This section of the report, a narrative where I describe each of the meetings, gives a view of the types of communities and the salient issues that they brought to the meetings. These brief narratives are drawn from my impressions, my notes and from the audiotapes of the meetings. All in all, the meetings gathered community leaders and artists who had been previously identified by the contacts made by the Folk Arts Director and who have had experience either in the arts or in the Latino community. I begin each section by giving the location, date, time and place of the meeting. For each location, I also cite a few samples of the artistry of the participants. A complete list of the participants appears as Appendix B; Appendix C is a list of participants and others identified according to traditional cultural expressions, i.e. foodways, music, occupation, etc. appears at the end of this report.
Monday, June 5, 7:00 p.m. at El Sombrero Restaurant, 153 Main St.
We arrive a little before the 7 p.m. scheduled time for the meeting and the owner of El Sombrero, Rosa Hernández Paiz greets us and has a space ready for us to meet in the adjacent dance hall, the scene of numerous dances -quinceañeras, weddings and such. During the time we await the arrival of others, Rosa regales us with stories of how she has built the restaurant up over the last twenty years and of how her daughter is graduating from high school and attending college with a full scholarship. She tells of her experiences in high school. We had been in Twin Falls earlier and had watched Gloria Galán on TV at a City Council meeting so there was doubt she would show up. She does and so do others including Elena Rodríguez and Raymond Berain who have come from Boise because they will not be able to attend the meeting in Caldwell.
It is an exciting start. There is much talk of the needs of the community but also of that which is already there - the fiestas, the seamstresses and teachers who sew the costumes and teach the folklórico groups. One such person, Paula Garza Salinas, has been teaching folklórico for a number of years and has also sewn both the practice and performance dance attire for the dances. She is from Cotulla, Texas but has lived here since she was 10 years old. She only attended school in Texas, didn't go beyond third grade, yet she has her GED and has been working with the community all her adult life. The participants referred us to many others not attending the meeting and whose artistry is well known. The group mentioned Sr. Rose Marie form La Posada Ministry, Nick Hernández an accordion player from Twin Falls, Mercedes Castro and Ramón Becerra, a singer, Geraldo Díaz, originally from San Antonio, Texas considered a Charro completo, Blas Delgado, Mercedes Nevarez, a quilter and teacher of dance, Eulogio Mendoza, a baker at Video Méjico y Panaderia. Also, they cannot recall the name of a woman from Jackpot who does the entrega de pan on Tuesdays and makes traditional pan dulce, conchas, esponjas, etc. Another name mentioned was Chris Rodríguez. From various sources, we heard of José Pérez, owner of Garibaldi's restaurant in Twin Falls and President of the Hispanic Cultural Association. We met with Mr. Pérez on the return trip and had a fruitful conversation about the upcoming fiesta and the traditional arts.
The fiesta, scheduled for the second weekend in August, will highlight local artists, and will probably bring music groups from outside the area. The reasons Gloria Galán, credited with starting the Fiesta, and others gave for having the fiesta so late in the summer and not on the expected 16 de septiembre, Mexican Independence Day, is that many of the migrant workers are still around, the weather is neither terribly hot and not yet cold and that the community is no longer exclusively Mexican, so 16 de septiembre, Mexican Independence Day, may not be a significant date for them.
Various women mentioned the Mujeres Unidas de Idaho, a community women's group that has many local members of the statewide organization, as a resource. The community in Jerome has a rich resource in Gloria Galan who is a city council member and in the College of Southern Idaho. The community is well established and traditional artists exist in the community both in the long-time residents as well as the new comers. Jerome has a lively social scene and the restaurant and adjacent ballroom is only one of several businesses on the main street catering to a Latino clientele, although the diners that Monday evening seemed evenly divided among the greater community and the Mejicano/Tejano customers that Ms. Paiz cited as her main clientele.
Tuesday, June 6, noon, at Migrant Project's Office, 906 S. Oneida
The next morning we drive to Rupert, and to the Migrant Project's Office where Pete Espinoza, has a spread of tacos and soft drinks for us. It is a working lunch, so as we gather and eat, we begin the talks. Soon we are in full discussion of the questions we have posed. Yes, there are many resources, many of the community have skills, are artists. Cora del Toro, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher expressed surprise at the large number of artists recently highlighted at a festival. Stan Casiano has a school in his own home, for example. And many of those in attendance make their own piñatas (Esther Mendoza), their own festive foods like reposteria (Lisa García); they sew (Catalina Yañez); they sing, play instruments (Stan Casiano), dance (Oralia Palomo), work with children to instill their cultural legacy and make sure they "don't forget who they are." Stan Casiano and his daughters -Idalia Casiano and Oralia Palomo- seem to be emblematic of families involved in community projects, but Stan came from Texas and seems to belong to the wave of migrant workers who settled in Idaho after World War II and helped shape their communities.
