Doing Something That Comes From the Heart
German Rivera's Galeria Xochitl brings art to East LA
Slightly touched by the aroma of bread from the panaderia nearby and incense
Published on LatinoLA: March 21, 2002
from the neighboring botanica, Galeria Xochitl is a colorful addition to the
4500 block of Cesar Chavez Ave.
Only in existence for a little over a year, Galeria Xochitl is already alive with vibrant paintings of over two dozen different artists hanging on unrefined, museum-like eggshell colored walls that still need work to hide random pipes and wires. This is only the beginning for Galeria Xochitl and its young owner, German Rivera, 31, who
left the security of a banking career to pursue this long-time dream.
"I want to bring artistic value to East L.A. I want to display local artists who have nowhere to show their work and make the community beautiful," said Rivera, who has no artistic background of his own. "I?ve always appreciated art," said Rivera.
What he lacks in artistic experience, he more than makes up for in drive, ambition and determination. Originally from Durango, Mexico, Rivera?s parents came to Los Angeles with their seven children looking for a better life. After a brief stay with their aunt, they made their home at the Aliso Village Projects. "I saw the realities of gang life and gang violence," said Rivera. He hung out, and was friends, with gangsters; many of whom he knew ended up dead or in jail.
Rivera?s energies were focused elsewhere. As young as eight years old, he was selling paletas, sunglasses, or anything else, to make money.
"Siempre le gusto tener dinero. Todo lo que podia, lo vendia," said his
mother, Maria Rivera. "Siempre queria progresar."
But what really made him want to succeed was ironic: he became a father at the age of sixteen. Instead of it holding him down and making him give up, Rivera saw his situation as a blessing.
As a result, Rivera dropped out of school and began working fulltime in the banking industry. "I made a careerout of Bank of America and Wells Fargo," said Rivera, who, with no formal education, reached the positions of Investment Specialist and Branch Manager, respectively.
There he learned about money managing, mutual funds, investing, and, "most importantly, customer service," he said. "Becoming a teenage dad made me want to be responsible and provide for my family."
Becoming financially secure was always a concern to Rivera. He would meet successful clients through his job and, he recalls, "I wanted to grab them by their coat and ask, ?what makes you successful??" From both advice and lots of reading, Rivera has succeeded in giving his four children a better upbringing than what he had. "We were seven kids in a two bedroom house. My kids at least have their own room," he said, laughing.
His mother said, "Es ambicioso, pero tambien compartido. El siempre piensa
en su familia no nomas en el,"
The choice to change his career path, however, took his family by surprise. He admits that he did take a big salary cut and no longer has his 401k nor medical benefits. "They thought I was crazy," Rivera said. "This just made me want to work harder and do everything right."
So far, the galeria has sold several paintings. Featured there, to name a few, were local up-and-coming artists Andy Ledesma, Juan Solis, and Eleazar Martinez, whose paintings have caught the eyes of several local politicians, who frequent a nearby restaurant, as possible mural pieces.
Most of the galeria?s "advertising" is solely by word-of-mouth. He also sells handmade jewelry, Chicano-themed t-shirts, and provides custom framing. These
secondary sources of income, he hopes, will someday become unnecessary. Rivera, who said he wishes that someday Mexican President Vicente Fox visits his galeria, hopes to make it a strictly fine art venue.
"He?s always looking for a challenge," said Rivera?s sister Dolores Rivera. "No matter what it takes he will succeed, he always has. He?s positive and always thinking of the next step."
Those qualities are essential as self-employment has him playing the role of bookkeeper, accountant, store clerk, and everything else, from 10am-9pm,
seven days a week.
"Right now, I can?t afford anyone to help me" he said. But when asked if he would ever trade what he?s doing now for his old position at the bank, "Oh, no!" he firmly states, "I?m doing something that matters. I?m doing something that comes from my heart."
Galeria Xochitl is located at 4532 Cesar Chavez Ave. in East Los Angeles
Lorena Villegas is an intern de LatinoLA.com.