Sounds of Cultura (SOC): American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music

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The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) brings “American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music” to the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center (ALAC) in Phoenix for the final leg of the exhibit’s 12-city nationwide tour. Francisco X. Gutierrez, ALAC board chair and Elizabeth Toledo, ALAC education director talk about the exhibition.

Jose Cardenas: In "Sounds of Cultura" S-O-C, the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition service brings "American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music" to the Arizona Latina Arts and Cultural Center or ALAC as its known in Phoenix. Joining me to talk about the exhibit are Francisco X. Gutierrez, board chair for ALAC, and Elizabeth Toledo, education director for ALAC. We're going to run some pictures on the screen while we're talking about it. Francisco, tell me first how it came to be that this exhibit that's appeared all over the country, and once before in Phoenix, how it came to be at ALAC.

Francisco X. Gutierrez: We're very excited about the exhibit. ALAC has been around for about five years, but we've been working on it for about 10. I think it's an example of the hard work the board members and the community have done to create ALAC. There's been a great need for the organization and a great response. I think that's why the Smithsonian chose ALAC to have the exhibit there.

Jose Cardenas: We've got some of the pictures on the screen already, looking at people like Carlos Santana in the setting in ALAC, some other stars, Ricky Martin and Gloria Estefan he is textbook ban. What do people see in the exhibit?

Elizabeth Toledo: They are going to see combination of the lives and what these artists, the ones that had more potential to explode here in the United States from different areas, from Texas, from New York, people from California like Carlos Santana. And we also had the Cuban music in Miami.

Jose Cardenas: You've got Desi Arnaz on the screen.

Elizabeth Toledo: She was famous in Florida and all throughout Latin America.

Jose Cardenas: I've seen montages and other things, the crowds you're attracting, I understand the numbers have been very significant. How would you describe the people coming to see the exhibit?

Elizabeth Toledo: We have -- actually have many ages that are coming. I expected to see an older crowd, more of the baby boomers to be there. A lot of this music is from when we were growing up. But the one thing about Latino music is that our children grow with it. They recognize the music. So we've been -- we do have of course an adult crowd, a larger crowd but we have also a lot of children or younger group, teenagers and stuff that really, really relate to the music. It's been interesting. The reaction has been interesting.

Jose Cardenas: Francisco, you've -- in addition to being a board member of ALAC and the head of it, your legal practice, you're in the entertainment business. Any things that surprised you about this, things you think the public at large would be surprised at?

Francisco X. Gutierrez: There are a lot of surprises because it covers the era from the 1940s to the present. I got to meet Selena a month before she died at the music awards. And I had the opportunity to have the great songwriter perform in my office, we had a small reception. It just brings all that together.

Jose Cardenas: We've got the Selena exhibit on the screen right now.

Francisco X. Gutierrez: So to be able to see this exhibit here in Phoenix and to read about it and share that knowledge and education with the community is very exciting.

Jose Cardenas: And Francisco is talking about education. You actually have a specific education component trying to get the schools involved.

Elizabeth Toledo: Yes, we do. We're trying to connect with all the school districts out there for all ages because it's history. It's history of the United States. It's everything is involved in music like in any other art. We have students already that are coming, and we have workshops at -- right there at the gallery. We also can take workshops to the schools. So there are many ways of doing this. The great thing about where ALAC is situated, you can get there with light rail in downtown Phoenix. So it's very good, all anybody has to do is contact ALAC. And we have it in both languages, English and Spanish.

Jose Cardenas: One thing that's really neat that you are doing is this music competition for the young people.

Elizabeth Toledo: There's going to be a music competition May 2nd, Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Herberger Theater. It's open to all ages of students, kindergarten all the way up to college. So you can have groups perform, or duets or soloists, musical or vocal.

Jose Cardenas: And the prize opportunities are?

Elizabeth Toledo: It's a great opportunity, Ford Foundation are the people funding this. It's -- the first prize is $5,000 and then there's five $1,000 prizes after that. There's a lot of exposure for upcoming artists that want to perform. We have this Saturday in fact, which is April 25th, we're going have auditions for anybody that wants to be part of this competition and it's free.

Jose Cardenas: My congratulations to both of you. I'm sorry we're out of time, it runs to July 5th, right?

Francisco X. Gutierrez: Right.

Jose Cardenas: That is our show for tonight from all of us here at Eight and "Horizonte." I'm Jose Cardenas, have a good evening.

Video: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

Francisco X. Gutierrez:Board Chair, Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center; Elizabeth Toledo:Education Director, Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center;

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