Folklife Festival celebrates Mexican culture |

Folklife Festival celebrates Mexican culture

Thirteen months in the planning, the second annual North Columbia Folklife Festival set for Friday and Saturday has been challenging at times to coordinate.

So admitted Amber Jo Manuel, North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center executive director, on Monday, four days before the two-day festival begins. The festival celebrates Mexican cultural traditions practiced in California via music performances, dance performances, slide shows, art demonstrations and workshops, and a Mexican feast.

“There has been language barriers. It’s been a challenge trying to locate the Latino community in Nevada County,” Manuel explained. “I keep hearing they’re all in Truckee, but they’re here, too. They work in construction, live in apartments. There is a presence.”

With the festival almost here, Manuel doesn’t mind the months spent working through the challenges.

“This festival is about recognizing the presence of the Latino community and their contribution in Grass Valley and Nevada City,” she noted. “I hope the audience takes home with them a better understanding of the Mexican community. The more we understand each other, the better our relationships will be in the community.”

The festival committee partnered with Javier Sosa’s, Melesio Campos’ and Roberto Garcia’s families when making numerous decisions, from choosing the festival’s menu to finding artists and presenters.

Last year’s inaugural Folklife Festival, which honored Hawaii, was created to celebrate other cultures impacting Californians.

“We have so many cultures in California from different lands that have settled here and help0 make California what it is today,” Manuel said. “We want to celebrate these cultural traditions so that as Californians, we’re aware of what has contributed to our own culture.”

Artists and Presenters

Los Cenzontles, a group that presents traditional, native and original music of Mexico and is the touring group of Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center in San Pablo. Los Cenzontles includes singers, dancers and musicians playing violin, clarinet, guitar and folk guitar variations, such as the vihuela, jarana and guitarra de son. Check the Web at for more details. Saturday at 7 p.m.

La Familia Pena-Govea: The San Francisco group plays traditional Mexican, Tex-Mex and Colombian music, including rancheras, polkas, valses, valienatos, boleros, danznes, chachas and cumbias. Family members include teenage daughter Renee on accordion and guitar; sister Cecilia on trumpet; father Miguel Govea on guitar, accordion and trumpet; and mother Susan Pena on nylon string guitar. Rounding out the ensemble is Donaldo Mantilla on timbales. Saturday at about 8:30 p.m.

El Son del Pueblo, a Santa Barbara-based duo, promotes traditional music of Veracruz. The duo consists of John Robles, a California native who sings and plays the Veracruz folk harp (arpa jarocha), and Jorge Mijangos, born in Chiapas, Mexico, who sings and plays jarana jarocha. Guest artist Katey O’Neill of Santa Barbara joins the duo on harp and jarana. Veracruz, in the southern part of Mexico, has Spanish, African and indigenous Indian influences. Check the Web at for more information. Saturday at 10:45 a.m.

Former Nevada County resident Heather Hafleigh will present a slide show of her photographic exhibit, “Viva la Charreria Mexicana.” The charrerria, or Mexican rodeo, began in 16th century Spain and remains popular today.

Hafleigh’s work has been exhibited at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, the Western Folklife Center and the Northeastern Nevada Museum. “Viva la Charreria Mexicana” documents the Francos, a California family, as they prepare for and compete in charreadas. Adrian Franco will also talk about roping skills. Friday at 7 p.m.

Adrian Franco is a third-generation charro (cowboy) who began roping at age 3. Franco competes in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and throughout California. Roping skills demonstration Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

Danza Cuauhtonal is a traditional Aztec dance circle formed 15 years ago in Oakland. Danza Cuauhtonal includes family members ranging from youth to grandparents. Twenty-six dancers will be in the opening ceremony Saturday at 10 a.m.

Rubén Guzmán, a Mexico City native, received his training in cartonería (papier mâché-type sculpture) in the early 1990s from the Linares family, known for its colorful sculptures rooted in Mexican traditions. Cartonería figures are frequently incorporated into altars for Day of the Dead ceremonies, other traditional holidays and celebrations in the Latino communities of California. Currently living in Oakland, Guzmán teaches art classes. His sculptures and installations have been exhibited throughout the Bay Area and in Germany. Children’s workshop Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m.

Herminia Albarrán Romero makes altars with colorful paper flowers, cut paper banners (papel picado), paper stars and streamers, and papier mâché forms, all part of the traditional Mexican decorative arts used for holiday celebrations. Romero began learning this art as a child from her mother in Tlatlaya, Mexico. Now living in the Bay Area, Romero spends most of the year preparing for her November altars, which are often commissioned by museums and libraries, including the San Francisco Main Library, the Mission Cultural Center and La Raza Centro Legal. Altar-making demonstration Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.

Maria Aispuro will demonstrate how to make tortilla Saturday at noon. From Sinaloa, Mexico, Aispuro now lives with her family on the San Juan Ridge. She learned tortilla making from her mother.

Saturday’s Master of Ceremonies Miguel Molina hosts and produces “La Onda Bajta del Barrio Aztlan” and “Flashpoints en Espanol” on radio station KPFA FM 94.1 in Berkeley. Born to Mexican parents in Arizona in the 1950s, Molina has dedicated his life to social activism, building coalitions and fighting racism.

Irene Campos, a Truckee resident and native of Mexico, will lead a paper flower-making workshop Saturday at 10:45 a.m. for ages 10 and up. Her oldest daughter Anna will make paper chains with the younger children at that time.


WHAT: Second annual North Columbia Folklife Festival

WHEN: Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

WHERE: North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center at 17894 Tyler Foote Road on the San Juan Ridge

ADMISSION: Friday’s tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth. Saturday’s tickets, which include dinner, are $25 for adults and $10 for children. Friday/Saturday tickets, which include dinner the second night, are $30 for adults and $13 for children. Daytime or evening only tickets are also available. Children 12 and under are admitted free during the day Saturday.

INFORMATION OR TO VOLUNTEER: 265-2826. Bilingual (English/Spanish) volunteers are especially needed. For information in Spanish, call 292-1501.

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