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By Tom Terranova

FRIDAY 9

Chicago photographer Alvaro Nieto returned to his hometown of Tarimoro, in central Mexico, last October to join the men of the village on their annual walking pilgrimage to the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City (the women make the trek in September). An exhibit of photos shot by Nieto during this ten-day, 275-mile hike opens tonight with a free reception from 6 to 8:30 at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, 1852 W. 19th. The exhibit continues through May 12. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 to 5. Call 738-1503 for more information.

The Ambassador West--which claims to have the largest wooden hotel dance floor in the city--is home to a series of monthly ballroom dance nights that begins tonight. It's aimed at inexperienced but enthusiastic beginners but welcomes dancers of all levels. At 7 local instructor Greg Gale will teach a group lesson on basic swing, fox-trot, waltz, rumba, tango, and other steps. Fifteen dollars covers both the lesson and the evening's dancing, which starts at 8:30 and features music by ballroom diva Nancy Hays and the 12-piece Bobby Benson Orchestra. The dress code is swank--black tie optional. It happens at the hotel's Guildhall ballroom, 1300 N. State Parkway. Call 644-5722 for reservations and info.

SATURDAY 10

The Kane County flea market will be at Navy Pier's south arcade this weekend and select weekends over the next few months. The 28-year-old market is a pack rat's paradise, with over 40 dealers offering antiques, vintage clothes, and all sorts of other collectible crap. It's free and open from 10 to 10 today and 10 to 7 tomorrow at 600 E. Grand. Call 595-7437 for more.

The intersection of film and libido will be the focus of a pre-Valentine's Day program tonight at Chicago Filmmakers. "The Colors of Love" is a raunchy collection of art films and videos, including Color of Love by Peggy Awesh, Wildgirl's Go-Go Rama by Addison Cook, and The Operation by Jacob Pander. There'll also be several archival treasures, including Sweet Smoke, which features two stoners firing up and dancing nasty to psychedelic music and strobe lights. The whole thing starts at 8 at the theater, 1543 W. Division. Admission is $6, $3 for members. For more information call 384-5533.

Proceeds from tonight's Valentine's Day salsa dance at the Near Northwest Arts Council will go to the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee and Casa Nicaragua, which provide material aid to people in Nicaragua and services to Nicaraguan immigrants in Chicago. The event includes music by Orquesta Nabori, salsa lessons, and a silent auction. Admission is $8 in advance, $10 at the door. It starts at 8:30, with lessons at 9:15. The gallery is at 1579 N. Milwaukee. Call 276-5626 for tickets and info.

SUNDAY 11

Works donated by over 100 artists--some nationally known--are going on the block from 1 to 6 today at N.A.M.E. gallery's 15th annual Saint Valentine's Day benefit auction. Included will be works by Yoko Ono, Jo Hormuth, Rodney Carswell, Barbara DeGenevieve, Arturo Herrera, Dennis Kowalski, Buzz Spector, and Libby Wadsworth. The pieces will be auctioned--some silently, some not-so-silently--by a gaggle of local performance artists. Admission is $15, $10 for members, free if you become a member at the door. Food, drinks, and music will be served throughout the afternoon. The gallery is located at 1255 S. Wabash. Call 554-0671 for more.

Playwright and performer Sterline Richey-Lacy will be joined by other members of Sisters! Theatre Group from Flint, Michigan, this afternoon for two performances of her play about the life of African-American pioneer George W. Richardson. When Wild Geese Fly is adapted from Richardson's own journals as well as maps, poems, and sermons dating back to 1827. The play tells the story of his family's journey out of slavery and focuses on their experiences settling in the north. The performances will take place at 1:30 and 3:30 at Woodson regional library, 9525 S. Halsted. Admission is free. Call 747-6910 for more information.

