Ah! The unmistakable aroma of chiles roasting: It must be autumn. The spicy vegetable, long associated with the Hispanic culture, actually was in use in the New World long before the arrival of Columbus. And, while in recent years, Cinco de Mayo has gained popularity as a Hispanic celebration, in the USA Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 legally is Hispanic Heritage Month.
Socorro’s long history is imbued with all things Hispanic and this year, New Mexico Tech’s Performing Arts Series will celebrate the region’s long and proud heritage as the Socorro Sessions Hispanic Heritage Fiesta, set for Saturday, Sept. 25, 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Macey Center parking lot, with an unbeatable ticket price: Free!
NMT PAS initiated the Socorro Sessions Music Fests with COVID-19, as a way to support local bands and to present live music events, socially distanced and safe, in the Macey Center parking lot. “We are keeping this Covid-era tradition,” states PAS director Ronna Kalish, “because they were so well received and fun.” The plan is to do one a month, weather permitting, and give each a theme. The season kicked off with a Welcome Back Fest in August, now Hispanic Heritage Fiesta in September, a Monster Mash Fest on Oct. 30 for Halloween weekend, and WomenFest in March for Women’s History Month. Each Fest includes partnerships with NMT and community organizations.
“For the Hispanic Heritage Fiesta,” Kalish says, “we will not require an RSVP or give out assigned parking spaces.” There will be parking available in the north and south Macey Center parking lots. People who are not vaccinated are required to wear a mask; as well as people who are more comfortable staying masked outdoors The planning committee asks that people self-check for Covid symptoms (temperature, shortness of breath, cough, loss of taste and smell) and, of course, stay home if any of these symptoms are present. Volunteers will be collecting contact tracing info from all attendees.
From local luminaries to newcomers, the afternoon will feature a variety of information, music and events with plenty of yummy food featuring the ubiquitous vegetable.
Two of Socorro’s favorite local bands will be featured: The Murillos and Suavecito. The Murillos are a perennial favorite, playing on numerous occasions around Socorro County. Varying combinations of the Murillo family have been playing together for years, according to Richard Murillo who with daughter Tori anchor the group. “Any time anyone needs us, we play. We enjoy playing together as a family.”
Suavecito also is a Socorro favorite, playing various venues including the featured band at Socorro’s annual Fourth of July Celebration. The six-piece band (guitar, bass, keys and drum) now have a CD recording which has sold over a thousand copies. They are working on a second recording.
Two of Socorro’s most well-known and liked locals will contribute in their own styles. Frances Cases, who has served Socorro in varying capacities through the years, is planning to present some skits with local flavor, calling the ad hoc theater group “Las Comadres.” Currently the municipal judge, she is well known for her beautiful voice which has been heard at religious and secular events. Sonny Baca, whose contribution to Socorro is also varied including a stint as sheriff, will relate some of Socorro’s history.
Music demonstrations and workshops range from Ballet Folklorico by two NM Tech students who studied at Baila Baila in Albuquerque, to Latin salsa and cumbia taught by NMT Society of Hispanic Engineering students (SHPE), chile roasting by Nick and Nadine Ulibarri Keller, and ristra making by the Rosales and Jacquez chile farms.
“In our early planning of the event schedule, we included an open mic,” says PAS director Ronna Kalish. With a positive response, the planning committee has now scheduled most of the time slots. Ricardo Berry will perform three historic NM folk songs, his wife Sheri Armijo will talk about the tradition of NM folk dance, among others. For anyone interested in performing a couple of songs, telling a traditional story, or anything that has a local Hispanic flavor, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 835-5688, and “we will hopefully get you on stage,” says Kalish.
Kiwanis Club, led by Val Anaya, will be on hand with traditional Matanza-style New Mexican food, and the Socorro High School food truck will sell street tacos. Local artist B.J. Lesperance is organizing Hispanic arts booths (email email@example.com to participate) and Sheri Armijo will show her Spanish doll collection.
Others involved in this first Socorro Sessions event include Jonathan Carrasco, Society of Hispanic Engineers; Dana Chavez, all around PAS right-hand, Zumba instructor and artist; Gloria Gutierrez-Anaya and Luz Barreras with their infinite knowledge of the local community. New Mexico Tech Hispanic Studies professor Matt Johnson is credited with initiating the effort. And the Catron County Courier is a local sponsor, as homegrown is their business.
An RSVP is not required to attend the Socorro Sessions Hispanic Heritage Fiesta, but be prepared to give your name and phone or email for contact tracing purposes. Bring chairs to sit and listen to music, dancing shoes because you will surely be moved to get up and dance, and interest and support for Socorro’s rich Hispanic traditions. For more information or to sign up to participate, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 575-835-5688, or visit nmt.edu/pas.