Mercedians were treated to the opening ‘plactica’ (Spanish for discussion) for the Caminos exhibit at the Multicultural Arts Center in Downtown Merced this past Sunday.
For those who have yet to hear about or experience Caminos, it is a historical look at the origins and movements of Latino people in California.
The exhibit traces the caminos of Latinos through the valley from the explorations of the Spanish and Mexican periods of Alta California to the transformation of the valley in the Early American period. It follows the growth of Mexican immigration in the 20th century, boosted by the Mexican Revolution and the Bracero Program.
The exhibit and its occasional programs highlight Latino history that is now braided into Valley history and relevant for everyone.
Before last Sunday’s discussion, the exhibit curator Nancy Marquez gave attendees a guided tour through the exhibit. While going through the many displays on your own is a great experience, it is particularly special when the experience is joined with all of the extra context and bonus facts. The display covers such an extensive period of time, that they have no choice but to trim/limit what they put up, and this is a chance to fill in those gaps. If you would like to do the same, and get a personal tour from her, she will be doing it again for each of the remaining scheduled discussions on Sept. 24 and Oct. 29.
Local mariachi performer, Arturo Barajas, was on hand last Sunday and he serenaded the audience with a few traditional tunes. He even invited the audience to join him in song, with most of the crowd promptly joining him as they too loved and knew the lyrics.
Once Barajas was finished, he passed the spotlight over to Dr. Alex Saragoza, the historian responsible for Caminos, to discuss the overall message of the project as well as cover the origins and early movements of Latinos as they moved through and influenced the culture of California.
In his talk he started all the way back when the Spaniards first made landfall in the Americas in the 15th century and followed their progression north over the following centuries to modern times. While doing so, he carefully explained the rationality behind of the different Latino peoples’ cultural norms as well as circumstances. Things such as how Latinos became the predominant agricultural labor force of the Americas, why they ended up where they did, and what it is (and was) like growing up nowadays in the Valley. More than that, the focus of the discussion was around the importance of storytelling in addition to the difficulties of choosing what stories are told (in addition to how they are told).
“Caminos is a great opportunity for me to discuss the multiplicity of factors that influence the Mexican community, which depends on their many interactions with other races and groups—which include interactions with other immigrant groups, those who also worked here in Merced , regardless of race, creed, or color.”
When speaking with the Times following his talk, Saragoza had this to say about the discussion as well as his exhibit as a whole, “Caminos is a great opportunity for me to discuss the multiplicity of factors that influence the Mexican community, which depends on their many interactions with other races and groups—which include interactions with other immigrant groups, those who also worked here in Merced, regardless of race, creed, or color.”
He continued with the following message for the community: “I wish the Merced community would appreciate the Courthouse Museum, headed by Sarah Lim, more. I would like the Merced community to go to the Multicultural Arts Center more often, and — even though it may risk being too self-serving — I hope that [the community] would come to my remaining lectures in the following months.”
Those lectures are scheduled for Sept. 24 and Oct. 29., from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., at the MAC, 645 W. Main Street in Merced. Gallery Hours: Wednesday-Friday, 2 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Call (209) 388-1090, email: [email protected], or visit: www.artsmerced.org.