MONDAY 12

The opening of the largest exhibit of Lincoln materials ever assembled on the 16th president's birthday is sure to be an emancipalooza for his cultish enthusiasts. Prints, photographs, and Abe's personal possessions, as well as broadsides, campaign trinkets, and close to 100 of his letters and documents will be on display at the Chicago Historical Society for a year beginning today. "The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America" complements the Society's permanent Lincoln exhibition, which ghoulishly features the presidential deathbed. "The Last Best Hope" is open weekdays from 9:30 to 4, Saturday from 9:30 to 4:30, and Sunday from noon to 5. Admission to the museum and exhibit is $7 for adults, $4 for kids, and free for members. The society is located at Clark and North. Call 642-4600 for more information.

TUESDAY 13

The most bitter fighting of World War II occurred at the battle of Stalingrad, where Soviet forces broke the back of Hitler's army at a cost of a million and a half lives on each side. German director Joseph Vilsmaier examines this turning point in the war from the perspective of a German platoon in his film Stalingrad, which runs through Thursday at the Music Box, 3733 N. Southport. Admission is $7.25. Call 871-6604 for show times.

An evening of performances tonight will benefit the Urban Life Center, a nonprofit urban studies and internship program that teaches students about race, public policy, and the arts by placing them in such places as shelters, human rights groups, theaters, and museums. The entertainment includes poetry by Fairella Baker, Quraysh Ali, Orisegun Olomidun, and community-radio activist Tyehimba Jess, dancing by the Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, and acting by Bernadette Clark, who will do a piece from Steppenwolf's recent production of For Colored Girls Who've Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf. Tickets are $25 and include beverages and fancy desserts donated by area bakeries. It starts at 7 with a silent auction, and the performances begin at 8, at the Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis. Call 363-1312 for reservations and information.

WEDNESDAY 14

Ethiopian-born Haile Gerima's film Sankofa portrays a black fashion model's mysterious transformation into a slave who's forced to leave Africa, cross the Atlantic, and endure the brutality of plantation life in the Americas. It's being presented today as part of UIC's Black History Month programming. It's free and will be shown at 11, 1:15, 3:30, 5:45, and 8 in the Illinois Room at the Chicago Circle Center, 750 S. Halsted. Call 413-5070 for more.

Homoerotic poems and short stories will be read tonight by Alan Amberg of LesBiGay Radio and Carrie Barnett of People Like Us Books. City Lit Theater and the Gerber/Hart Lesbian and Gay Library and Archives organized the event, which features the work of writers Yvonne Zipter and Gregg Shapiro. There will be hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar. It lasts from 7 to 10 at Paris Dance, 1122 W. Montrose. Tickets are $10, $8 for Gerber/Hart members. Call 883-3003 for more.

Irishmen Robert Arkins, Dick Massey, Kenneth McCluskey, and Dave Finnegan, all featured in the movie The Commitments, have hooked up with six other Irish musicians for what they're calling the "Committed World Tour." They're in town tonight to perform at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace. Tickets are $20 and can be bought by calling 559-1212. The doors open at 8. Call 478-4408 for info.

THURSDAY 15

Prairie Moon, a north-suburban feminist bookstore, is hosting a discussion of Elizabeth Hilts's Getting in Touch With Your Inner Bitch, one of their best-selling titles. It's free and open to anyone--regardless of gender or disposition. Things get under way at 7, at 8 N. Dunton in Arlington Heights. Call 847-342-9608 for more information.

Three and a half years after Bill Clinton publicly attacked Sister Souljah in what appeared to be a lame attempt to win over backward white voters, the 31-year-old rapper/mother/activist is on tour promoting her first book, No Disrespect, a memoir that spans the period from her childhood in a Bronx housing project to her college days at Rutgers, where she had a political and cultural awakening. At 8 tonight she'll give a free reading at Black Titles Bookstore, 35 S. LaSalle, in Aurora. Call 708-892-4759 for more. You can also check her out on Friday, February 16, at 12:30 at Afrocentric Bookstore, 234 S. Wabash (939-1956), and again at 7 at 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th (684-1300).

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