Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The word bracero is derived from the Spanish word brazos meaning 'arms.' Braceros worked with thier arms, their strong arms harvesting the fields of America's west from 1942-1964. The Dayton Memorial Library at Regis University, in partnership with the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, hosts this fascinating exhibit of this part of US/Mexican history from August 18---October 28. The braceros also worked for railroads and maintained tracks. The library is open until 12 midnight now for the semester since the students are flocking back to campus for another exciting year. So there is no excuse that you could not find time to come to the library. The Regis exhibit commemorates the 70th anniversary of the start of the Bracero Program in Colorado. The exhibit is entitled "Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program 1942-1964," and traces the history of the program which engaged nearly 5 million Mexican workers to come to the US and work in agriculture. Pictures on the Smithsonian traveling panels offer a wide range of memories of this almost now forgotten part of American history. Workers look out from the pictures with strength and pride and love of hard work. The US unilaterally ended the program because many felt that these workers took jobs away from American workers. Professor Ramon Del castillo wrote a poem for the exhibit and read it with passion. Dr. Nikki Gonzales, Regis professor and daughter of Chief Joe Gonzales of the Denver Fire Department, headed up the Regis side of the exhibit. Fr. John P. FitzGibbons, S. J., the new president of Regis, reminded the crowd that Regis was proud to host this exhibit. He then quoted from the psalms about helping those most in need and respecting the foreigners in our midst. Fr. FitzGibbons's words showed us how the exhibit speaks out to us today. Dr. Charles Collins, University of Northern Colorado, mused at the opening of the exhibit aboutf his experiences with braceros who worked on his family's farm in Greeley. Interested folks will have another chance to hear Dr. Collins talk further on Thursday, August 30th at Casa Mayan House, 1020 9th Street Historic Park on Auraria Campus. 12:30-1:30 PM. Regis is sponsoring several other speakers and panels throughout the semester. You can check it out at www.regis.edu/exhibit. I hope you will embrace the Bracero Exhibit at Regis. While you are in the library, visit the Santo Chapel on the 3rd floor holding some of the finest religious Santo art in the country. Tell all your amigos.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Jane Jacob's in her axial work on what makes America's cities special, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, talks about the importance of church neighborhood events for building community, an understanding of diversity, looking to civic renewal a bright future, turning things from darkness into light. While Jane probably never attended St. Rocco's Festival in North Denver, the yearly summer processions sponsored by Italian fraternal organizations at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church fit like a Venetian velvet glove within her theory. Church festivals and processions through the neighborhood build diversity for residents. They bring a spirit of renewal, gene unity, a yearly spiritual cleaning after all the sorrows, the family fights, the crime, any harms which beset a neighborhood during the year. I really look forward to the processions at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on 36th and Navajo. I smile so much my face muscles begin to hurt. I see lots of friends from high school and students from Regis. My cousin, Captain Brian Gallagher, DPD, always volunteers to do traffic control for the procession. Grazzie mile, Brian. Let me share with you why this festival engenders such great fun and an amazing uplift to our spirits. I believe Marie Dispense invited me to my first St. Rocco's festival when I was a freshman in high school with her beautiful daughter, Mary Carole. I wanted to be there, if Mary Carol with her bobby socks rolled was going to be there. I didn't want to be square. I wanted to be "cool." When I was in high school, being Italian equaled "cool squared." The Potenza Lodge takes charge of the St. Rocco procession. The saint's statue with his sporty Tyrolean hiking cap gets gently hoisted on a portable platform and placed at the entrance of the church surrounded by kids, flowers, and flags. A small dog is carved into the St. Rocco statue because of the oral legend passed down for centuries now for mother to daughter and fathers to sons in Potenza, Italy. St. Rocco injured his leg and a dog came to him and tended unto him. St. Rocco's finger points to his wounded leg healing with the assistance of his dog. I am surprised the groups seeking protection for animals have not picked up on St. Rocco. Before the procession the faithful can pin money to an scarf placed around St. Rocco's neck, like a bride's dress at a traditional Italian wedding. The belief holds that the money becomes a petition for healing, for forgiveness, for help with a marriage, for the kid to get a job, for the economy, as divine providence healed St. Rocco. The money becomes a prayer. St. Rocco, deliver us. Remember the band in The Godfather when Michael gets married in Sicily? I swear that band flew in for the St. Rocco procession. The hearty band's music really livens the whole festival up. The band builds tension and increases the take for the church allowing bidders time to collaborate how much they want to give this year. St. Rocco, spare us from the recession. The band plays and the bidding begins. Who gets to carry the statue? Families begin bidding for the privilege of carrying the saint's statue through the neighborhood. Tension builds, the band plays again, families confer and pool their resources. Families bid again, the tension builds more. This is an election year, competition is good. Families can also bid on who gets to carry the flags, the American flag always gets the highest bid followed by the Potenza Lodge procession banner. Finally, to me the most touching part of the whole festival and procession, can be found in youngsters from the church giving flowers to women along the procession route. You just don't get this pastiche in Cherry Hills Village and other gated communities. So thanks to Potenza Lodge and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church for blessing Denver such ethnic old world diversity. And St. Rocco, send us some rain, por favore.