Besos y Versos: Manuela García’s Los Angeles Story

Manuela García is arguably one of the most significant voices of early Los Angeles, yet little is known of her. It has been a singular pleasure to work, over the past few months under the auspices of The Autry Museum of the American West, with a dynamic, transnational, interdisciplinary group of artists, scholars, educators, and museum professionals on reanimating García’s life and work.

Born into a family of musicians, García collaborated with Charles Lummis, former head of the Los Angeles Public Library, to collect and record “Spanish” folk songs. García contributed over 100 songs to Lummis’ project. While the importance of his work has long been recognized, Lummis’ so-called “informants” — culture bearers and artists like García — remain largely unknown. Our project amplifies the potential of decolonial museum praxis, digital technology, and performance to reimagine race, gender, and place, critique inequities, and tell untold histories.

We are a collaborating hemispherically on a series of projects about García, one of which is a cluster of essays set to release in October 2020, which I’ll link to here. Another, which you’ll find below, is a binaural soundscape featuring members of our team including Amy Shimshon-Santo and Susie García (no relation), produced and mixed by John Hendicott and Aurelia Soundworks.


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