be addressed by community, the arts and collective rituals. The key elements are: Fire, which represents passion, vision, clarity and ancestors; water which represents healing, reconciliation, grief and fluidity; earth which represents welcoming, acknowledgment, grounding, stability and nurturing; minerals (rocks and such) which represent stories, poetry, music, and the languages of life and learning; and nature that includes the trees, plants, and air which represents change in all things. All human beings have the same elements inside of them. Fire is represented by the heat of our bodies (98 degrees – we’re burning up) and the heart; water is represented by our blood and tears (we are also 70 percent water, same as the earth); earth is presented by our skin and embracing natures; minerals are in our bones, carrying the stories of our human and ancestral life; nature is in our hair and our lungs (the trees of the body with air and the branches of our lungs interacting so we can live). All is energized and dependent on Spirit. These are the five elements that also correspond to the five senses, our five fingers, our five openings in the body, and so on. Among the Mexika, as in the Calendario, there were five creations that in turn kept flowing in continuum with the fifth creation representing movement (Ollin) just like the fifth element nature represents change. We also are governed by the supreme generating principle of the universe – Ometeotl, or the two complements of masculine and feminine energies that also correspond to all opposites vital to life and struggle and change: light and dark, up and down, in and out, and so on. We cannot have one without the other – all males have feminine qualities, all females have masculine qualities, we need both energies consciously and unconsciously to have true birth, growth, decay, and new birth – the process of all organization, form, art, and life. The growth of life is in a spiral, not in a straight line or in cycles that go back to original forms. All things mature, develop, grow and die (or change), but on a higher level. Part of the past is taken into the future, part of it is sublated. New forms, new organizations, new entities are thus born. All life is birth, growth, death and rebirth. All modern science – whether it’s called dialectics, the transitions from quantity to quality, the unity and strife of opposites, the negation of the negation, quantum mechanics, chaos theory, E=MC2, string theory – has been the modern world crawling and clawing to grapple with what the ancient indigenous mind already understood. This does not mean humankind should return to lower technological levels in our quest to root ourselves in that mind. We have this knowledge in our bones, in our DNA, in our collective unconscious, brought to life in rituals, ceremonies, prayers, language and the arts. We are seeing that the presently highly advanced technological levels afford us a spiracle conclusion of an old issue – the alignment of the ancient indigenous mindset with the modern technological advancements. This alignment will require a revolution of mind, body, organization, economics, distribution, forms of governance, and relationships – as part of our evolutionary growth as human beings. This is not just a good idea; it’s part of reality and nature. We are in an epoch of revolution – necessary and tumultuous. Aligning our consciousness to these objective factors in society will also allow our spirits to live in accord with the rhythms, elements and direction of nature. That is the lesson of all mythologies, stories, ways of knowledge, including so-called religious beliefs, which have been mutated and misapplied due to political, social and economic pressures, in particular, over the last 5,000 years of so-called modern civilization. We must bring back the essence of most spiritual expression without the shredded garbs, lies, distortions and narrow aims put on them over those years. Humankind’s goal should be to bring the internal powers, faculties and capacities of each human being into accord with the great energies, renewing sources and paths in our common relationships and in our natural/cosmological reality. Of course, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural is bound by the Western-oriented, U.S. created laws and legalities of present-day capitalist oriented not-for-profit organizations. We aim to abide by these laws while also expanding our knowledge, relationships and movement to what the past and the future demand of us – to incorporate the ancient indigenous mind and wisdom within the present actualities of modern life and culture so that every person, every family and every community can live deeply rooted, meaningful and purposeful lives.

our history

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.    In 2001, Tía Chucha’s was established as an LLC cafe and bookstore, but it 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 Tía Chucha’s 23rd 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 amazing and wonderful staff at Tia Chuchas Centro Cultural and Bookstore
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Meet the team

board of directors

The founders and board of directors of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural and Bookstore
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where art & minds meet for a change

Tia Chuchas logo
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