He and his daughters speak English fluently as do others like Sylvia Lujan who came from New Mexico; more recent arrivals speak only in Spanish and came either directly from Mexico, while others like Catalina Yañez, a seamstress, have traveled with their families from Mexico to California, then Nevada and finally Idaho in search of work. Not surprising, then to find the group agreeing that language and the greater community's attitude against Spanish can be a problem for the Latinos. Several participants are English as a Second Language students learning English who wish to help their children, and who see English literacy as essential for security. The group is animated and energetic, and even after we adjourn because some people need to get back to work, some linger and chat with us about their dreams and hopes for their community. They despair at what they perceive as anti-Latino sentiments in the schools, at the lack of understanding of cultural expressions. Oralia Palomo explains that her proposed Dia de los Muertos project at the school where she teaches Spanish was not allowed because it was seen as religious. Catalina Yañez desperately tries to understand a teacher who hits students for speaking Spanish.
Idalia Casiano cites a survey that found students had low self-esteem and blames it on the generally negative attitude of the community toward all that is Latino. A mother worries that her children don't want to eat what she cooks anymore, preferring the north American fast foods they are fed in school. But, they are optimistic. Stan Casiano stated: "In Idaho we are breaking down the barriers." The discussion also pointed out that as Pete Espinoza said, "Education is the key." Citing that if teachers begin the process early, then the students will be proud and not drop out, and it will be easier for them in the high schools.
The education they spoke of was two way; they wanted to make sure that the larger community also valued the Latino culture and understood it: " they see a baile and they learn about it they understand who we are; we are no longer a threat." It became obvious that the participants had had run-ins with the larger community as they expressed a need for the schools, as well as "the people who make decisions," to know, to understand. Oralia sees the arts as the main way to communicate "the expression of the hearts and minds," the equalizer, while Robert Gómez would like to see a museum with the history of Latinos in Idaho. Sylvia Lujan, who moved here from New Mexico, has seen changes for the better, and says that, "Art brings out pride in people; this community is coming out of its shell." Rupert seems on the brink of an exciting era where the Latinos and the greater community can come together and celebrate the contributions of both to the cultural fabric that is Idaho.
Tuesday, June 6, 7pm Church of Saint Teresita, the Little Flower, 1501 Oakley.
In Burley we have the largest number of participants of all the gatherings, we arrive to a rather full church hall: the children to the side seated around tables, are coloring and drawing; the adults sit around other round tables aligned on one side of the room. As we were parking, the host, Gladys Esquibel who is a member of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs and its newly elected President, welcomes us. Later she will give us a tour of the church with its baptismal font that is a fountain whose walls are lined with stone - her husband designed and built it. It is a serene and beautiful church. She proudly tells us that it was built with funds raised by the community.
There are three distinct groups that have come to meet with us. First, the folklórico dancers - mostly young children and their parents; there are two groups: El Tricolor and an unnamed one. Second, the jaripeo enthusiasts who are still hyped up by the very successful event of the week before, a benefit for the church. And, three the odd scattering of social service, migrant council, and just plain interested folks that includes anyone from an aspiring singer - al estilo de Selena - to teachers, social workers, and traditional artists like Paula Gómez and Simona Ureña who embroider, crochet, cook traditional meals, make paper flowers, etc.
This community seems to be more numerous, but it could be that they are more active and therefore, more attend the meeting. The location and time - a church hall, in the evening - may also contribute to the numbers. Gladys Esquibel is clearly the convener and everyone knows her. The folklórico dance groups have teachers, but express an interest in having a locale for performances and a practice space. Also, there is discussion of how the dance groups have problems accessing what they need and the benefits for the youth who belong to the groups.
