Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month
Latinx Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15. We hope you will join us for these upcoming events:
Check out NVC Library's LibGuide: Hispanic Heritage Month: Focus on the Bracero Program
Today marks the beginning of Latinx Heritage Month which runs from September 15 through
October 15. In 1968, under President Lyndon B. Johnson, Hispanic Heritage Week was
established and twenty years later, under President Ronald Reagan, was expanded to
a month-long period of celebrating the contributions, cultures, and histories of people
with heritage from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Spain.
Cultural celebrations are often marked with the music and food of particular ethnic groups. The music of a people reflects not only their contemporary culture, but also their history, their complicated routes from one place to another, the cultural contact, conflict, and change that emerged as a result of histories of conquest, domination, adaptation, and resistance. In the Caribbean, for example, the music of the indigenous original inhabitants of the region—the Ciboney, the Taino, the Kalinago—were blended with the music traditions of other cultural groups that later inhabited the region—Europeans, Africans, and Asians. Indigenous instruments such as maracas survived the colonial encounter to become part of the instrumental landscape of the contemporary Caribbean and are a crucial element of the soundscape of contemporary Caribbean music, being played by musicians fluent in multiple aspects of the roots of contemporary Caribbean music such as African polyrhythms, European danzas, and musical forms of the Indian subcontinent, to name just a few influences.
The history of the Caribbean can also be told through a critical examination of its foods. Indigenous foods of the Americas, such as cassava, pumpkin, yams, potatoes, corn, cocoa, guava, nutmeg, ginger, fish, and deer, were augmented by plants and livestock brought from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Likewise, foods from the region were also exported through the global exchange of people, cultures, and goods that typified the Columbian Exchange, changing the foodways of the old world continents.
One of the plants that would have a significant impact on the geography and culture of the Caribbean region was sugarcane. Vast areas of the land were cleared of their biodiversity to introduce the large-scale, monocrop cultivation of sugarcane. This crop was labor intensive and to ensure economic profits for the European plantation owners, Africans were enslaved and transported by the millions to work as unpaid and forced labor on sugarcane plantations throughout the Caribbean, North-, Central-, and South America.
A descendant of the enslaved Africans in Cuba would link the music and food history of the region in a profound and far-reaching manner. The Cuban singer, Celia Cruz, rose to fame in the 1950s as the lead female singer of the orchestral band, La Sonora Matancera. As the National Museum of African American History and Culture website entry on Celia Cruz notes,
“During this time, she coined her trademark shout “¡Azúcar!” in response to a waiter at a restaurant in Miami who asked if she would like her coffee with sugar. As she, a black Cuban woman, continued to use “¡Azúcar!" as an interjection in songs and performances, it took on greater meaning as a remembrance of enslaved Africans who worked on Cuban sugar plantations.” (Celia Cruz, Cuban American Singer)
After the Cuban Revolution, which she renounced, she migrated to the US, joining Tito Puente’s Orchestra in the mid-1960s. Celia Cruz and the Tito Puente Orchestra were central to the development of a hybrid music known as salsa. Fania, a recording label devoted to this emerging musical genre was founded, and Celia Cruz was the only female member of the Fania All Stars. Celia Cruz was foundational to the rise and global popularity of salsa music. She recorded seventy-five records of which twenty-three achieved gold status. She starred in films and was renowned for her colorful and bold fashion style, her energetic performances, and her singular vocals.
Celia Cruz: ¡Azúcar!
Celia Cruz, “La Reina de la Salsa” recibió a lo largo de su carrera musical más de 100 reconocimientos mundiales, entre ellos, una estrella en el paseo de la fama en Hollywood, cinco premios Grammy y tres doctorados Honoris Causa otorgados por tres universidades de los Estados Unidos. Su particular y enérgica voz, y su popular grito ...
Please take this time to learn more about Celia Cruz, to listen to her music, and to pursue the connections between music and food and how they express Latinx culture and shape the culture of the world.
The music program at Napa Valley College will be presenting “Las Magnificas,” a one-woman musical performance event that highlights the life and careers of three influential Latina musicians:
The Cuban singer, Celia Cruz, “The Queen of Salsa”
The Mexican Ranchera singer, Chavela Vargas
Chilean singer, Violeta Parra, the Mother of Latin American Folk Music
Las Magnificas public performance: Sunday, October 1, 1:00 p.m. https://performingartsnapavalley.org/events/
Student matinee performance: Monday, October 2, 10:00 a.m.
As part of the Napa Valley College Latinx Heritage Month programming, we will also be hosting a film screening of Harvest of Lonliness. The Bracero Program, followed by a discussion period with one of the film’s directors, Dr. Vivian Price.
September 28, 2023, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Little Theater (Room 1231), Napa Valley College
This event Is organized by Joshua Murillo, a descendant of a Bracero. Please see the attached posters (one in English and one in Spanish) for more details. Please join us and bring your students, family, and friends!
Please also see the amazing mural honoring the Braceros painted by Joshua Murillo, and sponsored by the Rail Arts District, along the Napa Vine Trail.
About the Bracero Program (From the Library of Congress)
An executive order called the Mexican Farm Labor Program established the Bracero Program in 1942. This series of diplomatic accords between Mexico and the United States permitted millions of Mexican men to work legally in the United States on short-term labor contracts. These agreements addressed a national agricultural labor shortage during WWII and implicitly, they redressed previous depression-era deportations and repatriations that unjustly targeted Mexican Americans who were U.S. citizens. Upon its termination in 1964, the Bracero Program had brought more than four million Braceros (arms) to work in U.S. agriculture and on railroads.
During World War II, the U.S. sought labor from millions of Braceros, who would return to their country of origin after their work permit expired. El Paso, Texas, the U.S. point of entry from Ciudad Juarez, served as a recruitment center for the program, which the U.S. Agricultural Department and independent farmer associations administered with the Farm Bureau managing English-language contracts. The United States and Mexico agreed on a set of protocols that would protect Braceros from discrimination and poor wages. Nonetheless, discrimination continued and Braceros experienced surcharges for room and board, deducted pay, and exposure to deadly chemicals.
The Bracero Program concluded on December 31, 1964 as mechanization became more widespread. Ultimately, the program resulted in an influx of undocumented and documented laborers, 22 years of cheap labor from Mexico, and remittances to Mexico by Braceros.
1942: Bracero Program
Assing, Tracy, “Dining like the ancestors”
“Celia Cruz”- Biography
Celia Cruz. Cuban American Singer
McNeill, J.R., “The Columbian Exchange”
Dr. Patricia van Leeuwaarde Moonsammy
Senior Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion