Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Manuel Diosdado Castillo, Jr. - passes to the other side at the age of 40

This morning I opened some email to find that MANUEL DIOSDADO CASTILLO, JR., the founder and director of San Anto Cultural Arts--which helps underserved youth through mural-building, a teen-produced newspaper, and media education projects--has died after a brief struggle with cancer.

Manuel or "Manny" as we all called him, was only 40 years old.

I met Manny when he was drumming in a garage punk band at a tiny club off Sixth Street in Austin back in the 1990s. He was friendly and laidback cool, though he was ferocious on drums.

His band, Cleofus Trujillo Trio, played at one of the best parties I've yet to throw, when I lived on rural land on the periphery of Austin's city limits. Again, Manuel was alot of fun, and very kind to me.

Over the years, whenever I chanced to run into him in San Antonio, he was always eager to share stories about his projects at San Anto Arts. He kept inviting me to do a poetry workshop or performance for the youths, but my schedule was not on the same page as his, unfortunately.

His death is a great loss to the music and nonprofit and Westside working-class communities of San Antonio and beyond. A few years back, when Ram Ayala, the owner of Tacoland (legendary club where the Sex Pistols and other infamous bands played), was murdered, Manuel bolted into action by organizing a huge memorial show at Tacoland the very next day.

Manny usually had more than one musical project going at any given moment.

In 2007, I stopped in at Ruta Maya Coffeehouse to rendezvous with compas Karimi, Laura Varela, and la Vicki, when I got to catch the end of his set with the go-go-booted soul singer Suzy Bravo. Wow.

I had been hoping for his band, Snowbyrd, to play in Fort Worth sometime, and he'd almost made it happen last summer on their way south from a gig in Kansas, but alas...

The last time I saw him was in late July of 08, when Ramsey and I rolled through San Anto (NOBODY in San Antonio says "San Antone" by the way) on our way home from Mexico. Manuel was leaning on the bar at an old school conjunto joint where a live band was plunking out the Mexican polkas as couples scooted across the smoke-filled dance hall. He embraced me warmly and offered to buy me a longneck, but alas Ramsey was impatient and smoke-intolerant out in the parking lot.

Some opportunities just never make...

Rest in peace, Manuel. I'll bet there are dozens of San Anto graf writers incanting your name with aerosol colors upon the broken plaster and concrete walls of the barrios tonight...

http://www. mysanantonio. com/entertainment/San_Anto_Cultural_Arts_founder_dies. html

Web Posted: 01/06/2009 9:26 CST

Arts leader Manuel Castillo dies at 40

By Elda Silva - Express-News Staff Writer

Though not a visual artist himself, Manuel Castillo changed the face of San Antonio.

The executive director of San Anto Cultural Arts, an organization responsible for more than three dozen murals on the West Side, Castillo died Tuesday evening after a short battle with cancer. He was 40.

The graduate of Holy Cross High School was a founder of San Anto Cultural Arts, which grew out of Inner City Development, a nonprofit group run by former City Councilwoman Patti Radle and her husband, Rod.

“He seemed happiest when he brought the community together to do good things — to share food together, to share art together, to share music together, and he did so much of that through San Anto,” Patti Radle said.

After news of Castillo’s death, Radle was among his friends who gathered outside the squat, neon-green house that is home to San Anto Cultural Arts. At the vigil, some mourners tucked bouquets into the chain-link fence. Others simply stood in the yard illuminated by streetlights and shared memories.

“He’s always been a guy who took good risks and had an amazing love for what it meant to be community,” said artist Cruz Ortiz, a close friend.

Castillo knew the importance of being grass-roots, Ortiz said, although he never used that word. He kept his programs quiet and low-key, much like himself.

“But you walk around these streets, they all know what the impact was,” he said.

Castillo enlisted friends including Ortiz and artist Juan Miguel Ramos to get San Anto Cultural Arts off the ground. The organization’s first mural was celebrated with a blessing in 1994. In 1997, San Anto Cultural Arts was established as a nonprofit organization, and Castillo was hired as executive director.

“I had some idea of doing public art murals because there wasn’t anything like that going on in the city,” Castillo said in an interview in 2007.

In addition to the mural program, San Anto has a media arts program and publishes El Placazo, a community newspaper featuring articles, poetry and art.

Castillo also was a mainstay on the San Antonio music scene, most recently as the drummer in the experimental rock band Snowbyrd.

“I’m dealing with it,” said a somber Chris Lutz, who sings and plays guitar in Snowbyrd. “The greatest and loudest lead drummer in San Antonio underground rock has left the planet.

The band recently recorded a seven-song album. A tribute show is planned for Friday at Limelight.

Radle said she used to tease Castillo by referring to his band as his wife.

“He just loved his band so much, loved music so much, loved drumming and loved what music did for people,” she said.

Arrangements are pending with Castillo Mission Funeral Home.

Express-News staff writers Elaine Ayo and Hector SaldaƱa contributed to this report.

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