The jaripeo group was the most outspoken in terms of what they need. Time and again they stressed the need for a lienzo charro, a rodeo space where they can practice and hold events. They kept citing the recent event and their success despite obstacles. The men were the spokespersons although, some of the women also agreed with them. The logistics made it a bit difficult to sustain the interest of the whole group, but all in all, everyone participated and expressed their opinions regarding the questions put to them. There was a tinge of competitive feelings, and some folks felt that they didn't have much to contribute. There was a lengthy discussion of what the community should do for the children. Here more than anywhere else I sensed the Tejano-Mejicano tension. I concluded with a discussion of tradition and cultural expressions as the bridges between all cultures and cited don Manuel Ruiz' Los Cuatro Acuerdos Toltecas. A couple of the artists stayed behind to share their stories with us. One took out a guitar and sang a few boleros, traditional pop ballads from the 50s.
Wednesday, June 7, 5:30 pm, William Thomas Middle School
In American Falls, it is an early meeting 5:30 because we have another meeting later that evening. The school is near the road, a red brick, typical 70s school structure. We arrive to find that the school is locked. In the heat of the afternoon - must've been about 100 - we wait. Finally, we see that there is someone coming. Turns out to be Delinda Muñiz Fehringer who knows the principal or maybe the vice-principal and so off she goes to get the key. By the time she returns, Angela Luckey Saldaña has arrived. Looks like they are the only two who will be here. Our contacts, Rudy Peña and Elva Cárdenas will not attend. We try not to worry about the fact that only 2 persons are attending the meeting and proceed. As in the other sites, the newspaper in this case, Power City Press, had picked up Maria Carmen's release, so that is how Delinda found out about the meeting. Rudy is out of town and Elva cannot make it.
The discussion around what has been done could not happen without Angela Saldaña Luckey's input. She drove in from Pocatello for the meeting. From her conversation and from Dora Whit's we can tell that they are committed and have done this kind of work for a long time. Angela worked on the Oral History Project and interviewed a number of elders. She has lived in Idaho for a long time and although originally from Texas, considers herself an Idahoan. She has worked with the folklórico group for many years. The important thing here is not the limited number of participants, but the fact that they are making connections. Delinda will collaborate with Angela and relieve some of the demands on her time. But, also, there seems to be excitement as to the possibility of getting the group to participate in statewide workshops. Their many needs may be met after all.
Wednesday, June 7, 7:30 p.m. Church of the Blessed Sacrament Manuel Cavazos
We drive up, the Church, the Blessed Sacrament, is right off the highway. The doors are open, we follow the sounds of music to the basement. Manuel Cavazos is practicing the Church choir - seems all little girls. A fair woman and her blonde daughters are also there, sitting to the side on a pew against the wall. A Chicano couple is also there, obviously not members of the group. Later we will learn they are Carlos and Sandra Lugo and have come representing Hank Gonzalez' dance group, Aztlán. They have come from Pocatello. As I open the meeting and welcome everyone, others join us, they come in and greet everyone; it is obvious they know each other. After the usual introductions, we begin our discussion. Carlos works with the dance group, the others are from Aberdeen and are mostly interested in singing and dancing. The youngsters and their parents seem excited at having us here. I am not sure if it is merely the fact that they perceive us as someone interested in them and their activity or if there is excitement for the mere pleasure of singing and dance.
Manuel Cavazos, the teacher and director of the church choir sings and plays the guitar; he has cassettes of his group recordings of traditional music group, los Paisanos with Juan Torres. The Schank family - parents and two daughters run the Aberdeen Arts Center in an old church they have bought. The father plays and the daughters sing. The mother, Erin, is of Basque origin and plays the accordion. Mario Palacios, is an agricultural worker and is here because of his daughters who like to sing and dance and would like formal training and classes in voice and dance. José Jaime Hurtado, a young worker as well, is here because he is interested in baile folklórico; he is a member of the church choir and is a poet.
They don't mention any local fiestas or other resources, save for the church sponsored Virgen de Guadalupe celebration in December, but they do know of the Rupert 5 de mayo fiesta and the Fiesta in Twin Falls. The group continues talking; we hear some songs and a poem as well as observe a dance. We are invited to the arts center. Lugo gave me calendars of the Aztlán dance group led by Henry "Hank" Gonzalez as we left.
Thursday, June 8, 7 p.m. Church of the Holy Rosary, 145 Ninth Street
The group gathered at the Church of the Holy Rosary is small but rich in resources for our purposes. Gloria Carranza is there to greet us - her husband, Antonio Salcido, a member of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs is out of town. Commissioner Laurel Hall of the ICA was on TV announcing the meeting and three participants are here because they saw the program and also because they read about it in the paper. Gloria has brought her mother Guadalupe Carranza. Through sheer coincidence, we met Tina Khabir earlier. She is originally from California and Guadalajara and works in an office, the sign proclaims it to be "Community Assistance." She tells us of others in the community who might be good contacts: Carlos Contreras in Rigby, Hugo Arias an adult probation officer, Isela Gutierrez who works with women -- all are activists in the community, she says. Pat Romero in Rigby, according to Tina, is delightful, energetic and willing to help. Tina also tells of trying to start something before but had no help and the group gave up - none of them show up at the meeting.
