In the high-falutin’ world of fine art the word “pedestrian” is used as an insult. But pedestrians ruled the first Friday of September when the streets in downtown Eugene were closed to anyone on wheels. Kesey Square was transformed to an outdoor club where bands such as Pura Vida Orquesta and El Relámpago Musical played until after dark, providing a rhythm for the entire evening.
The music, with people dancing to it, was the heart of this party. Though everyone who helped fill the area around the intersection at Broadway and Willamette — dancing, sitting at the tables in the street, meandering among the booths or in line at one of the food trucks — helped kick off Eugene’s fifth annual Fiesta Cultural, a series of events that celebrate Latinx heritage, culture and art throughout Lane County this fall to December.
The phrase “something for everyone” comes to mind (as does Bill Hadar’s SNL character Stefon): Children swatted a piñata, mariachi musicians played in front of Sizzle Pie, a man in full costume in the center of the intersection demonstrated roping in the tradition of charreria (a Mexican event similar to rodeo); a young man with Eugene Printmakers burnished ink onto a plate using a roller the size of a lawn mower.
Among the information booths was Lane Arts Council, the agency that presents Fiesta Cultural along with City of Eugene Cultural Services. They provided information about the festival, which that evening included a bilingual guided tour of art galleries and weaving demonstrations. Radio station KLCC had a booth. They host the show Ahora Si! (Now yes!), the oldest Spanish-speaking public radio program in Oregon. It airs on Sundays. Liz Torres, one of the hosts, was on stage introducing the bands.
Aron Gonzales represented minor league baseball teams Eugene Emeralds and Los Monarcas de Eugene — they’re the same team! The team’s website explains it this way: “For six games at PK Park, the Emeralds will transform into los Monarcas de Eugene, complete with new uniforms, food and music…” The Monarcas’ butterfly logo serves as a symbol, Gonzales explained. It celebrates our migrant population.
Raul de la O gave me a line drawing of a guitar-playing skeleton to color and spoke to me about the nonprofit he was affiliated with, Juntos, which helps people overcome substance abuse issues.
“I’m going to take your picture,” he said. “Is it okay if I publish it?”
“Yes,” I replied. “I’m going to take your picture. Is it OK if the paper publishes it?”
Among the arts and crafts was Suzanne Algara’s Buganvilla Imports, whose booth was filled to the rim with pieces inspired largely by Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). You might not recognize the name of her business because she doesn’t have a store in town. She usually sells wholesale to museums and gift shops.
“Everything’s handmade,” Algara said. “I work with 35 artists in Mexico.”
Rosio Diaz sat behind a comparatively modest amount of works made by her, boxes and plaques created with aluminum and wood and designed and inspired by motifs from Aztec or Mayan art. One plaque featured an image of a heart and a handshake; one hand was brown, and the other peach- colored.
“In times like these,” Diaz said, “It’s especially important…”
No politician or policy was mentioned by name, but Lane Art Council’s press release echoed Diaz’s sentiment. “We need this,” it said about the celebration of Latinx culture, “particularly right now, and we need one another…”
See a schedule of related events: LaneArts.org/fiesta-cultural