Puro Santanero!

Eric Cocoletzi creator of Santanero Zine

 Puro Santanero!

 By

 Samuel Munoz

I have to admit from the get go that Eric is an old friend of mine. We go way back. Maybe not too far back, but a good amount. I’ve known him as a man of passion, especially for music. As we’ve grown, we’ve crossed paths many times. In high school, I followed his band, I Can‘t See the Forrest. I believe I still have their demo; it’s somewhere in that pile of CDs in my room I think. In college, once I got my own band, we did shows together, him with the Narodniks and me with the Inkblots. After college, we did shows together again; this time he was with Devil and His Friend. Now, here I am writing an article for my blog about the guy. It’s safe to say that I can’t shake this bugger off.

 But, of course, I kid!

Eric and I crossed paths for the umpteenth time just about three months ago. He had been working with Downtown Inc. and wanted to hopefully get some of his ideas moving within that organization. He expressed an intention to start a zine primarily focused on the art and artists of Santa Ana, but he had, to that point, been unsuccessful. I told him it was a great idea and wished him well with the project. A month later, I come to find out that he had taken the project upon himself and had begun taking submissions for his upcoming first issue of what he now called Santanero. I thought it was a fitting name.

As I am writing this, the first issue of Santanero is currently in the print machines. The product of which will be a culmination of the hard work and dedication of a man impassioned by the culture of his city. Eric along with his partner Enrique “Keex” Avalos have brought together the work of many talented Santa Ana artists with the hope of providing them with a new media from which to showcase their talent. With many artists of Downtown Santa Ana feeling uneasy about their future, they can feel some relief that at least one Santanero is out to give them a chance to shine.

I sat down with Eric about two weeks ago to talk a little about himself and the Santanero Zine. The following conversation ensued.

Eric Cocoletzi at his home

Give us a small intro about yourself and your history in Santa Ana?

Eric:

I was born in Santa Ana, right here, on Bristol and Segerstrom. The hospital was called Mercy Hospital; now it’s called Coastal Community. I went to school at St. Anne’s, then Greenville Elementary. I went to Macarthur for middle school. My high school was Saddleback, and, finally, for college I went to Orange Coast College, but I dropped out after about two years. I’ve lived in Santa Ana my whole life.

Samuel Munoz:

I know that you’ve been a musician for a long time now. When and how did you get started with music?

Eric:

I got started with music in high school, my freshman year. I was fourteen years old and my parents got me a guitar from TJ (Tijuana, Mexico). It was a Paracho guitar. I had a friend named Danny Hidalgo who told me that if I ever got a guitar he would teach me how to play. I remember the first song he taught me was “Good Riddance” by Green Day. […] After about two months of bugging him, I figured I would start learning things on my own. So I picked up some books and I went from there.

Samuel Munoz:

Tell me about the bands you’ve been involved with.

Eric:
Well I’ve been in a few bands in my life. My band in high school was with Danny. We were at first called Euthanasia, but we changed our name to I Can’t See the Forrest. […] After that band, I sort of bounced around a bit. I ended up running into Tomas, Richie [now formally of Orangutron], and Melissa and joined their band, The Narodniks, not knowing that I would end up being their front man.

The Narodniks from left to right: Melisa, Richie, Eric, and Tomas

Samuel Munoz:

Oh, so The Narodniks existed before you came in?

Eric:

Oh yeah

Samuel Munoz:

Who was their singer before you?

Eric:

Nobody, but if anyone did sing, it was Richie. They were mostly instrumental. They pretty much just jammed together and smoked a lot of weed. One time, Richie called me up, we had been buddies for some time by then, he said to give him a ride to Melissa’s house for their practice. So I did; I wanted to check them out. We got there. Melissa and Tomas were there and they all kept saying that they were going to try out this new singer that was supposed to go to that practice that day. Time past and this mysterious singer never showed up, so they told me to pick up the guitar and jam with them. So I did, and they liked it.

Samuel Munoz:

Maybe they lied to you and this mysterious singer they were going to try out never actually existed. It was their slick way to get you to join the band [we both laugh].

Eric:

Maybe. [laughs] But I don’t think they had ever heard me play before. Anyway, I was with the Narodniks for about 3-4 years. Then sometime after that I joined Devil and His Friend with Richard Bernal.

Samuel Munoz:

Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that band because in Devil and His Friend you play drums. That is the first time I had ever seen you play drums. How did you get started with that?

Eric;

It was out of necessity. Drummers were difficult to find. My brother already had a set of drums, but he never picked it up. I got tired of looking for a drummer, so I said “Fuck it!” I’ll play drums myself.

Samuel Munoz:

And what is going on with Devil and His Friend now? Are you guys on hiatus?

Eric:

The band as far as I can tell is pretty much through. […]

Samuel Munoz:

Any plans for future musical projects?

Eric:

I would love to play hip hop or R&B.

[…]

Samuel Munoz:

Well, lets talk about the zine, Santanero. Why did you decide to start this project?

Eric:

Well, I started to get really involved with the area of downtown Santa Ana and the Artist Village about two years ago. More so this year because I started working for Downtown Inc. They won’t say that I worked there. They won’t say that! They kept saying to me that I was sub-contracted. I was I-9 or some bullshit like that. Anyway, I would sit in on the meetings or would be sitting by where they had the meetings. I could hear everything they would say. I could hear people like Ryan Chase talking, or Joe Duffy. I could hear people from the Chamber of Commerce. All these big people, big movers and shakers, talking about everything from crime to parking to all kinds of other issues relating to Downtown Santa Ana. That’s when I started realizing that there was a lot of important decisions, big decisions, being made that a lot people will never get a chance to sit in on and listen to. I realized that I could do something and maybe influence some of the decisions. I was so close to it. I could make a difference. I could do something. And I tried with Downtown Inc., but they fired me. I was told pretty much by Yolanda Lawler, the person that hired me, that I was being too much like myself. According to her, the stuff that I wrote for them wasn’t corporate minded enough. So because I got fired, I decided to start the zine so I could still be involved, and have the freedom I didn‘t have working for Downtown Inc.

1st issue out this Saturday, May 5th

Samuel Munoz:

So, how is the project going?

Eric:

The first issue is scheduled to come out on May 5th. It’s going well enough. We have received a good response from artists in Santa Ana–a lot of great submissions. We’ve received oil paintings, sketches, photography, poetry. One guy sent us like a dozen poems. I also wrote some articles myself. Also involved is Enrique Avalos. He is going to write some articles as well. I’d say our biggest problem with this first issue has been financial. Getting the money for the printing has been difficult. […]

Samuel Munoz

Where are you planning to distribute the zines?

Eric:

Obviously, all over downtown Santa Ana, but also in Costa Mesa (the Lab and Camp area), Downtown Orange, Liquor Stores, anywhere they will let us lay this thing down. Our first print will be a thousand copies.

Samuel Munoz:

What are you hoping to accomplish with this project?

Eric:

I wanted to create something that would have the ability to give the artists a voice which I don’t think they have right now. I hear they are selling the Santora [this interview took place before the news broke that Newsong was buying the building] and it seems like it won’t be full of artists for very long. The artists have been sort of moved aside. Downtown has become a restaurant and bar thing and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s fine, but art was what revitalized Downtown Santa Ana in the first place and people have forgotten that. Now, for most people, it is a place to get drunk and eat. That’s it! That is most people’s conception of downtown Santa Ana right now. I’m hoping that the zine will showcase the talent that we have here and maybe someone somewhere will see an artwork, a submission, and maybe by some miracle help that artist break into a wider audience. I want the artists to be known. Lastly, there are people who hold bad stereotypes about Santa Ana–that we are ghetto and just a bunch of gangbangers killing each other–I want to prove these people wrong. I’ve read posts from people who comment in articles and blogs on OC weekly and OC register that pretty much say “Fuck Santa Ana!” They say, “Santa Ana is what’s wrong with Orange County,” and call us a bunch of “anchor babies.” I have this theory that most of these people secretly want to be a Santanero.

****

As stated in the article, the first issue of Santanero will be released on May 5th. Look for it during Art Walk in Downtown Santa Ana. It is free for all to enjoy. Also, if you are an artist from Santa Ana or currently residing and working in Santa Ana, Santanero is always looking for new submissions. Whether it is poetry, visual art, or even music reviews of Santa Ana musicians, you can send your submissions to santanerozine@gmail.com. Please follow their blog here. Friend them on facebook here.

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6 Responses to Puro Santanero!

  1. Nice interview and thanks for the heads up on the Santora building, I used to be part of Nomadic Images and at one time attended Newsong. I miss Santa Ana and your comments about anchor babies and gangbangers are so true people still really have a bad image of Santa Ana and I loved living there. Hopefully this will help enlighten all that Santa Ana has to offer.

  2. Gentrified SanTanero says:

    Thanks for doing this work, have u connected with other people that have done similar work? Just the topic of downtown brings a lot of questions and issues….I will definitely submit to touch on these topics.

    Fuck Downtown Inc.

    • I wouldn’t say fuck downtown inc. Although I know a few people that have had bad experiences dealing with downtown inc. (eric being one of them), downtown inc. has worked quite diligently to improve our downtown and provide events and activities for our city that have garnered the city positive attention. I have also been fortunate enough to have worked with people like Claudia from downtown inc who have clearly showed an authentic intention to further improve our city.

  3. ALICIA FLORES says:

    its nice see that there are people who care about their community and actually put themselves out there to be heard and seen. Politics could be in Eric’s future?

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