We begin around 7:30 and while we wait, Gloria goes to the church to leave a sign and her mother and I talk, her niece is in Rupert and also is an artisan, Consuelo Ramirez. Mrs. Carranza is a long-time resident of Idaho and of the area. As is now customary, I and Maria Carmen welcome the participants and explain the role of the ICA and the purpose of our trip, as well as the goals and objectives of the project. Ramona and Eduardo Pérez, seem more interested in culture as a means of educating and organizing the community for social change. He is from California and would like to see actions and activities similar to those he knows of in Fresno.
Guadalupe Carranza claims not to be an artist but upon prodding from her daughter tells us that she "a veces coce para pasar el tiempo, cocina las comidas tradicionales." Gloria Carranza Salcido, also claims knowledge of cocina tradicional and is learning from her mother how to make bread in the outdoor ovens like they do in her place of origin. Gloria is articulate of how people's perception of art is different and how the younger generation forgets the traditional ways, as she tells how she is learning from her mother. There's talk of Idaho Unido, a newspaper from Pocatello.
The community of Idaho Falls has a multicultural committee and one of the members Earline Reed attends our meeting. It appears to me that the city is attempting to change its image and to celebrate its diversity. The Mayor's multicultural committee has produced a video and there is a Heritage Festival in August. There is also discussion of cultural misunderstanding. An example given is that many Mexicans are used to bringing offerings to the church, to decorating the church, but the local priests do not understand this practice.
Two artists are mentioned, Adriana López who makes papel picado and Marta Ponce who makes flowers. Almost everyone agreed with Ramona who would like to see a community center with classes, music, sewing, and such. The community was poorly represented in the meeting, but we got a sense of what is there and also of how there are real possibilities for the trans cultural conversations to occur.
There has been a lot of activity over the years in Idaho Falls. The Latino presence goes back a long time as evidenced in Voces Hispanas, where Rita Perez appears. Ms. Perez was born in Idaho Falls in 1930. We were not there long enough to sense the degree of conflict or of tension between the Latino and the greater community, but speaking with Tina Khabir and with Eduardo Pérez I got the sense that there are still some wide chasms, cultural and otherwise, between the communities.
Caldwell, Nampa, Boise and other cities: Sunday, June 11, Jewett Auditorium, Albertson College of Idaho, 2112 Cleveland Boulevard in Caldwell
We drive to Caldwell from Boise and arrive at the college where Arnoldo Hernández greets us. The Idaho Commission on the Humanities staff are also there and a few others who will participate in the discussion. We go to the meeting room and begin our introductions. This is the most diverse group we have spoken to, there is even a student who is a Romanian immigrant who contributes in her own way and makes links between what the Latino participants share and her own experience in the state.
Among the participants were Alma Gómez who is engaged in a summer mural project with youth, Jeannette Calsen from the Commission who works with the quinceañera project in the school district, Pablo Izquierdo who came from Weiser for the meeting, Ignacio Ramos who spoke little English and who is clearly interested in the arts but who sees little involvement because of low salaries and work commitments; and Bob McCarl, former folk arts director at ICA, who teaches anthropology at Boise State University and is now working on workplace equity. Jim Sánchez whose name he explains was changed from "Salvador" to "Jim" and also works with youth would like to see more involvement. In attendance were long-time resident activists like Janie Archuleta who has been participating and organizing cultural events for thirty years and Ana or Pablo, who are relatively recent arrivals on the scene. Participants cited the Fiesta Idaho and the annual Guadalupe celebrations as key venues for showcasing local artists. All agreed that they need to commit to working together and supporting the new immigrants. Again the group cited examples of insensitivity in the schools and in the community. They noted the cultural differences between business practices in their places of origin and in Idaho.
All in all, the meetings were informative whether attended by over forty or as few as three, the information shared was relevant and critical for our purposes. In order to formulate recommendations based on assessment of the data gathered in the meetings, we must consider the answers to the questions posed for discussion. In the next section, I have culled the answers and discussion of the four questions around each of the questions. Although I do not always identify the participant or even the place where specific answers were discussed, I must note that the transcripts have the specific speaker and location identified.top