Travel to Latin America with Austin’s Mexic-Arte, Cine Las Americas

Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman
The Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City is also known as La Casa Azul or The Blue House. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman

Stepping into Mexico City’s Alameda Central Park with its majestic fountains, impromptu performance art shows and canoodling couples, you can feel the energy of the megalopolis and its cultural richness. Often romanticized in songs or featured in artwork such as the renowned Diego Rivera mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park,” the cultural hotspot also leads to the prominent Palace of Fine Arts, where Rivera recreated the mural famously destroyed at the Rockefeller Center.

In an effort to explore Latin America’s cultural art scene with an Austin lens, the local Mexic-Arte Museum has been leading art tours in the Mexican capital city on and off since 1996. It’s been offering these experiences more regularly since 2010, when Mexico celebrated its bicentennial.

An upcoming trip on June 22-27 offers Austinties the chance to understand the complexities of Mexican art and culture under the guidance of art expert and Mexic-Arte Museum founding director Sylvia Orozco.

Participants will visit Mexico City’s iconic cultural heritage sites including the expansive National Museum of Anthropology, which is often described as one of Mexico’s most important museums for its comprehensive collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts. Visiting the bellybutton of the city, the Zócalo main square, sheds light into the inner workings of the country’s past and present. And sights such as Frida Kahlo’s brilliant blue childhood home and bohemian Coyoacán neighborhood give new meaning to the artist’s work.

The trip, which depending on airfare ranges from $2,600 to $3,200, includes a curated itinerary of more art-centric sights. Visit for more details.

Keep an eye out for more opportunities for Latin American travel with Austin cultural institutions that offer unique perspectives. In October, Austinites can join Cine Las Americas on a cinema-focused trip to Cuba for a week. Film enthusiasts can check out sites featured in movies such as “Our Man in Havana,” “Soy Cuba,” and “Fresa y Chocolate.”

More information about that Oct. 22-29 trip can be found on

Cine Las Americas Film Festival boosts attendance, awards top films

American Indian filmmaker Sterlin Harjo presented his latest film "Mekko" at Cine Las Americas.
Filmmaker Sterlin Harjo presented his latest film “Mekko” at Cine Las Americas.

The Cine Las Americas International Film Festival wrapped up this weekend after five days and nearly 100 movies, many  which won’t otherwise get screened in Austin. The festival, which celebrated its 19th edition this year, saw a 33 percent boost in attendance, according to festival board director president Hector Silva.

Film themes included everything from the consequences of deportation to the complexities of young love. At its closing ceremony on May 8, the festival announced its jury and audience awards. Some of the top honors from the jury included:

Best Narrative Feature: Rosa Chumbe, Dir. Jonatan Relayze Chiang, Peru

Best Documentary Feature: Juanicas, Dir. Karina García Casanova, Canada/Mexico

Best Narrative Short: Os Meninos do Rio (Children of the River), Dir. Javier Macipe, Portugal/Spain

Best Documentary Short: Libertad, Dir. Brenda Avila-Hanna, USA

Some audience awards at the festival included:

Best Narrative Feature: H.O.M.E., Dir. Daniel Maldonado, USA

Best Documentary Feature: Juanicas, Dir. Karina García Casanova, Canada/Mexico

A complete list of awards will be online at

In an effort to diversify its offerings this year, festival director Jean Lauer told Austin 360 that the fest will begin incorporating more types of audio visual art including music videos. A selection of cinematic music videos were featured in two popular showcases at the North Door. Local music video directors included AJ Vallejo and Patricia Vonne. Among my favorites included “Cycles of Existential Rhyme,” which was directed by Giovanni Solis and featured a song by the Los Angeles-based outfit Chicano Batman.

The festival continued its powerful selection of indigenous films with its partner the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. A standout film included Sterlin Harjo’s “Mekko,” which beautifully humanized the story of a homeless American Indian man.

Senorita Cinema of Houston presented short films at Cine Las Americas Film Festival 2016.

New to the festival this year was the empowering showcase of short films presented by the Houston-based festival Señorita Cinema, which is the state’s first all-Latina film festival. Notable shorts included “Mis quince,” an autobiographical documentary directed by Brenda Cruz-Wolf. Although, many young girls look forward to their quinceañeras, Cruz-Wolf didn’t and shares a different take into her extravagant celebration.

Closing the film festival this year was Costa Rica’s “Viaje,” a sweet tale of young love reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Before series. Its playful nature, memorable dialogue, and undeniable character chemistry set against the backdrop of a gorgeous Costa Rican national park makes it a must-see dramedy.

Next year, Cine Las Americas celebrates 20 years in Austin.



Cine Las Americas International Film Festival kicks off May 4

Peruvian thriller  Magallanes,  which was nominated for Best Latin American Film at Spain s most prestigious film awards, will open the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival.
Peruvian thriller “Magallanes,” which was nominated for Best Latin American Film at Spain’s most prestigious film awards, will open the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival.

For nearly 20 years, the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival has been bringing movies to Austin that you can’t find in most U.S. theaters as well as films featuring important points of views that are regularly missing from the big screen.

Don’t miss the chance to catch nearly 100 films representing 24 countries May 4-8. All films, which will screen at various locations including The Marchesa Hall & Theatre and the Salvage Vanguard Theater, are in English or with subtitles. Find free screenings at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.

Cine Las Americas opens on May 4 with a 6 p.m. reception for members and badgeholders at the Marchesa Hall & Theater followed by the Peruvian thriller “Magallanes,” which was nominated for Best Latin American Film at Spain’s most prestigious film awards. The movie tells the story of a taxi driver (Damián Alcázar) and former soldier who serves as a chauffeur for a retired colonel who was his commander. A secret begins to emerge when Celina (Magaly Solier) takes a ride in Magallanes’ cab.

Costa Rican dramedy “Viaje” closes the festival at 7 p.m. May 8 at the Marchesa Hall & Theater. It explores how two millennials who meet at a costume party and spark up a spontaneous rendezvous look at commitment and attraction.

As Cine Las Americas evolves, the fest will make an effort to include other types of audio visual art, said festival director Jean Lauer. Last year, aside from the feature films, documentaries and shorts that are typically screened, they also presented music videos for the first time. This spring, the festival will feature two music video showcases in partnership with the Austin Music Video Festival at The North Door. Local performers Patricia Vonne and AJ Vallejo are among the music video directors featured. Lauer said she hopes Cine Las Americas will eventually also showcase works such as video installations as part of the festival.

For now, new festival partnerships are bringing more diversity to the film selections. Cine Las Americas teamed up with Señorita Cinema, the only Latina film festival in Texas, to present a special selection of 10 Latina-directed short films curated by the Houston-based festival. The roadshow selection will highlight Señorita Cinema’s best films from the past five editions.

Check out the full film festival lineup and ticket information online at