In a six year span, the walls of The San Carlos Building at 501 Texas have seen fire-breathing dancers, African drum circles, action figure sculptors, burlesque skits, live body painting, masterpiece creations on 4×8 panels and anything else the creative El Paso imagination can conjure up.
The dance floor has tended to the vibrations of West Coast, East Coast, Midwest and Southwest musicians, but shaken most fiercely with showcases of local bands and DJs.
La Parada is a downtown staple, a First Friday of the month celebration and a generational favorite that continues its legend with fresh faces and crowds.
It was an accident.
The monthly event, gearing up for its seasonal return on May 6, was conceived from a Twitter typo in July of 2010 during one of my last minute, rushed efforts to put a downtown hip hop show together.
Killah Priest and his sidekick DJ Notion – a good friend from college – needed help promoting and organizing the show and I jumped at the chance. A tweet with a flier invite intended for one person (La Flamiglia Fire Dancers) ended up at the hands of another (La Famiglia Magazine of Detroit.)
The ghosts of that missing letter echo through the streets of downtown to this day.
The tweet, meant for leading fire dancer Jacque Barragan and her crew was actually received by the random Adam Marshall, editor of La Famiglia Magazine. I discovered this after a 313 number left a confusing, monotone, 3-minute voicemail about wanting to review the show and requesting press access.
Press access? Adam Marshall? A magazine review?
It took several voicemail replays to realize that it hadn’t been the fire dancers requesting my phone number via DM. What are the odds, that a careless case of trigger thumbs would weave into the world of a traveling writer visiting his father, a UTEP professor, in El Paso?
We met that same night as I worked the door at the show. All 6’6 of him strolled in wearing a gray Kangol hat and worn J Dilla t-shirt. We chatted briefly throughout the show, and at the end of the night he requested to talk privately, as he had questions about the music scene and ideas he wanted to run by me.
This skinny, tall, complete stranger had a certain non-creeper mystery and my curiosity compelled me to agree to a meeting at my photography studio at The San Carlos Building later that week. All I possessed at the time was a camera, a laptop, a folding TV table and 2 folding chairs.
During that encounter, we unknowingly conducted the first La Parada meeting in history over some room-temperature Ambers.
He discussed the potential and energies he felt throughout the music and arts scene. I agreed in excitement. He recognized that El Paso needed a consistent platform for showcasing local talent. His vision encouraged mine.
Before long, I was humming Mexicans at Night choruses and scrolling through Mad Visual Poetz artwork plotting for this magical platform we would build as a team.
It happened fast. Within a week, we had a team, Robert Leal, Joey Lozano, Jimmy Hernandez, Anthony Flores, Aaron Madrid, Rob Bass and others all carried a diversity of skills that would make the first La Parada happen.
Names for the event ranged from “The Stop” to “The Layover”, but ultimately, with consideration to the blood of the borderland, we took a bilingual approach.
La Parada was officially born September 3, 2010. This beautiful, fresh-faced dance party brought a line of sparkly-eyed show goers that wrapped around the intersection of Texas and Florence, anxious to celebrate the Downtown First Friday inauguration.
A body paint artist, Unek, from Albuquerque painted the limbs, chests and torsos of brave 20-somethings willing to rejoice their womanhood, the paintbrushes of Luis House and Ray Ray Segura made love to large white panels and produced some of the first La Parada masterpieces.
Vodka raspas, henna tattoos, Hell Paso t-shirts and pure joy circulated throughout the San Carlos Building patio into 3 a.m., leaving everyone involved craving more. Adam’s visit to his pops turned to a years-long stay, because El Paso wouldn’t let him go.
Fast forward 6 years, and I realize that Twitter typo was an accident meant to be. Paulo Coelho once wrote, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
All the beautiful people involved in keeping La Parada alive, new and old, shared a common passion: Nourishing the culture of El Paso. It’s the lifeblood of La Parada, and without the local talent, the First Friday party would not be possible.
My fellow organizer Anthony Flores strongly credits the spectators for its continued success.
“La Parada isn’t just a group of people putting it together, its truly the community that fuels the fire,” he said. “We also have a vast beauty of talent coming in all colors and sounds. It’s a blessing to be surrounded by such a rich culture.”
Faces have come and gone over the years, but the core remains among us all: Respect and recognition for the community and its artistic contributors.
“The El Paso music scene is strong right now,” said Victor Soto, member of the Visionaries art crew and a La Parada live art coordinator. “The people are hungry out here, and El Paso gets overlooked. But we can do something here.”
Veteran organizer Joey Lozano agrees that the El Paso music scene is a hidden gem. La Parada is one of the top mines among the community, and its heart still beats through the streets of downtown every First Friday of the summer and fall months, arms open to the free spirits, musicians, artists and lovers of El Paso.
She returns May 6. I heart La Parada.
For event RSVP and Details click HERE.
ART: Jeremiah “Gems” Navarro and Grenade
The 2010 flier design: