In 1973, USC hosted the Festival de Flor y Canto (festival of flower and song, named after the Aztec word for poetry), a three-day event that featured dozens of emerging Mexican-American poets and writers.
Materializing out of the nascent Chicano Movement, the festival was a landmark event in the history of the Chicano literary tradition, inspiring similar festivals (with a slightly different spelling, Floricanto) across the country. Now, many of the writers who participated in the original festival are returning to USC this week for Festival de Flor y Canto: Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow, hosted by USC Libraries in conjunction with USC Visions and Voices. Over a three-day festival that runs through Friday, nearly 50 writers will give 15-minute readings of original and classic Chicano literary works. A different capstone event will be held each evening.
The original Festival de Flor y Canto included acclaimed writers such as the late Oscar Zeta Acosta, raúlrsalinas and Omar Salinas. Although works read at that festival spanned literary forms, most had a recurring theme: the contrast between the proud indigenous civilizations of the past and the discrimination Mexican Americans suffer in the present.
This week’s celebration began with recitals by many of the artists who participated in 1973. One More Canto, a short documentary about a 1978 Floricanto festival inspired by the original USC gathering, was screened as Wednesday’s capstone event.
On Thursday and Friday, the returning writers will be joined by a new generation of voices that continue to probe Chicano identity. In a departure from the male-dominated lineup of 1973, female artists will be well represented at this year’s festival. The capstone event on Thursday will be “Celebrando Chicana Poetry,” a reading and discussion with Chicana poets.
The 2010 festival will conclude with the opening of Sueños by the Sea, a new exhibition in the Ground Floor Rotunda of Doheny Memorial Library that features photographs from the 1973 festival. The photographs taken by Michael Sedano, then a photographer for the Daily Trojan, depict the original participants reading from the USC stage. (Sedano is a 2010 festival organizer, along with Tyson Gaskill and Barbara Robinson of USC Libraries and María-Elena Martínez of USC College.) Video recordings of the event have long been inaccessible and assumed lost, scattered among several library archives. In recent years, Sedano has collected all extant video of the festival, and USC Libraries are making the recordings, as well as Sedano’s photography, publicly available through the USC Digital Library at digitallibrary.usc.edu/search/controller/collection/florcanto-m1.html
A reception for the exhibition will be held Friday at 5 p.m. in the library’s Ground Floor Rotunda.
USC’s Doheny Memorial Library will host Festival de Flor y Canto: Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow in the Friends of the USC Libraries Lecture Hall. Friday’s events start at 10 a.m. Sueños by the Sea: Celebrating Los Festivales de Flor y Canto at USC is on display in the Ground Floor Rotunda from Wednesday through Dec. 15. The festival, exhibition reception and exhibition are free and open to the public.