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A blog about immigration in the New York region

Archive for the 'culture' Category

Mexican Independence Day and bicentennial to be celebrated in Yonkers


Mexicans are celebrating the bicentennial of independence from Spain this week. The mood leading up to “El Grito” is mixed, in part because of security fears in the context of a violent crime wave.

Here, Mexican-Americans are preparing to celebrate, though the tone seems likewise subdued. Independence Day is Thursday. There’s a cultural festival Saturday at the Yonkers Riverfront Library. I caught up with a group of children in Yonkers who were rehearsing traditional dances. Here is 8-year-old Angie Millan, whose grandmother was born in Morelos.

Belen Fernandez said she’s thrilled to see her American-born granddaughter learning the same dances she learned as a child. The group’s repertoire includes the “dance of the old people” – hence the canes.

The event is being organized by a new nonprofit called Telpochcalli and ArtsWestchester’s Folk Arts Program. Zafiro Acevedo, below, is hosting the event and her mother, “Pinata Lady” Aurelia Fernandez, is leading the workshops. For details, see this ArtsWestchester page.

Posted by Leah Rae on Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 at 12:52 pm |

Celebrating culture, as only Port Chester can


What would you expect from a cultural festival in Port Chester, a village where half the population is foreign-born and the Latino population draws from every corner of the hemisphere?

Port Chester Fest, on May 22, is aiming to live up to the community’s own diversity, and you can expect quite the array of cultures.

For example: There will be a “tijeras” or scissors dance, a competitive, gymnastics-like performance from the highlands of southern Peru. Walter Velille and Luis Aguilar are pictured here with harp player Alejandro Velasco and his brother Ignacio on violin.

Tom van Buren, director of Folk Arts and Performance Programs at ArtsWestchester, helped identify performers that reflect the area’s immigrant traditions. Here’s his description of the tijeras performers and th dance he calls “traditional Peruvian break dancing”:

“Walter Velille, whose stage name is Qesqento (the name of a cicada native to Peru) is one of the foremost dancers of this style in the New York region and has lived in Port Chester for over five years.  He grew up in Lima, the capital of Peru, in a family from Apurima in the southern Andean region.  He learned the tijeres dance from elders in his family.  His father was also a Tijeras dancer and later played the violin for dancers during community events.  Later, Walter had the opportunity to teach the dance to apprentices in a program of the Museo de la Nación.  He has performed this dance in Europe, China and Japan, and has also performed widely in the United States since 2002, when he attended a native American gathering in Seattle.  He has performed many times for the UN conference on Indigenous peoples.  He will be performing with Luis Aguilar “Paccaricha” (Quechua for ‘Tomorrow’).”

Another act is Grupo Ujyuna, a group of Bolivian musicians in Port Chester who play Andean flutes (see a video here).

Read on for the list of groups taking part in the festival. For more on the event, click here.

Read more of this entry »

Posted by Leah Rae on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 at 3:08 pm |

Yonkers immigrant church benefit


St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, a Yonkers parish with a large Hispanic immigrant congregation, will hold its autumn benefit concert on Sunday, Sept. 21 at 3 p.m. The church’s five Spanish-language choirs will perform and tickets are $5. The concert will be held in the basement and food and beverages will be served. Call 914-963-0822.

Posted by egarcia on Wednesday, September 17th, 2008 at 6:32 am |
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Cinco de Mayo in White Plains, Yonkers


Cinco de Mayo festivities get started this weekend in White Plains and Yonkers. On Friday, Ballet Folklorico Espiritu de Mexico will perform regional folk dances, accompanied by Mariachi Solido de Mexico at the Westchester Arts Council’s Arts Exchange in White Plains. More details are here at westarts.com.

On Sunday is the tenth annual Alma de Mexico – Spirit of Mexico celebration in Yonkers, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Untermyer Park. On the bill are dance, music, a mole poblano cooking demo, and the Chinelos masked dancers of Yonkers “performing in the style of Tlayacapan, Morelos State, and depicting the invading ‘Dragoons’ of Emperor Maximilian in the 1863 battle of Puebla.” Here’s a video preview.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/KbNqZkP17Mg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


In New York City, the Mexican Parade will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday on 110th Street and Central Park West and will head south.

Posted by Leah Rae on Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 at 4:55 pm |

‘Immigrant Heritage Week’ in NYC


It’s difficult to sum up the offerings for Immigrant Heritage Week (today through April 20 in New York City), so here’s just a little sampler:

nyc.jpg• The Havana Film Festival

• A slide show on the “gardens of ethnic Americans”

• A seminar on immigrants’ contributions to jazz

• A Chinese ribbon dance workshop

• Mexican ballads commemorating 9/11

• A performance of Gabriel García Márquez’ “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”

• Readings of Arab-American poet Abu Mady

• “Little Red Riding Hood” — the Chinese opera version

The full calendar is here.

(Watercolor painting “Liberty&ManhattanSkyline1” by Katherine Dolgy Ludwig, chosen by Mayor Bloomberg to represent Immigrant Heritage Week at Gracie Mansion.)

Posted by Leah Rae on Monday, April 14th, 2008 at 10:07 am |
| | 1 Comment »

Movies on the immigrant experience


Have you seen any movies that reflect the “old world vs. new world” conflicts in immigrant families, particularly between teenagers and their parents?

