Daniel Buckley was shooting video for the Tucson Citizen last year when he got the call that the last day for the paper had finally arrived. He shot video of the final press run and posted interviews with staff members about the paper's final days. Buckley, who started writing for the paper in 1987, continues to document the community; one project was a three-part video series on the destruction of Barrio Viejo that he did in collaboration with Ralph Gonzalez and Julie Gallego for "Cine Plaza at the Fox: Celebrating Tucson's Downtown Barrios and Classic Mexican Cinema," in March. The project continues this fall. For more information, visit www.danielbuckleyproductions.com.
When did you start writing about music for the Citizen?
The world of music, global music, was just beginning to hit the United States. I was inspired by all that, and I started collecting instruments, and I began to make my first horrible music. It was really bad, but I just continued. I was a better writer. I started in 1987 with the Citizen. It was at a time when artists were trying to get the (Tucson) arts district off the ground. I thought I could be of service to the community to tell their story.
It must have been hard to see the paper close after being there so long.
Predictably, the people who came to my aid, concerned about what was going to happen, (were in the) Hispanic community. I was working on my project, Jonestown Opera (based on the Jonestown tragedy). Initially, I thought I was going to work on that. ... Plan B was out the window. That's sort of my life: plan B going out the window.
Did the next plan B become the Cine Plaza project?
One of the things I loved most when I worked at the Citizen was working with Julie Gallego. She used to do these shows called "Viva Arizona." ... But what was really great was that I got to meet Ralph Gonzalez, her dad. Ralph is a retired Air Force guy who is the best historian I have ever known—a people's historian, a guy that goes around hearing their stories and puts together the big picture of what really happened. Julie called me up and said, "We're going to do these Mexican movies at the Fox." Ralph started talking about the Cine Plaza. ... Six or eight of us were sitting around the table talking about this, and I had just bought myself a high-definition camera. "What do you say Ralph? Want to work on it?"
We have booked the Fox again for a show in the fall, and another in the spring, and we're going to start taping again next month. We have clear ideas of what this experience is going to be, but I've learned that in the end, you just go with the gifts you get. I've been a firm believer that (you are) where you need to be, and the universe puts you in touch with who you need to be (in touch with).
What do you think it is about you and the Mexican-American community?
You mean why did it take a honky in his mid-50s to work on this project? I am curious as to why this happened to me, too, and why (these stories were) not told by others in the community. ... I think my interest in the Hispanic community was good timing. I got into writing about music as the world-culture and world-music thing was starting to take off. All of a sudden, going to the Tohono O'odham reservation and being more immersed in Hispanic culture, I realized the world was right here, and no one was writing about it.
Why do you think you've been so embraced by the community?
At the Mariachi Conference, I understood how (the music) related to the symphony and the opera. They needed to hear that. I'm not sure that would have been considered valid if it came from (someone in) the Hispanic community. That's a terrible thing to say, but it is true. But I also have to say that no community gave me so much pleasure, and that's not to slight the Tohono O'odham; they shared with me, too, but the Hispanic population was so patient with me. When I didn't understand something, I could call people, and they would always put me on to (the person) I had to talk to, to get to the bottom of it. No other community was that gracious. I can't tell you how tremendous my debt is to the community.