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For the week of May 28 - June 3, 2003

Dos Culturas

Dos Culturas:

Building a bridge between communities

Express Staff Writer

Latino culture is vibrant. It is lively, familial, musical, artistic, colorful and tradition bound. And the Wood River Valley has become home to many Latinos, the majority of whom are from Mexico. They now make up more than 10 percent of the valley’s population.

Unfortunately, while Spanish-speaking immigrants in the Wood River Valley are an important and growing part of the local economy, the Anglo and Latino populations remain largely unfamiliar with each other.

In recognizing this fact the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Ketchum decided to "build a cultural bridge between the Wood River Valley’s Anglo and Latino communities," Sun Valley Center for the Arts Education and Humanities Director Heather Crocker said.

Ultimately, the Center devised a multidisciplinary program as a celebration of Mexican and Mexican-American identity and culture.

That program, Dos Culturas, takes place from June 2 through August 9, at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

It’s intended as a "metaphorical welcome mat for our new neighbors as well as a way for the Wood River Valley’s Anglo population to understand how this influx will enhance and broaden our lives," Crocker said.

There are programs planned in the visual arts, performing arts, and education and humanities throughout the duration of Dos Culturas.

The visual arts will feature well-known Mexican artists Betsabeé Romero and Alfredo Zalce,

To conduct Spanish-speaking tours, docents were culled from the Latino Advisory Committee for Dos Culturas, and family members of those interviewed by Reed Lindsay and photographed by Barbi Reed.

These Center Exhibition Tours are scheduled June 12, 21, 28, July 12, 26, and Aug. 2, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"We could not have done any of this without Juan Salamanca," SVCA Artistic Director Kristin Poole. Salamanca and his family will lead a tour July 26.

An admired member of the Anglo and Latino communities as a teacher in the Dual Immersion program at Bellevue Elementary School, Salamanca is on the Latino Advisory Committee. He and his father Bernabe lead the annual Virgin de Guadeloupe festivities at St. Charles Catholic Church in Hailey.

He’ll be leading the procession from the Center to the Forest Service Park in Ketchum on June 21 for the Fiesta Del Sol.

Salamanca’s parents and two sisters also live in the valley.

The siblings had lived in different parts of the country until their parents moved north to Idaho from Mexico in 1995.

"We all got together and reunited in Idaho," Salamanca said.

His enthusiasm for sharing the Mexican culture with a larger audience also is evident.

"How lovely the Center is now concerned about our culture. We hope both communities will get to know each other," he said. "We have a lot of art. We’re not just laborers but people, just people, and we can offer a lot of things. We hope this is just the beginning of more activities in different areas, arts and community projects. That’s what I’d like to see."

A 16-year resident of the United States, Aurelio Tamayo and his two daughters will act as docents on Aug. 2.

"Learning more about the Mexican culture not just the Anglos but the all the people, including the Mexicans," is a positive step, Tamayo said.

His daughter, Amy, 11, is a student at the Wood River Middle School and her sister Nancy just celebrated her Quinceanera, a traditional family party celebrating a girl’s 15th birthday.

"I am looking to learn more about my culture and help in any way, and help others learn," Nancy said.

Leading the Spanish tour on July 12 is mother and daughter team, María Rodriguez and Dolores Gomez.

"I was living with my eyes closed," Rodriguez admits through translator and advisory committee member Patricia Conwell. "I didn’t know about the famous artists of my land. I want to learn myself."

All the docents agreed that what they are comfortable with was sharing their own culture.

Being Mexican is about family, Salamanca said. All the families try to keep their traditions alive with great food, parties and religious observations, like the Posadas tradition of visiting homes at Christmas time.

Though there are some they did not import, laughed Tamayo. "Like cock fights, bull fights, and a different style of rodeo."

When the Guzman family was interviewed for the documentary three of the women decided to be further involved with the program. Sisters-in-law María Guzman and Teresa Guzman signed on along with María’s sister Mariana Ortiz.

They will be leading the tour on June 28. María Guzman has three young daughters in the bilingual art program.

Another art student is Jazmin Osornio, 13, who’ll be joined by María Barriga on June 14 to lead the Spanish tour.

Like the others she wants to "help and learn more about my culture."

"She’s been in the bilingual art class from the start. She’s an incredible artist, very talented," Conwell said.

Indeed, the youngsters seemed to enjoy the nervous excitement of their fellow docents. They displayed great calm, perhaps because they all speak English proficiently.

Also, as a part of the Fiesta Del Sol on June 21, an altar will be erected in Forest Service Park. Everyone is invited to embellish the altar with decorative elements traditionally included in Mexican altars.

The altar will have a bridge, "a metaphor for North-South migration in the valley and from Mexico to Idaho," Poole said. "This is one of the most exciting programs we’ve ever worked on. Everybody has responded with such interest and love."

"We’re doing what everyone else is talking about," Conwell added.



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