George Morris is looking for recommendations. A longtime ESL teacher who is semi-retired from the Yonkers schools, he is also involved in Catholic religious education in New Rochelle. Morris wanted to find movies that could help inspire discussion among a group of teen-agers who have had their confirmation and continue to meet to talk about issues in teen-age life. All are from immigrant families in New Rochelle, mostly Spanish-speaking.

curves.jpgHere are the recommendations he’s received so far after sending an email query out to ESL teachers across New York. The top response was “Real Women Have Curves.” Another popular one was “Quinceañera” (Morris notes that this one is rated R and has very strong sexual content and themes; some of these might not be suitable for the classroom).

The rest are:

  • “Bend It Like Beckham”
  • “West Side Story”
  • “Romeo and Juliet (with Leonardo DiCaprio)
  • “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”
  • “Mississippi Masala”
  • “Namesake”
  • “Double Happiness”
  • “The Joy Luck Club”
  • “Head-On” (German film)

Got any others?

Posted by Leah Rae on Thursday, March 6th, 2008 at 6:01 pm |
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Oh ‘Danny Boy,’ the press is calling


Irish Americans, are you sick of “Danny Boy”?

Foley’s Bar in Manhattan has officially banned the song for the month of March. OK, so maybe it’s just a great publicity stunt in time for the 17th, but they’ve nevertheless started quite a conversation.foley.jpg

Malachy McCourt gave a history of the song on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, explaining how it is that the lyrics were written by an Englishman. The song’s appeal, McCourt says, has to do with the power of Irish sentimentality. “Memories of great tragedies,” he says, “sustain us in moments of great joy.”

Meanwhile Brian Lehrer is asking people of other ethnicities a great question: What’s your cultural equivalent of “Danny Boy”?

Check the comment page here. So far “Roll Out the Barrel” is a winner for Polish Americans, and for Jewish Americans, anything from “Fiddler on the Roof.”

(Photo: AP)

Posted by Leah Rae on Thursday, March 6th, 2008 at 12:51 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Haitian-American agency seeks ‘new visions’ in Spring Valley


The Haitian-American Cultural and Social Organization in Spring Valley, an organization more than three decades old, is sending out a call for board members, advisors and volunteers.

HACSO Community Center Inc., is a non-profit organization that provides support services in areas like health, self-improvement, immigration and translation assistance. The group moved to new offices on Main Street over the summer. Its mission reaches beyond the Haitian community — Rockland’s largest immigrant group — to serve the wider population.

“We’re really trying to move the agency to the next level, and it seems like there’s a lot of other people that can really contribute,” Executive Director Rose Leandre says. The agency is hoping to hear from people with “new visions, bigger visions,” including members of the business community, social workers, medical, legal and mental health professionals, retirees, parents, consumers of the agency and local representatives.
Those interested are invited to a board meeting at 5 p.m. March 9 at HACSO Community Center, 25 South Main Street-Suite 2A (Upstairs) in Spring Valley. They are asked to bring a resume and short paragraph describing their interest. For more information call Leandre at 845-352-5897.

Posted by Leah Rae on Thursday, February 28th, 2008 at 1:08 pm |

Rotarians water campaign


There are many organizations that extend a hand beyond their borders to help make someone’s home life better. Here is one such story. The Somers and Northeast Westchester Rotaries are working to bring clean water to a small town in Honduras called Tamara. They are working with Cornell engineers to have a simple-to-use water treatment plant built in this town of 3,500 people. They are actively fundraising and having a winetasting event at the Neuberger Museum Friday night to meet their goal. They need $72,000 and have raised more than $30,000 so far. For more information, call 914-962-1135. I was struck by one post on the forums pertaining to the story. The reader said:  It’s not about illegal Immigration. It’s not about outsourcing jobs to exploit other countries. It’s about Americans helping people have a better life in their own countries.”honduras-rga-046.jpg

Photo courtesy of Somers Rotary

Posted by Marcela Rojas on Wednesday, February 27th, 2008 at 2:32 pm |
| | 1 Comment »


Latino names: A presidential pattern


Since visiting Ecuador a few years ago I’ve been wondering how, exactly, American history-book names caught on there as popular first names. I’ve met Franklins, Washingtons, Wilsons, Jeffersons and Edisons. Perhaps this phenomenon shouldn’t have surprised me, in this globalized world of ours. On the other hand, it did.

So for a Presidents Day story (linked here), I put the question to some local folks like Edison Venegas, Washington Hernandez and Franklin Velazquez. Franklin said he was named after his Puerto Rican father. Edison was named after an Ecuadorian soccer player. Washington was named after a Uruguayan cyclist.

So apparently this wasn’t an exercise in Americanization by the parents. It’s clear that these names have become so familiar in Latino communities that they aren’t necessarily seen as “American,” anymore.

edisonlowres.jpgPictured here are some students at Sleepy Hollow Middle School: Their names, from left, are Edisson Urgiles, Jefferson Washington Moreno, Edison Pugo, Franklin Albarracia and Jefferson Rodriguez.

(Photo: Stuart Bayer / The Journal News)

Posted by Leah Rae on Monday, February 18th, 2008 at 12:58 pm |
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