Western Folklife Center Seeks Corridos and Vaqueros

For Immediate Release: June 05, 2007
Contact: Darcy Minter
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   Western Folklife Center Seeks Corridos and Vaqueros in Nevada,
Oregon, Idaho and Washington

Elko, NV -- The Western Folklife Center is launching a new project that explores the tradition of performing and composing corridos (a Mexican ballad form) and the traditions of Mexican ranching culture practiced in the western United States and Mexico. In June and July, Folklife Center staff will be traveling throughout northern Nevada, eastern Oregon, southern Washington and central and western Idaho, documenting the arts of ranching life such as handcrafted horse gear, traditional music and songs (especially corridos), visual art, poetry, traditional cooking, and other occupational ranch skills and folklife. The Folklife Center is looking for people of Mexican heritage with knowledge of Mexican ranch traditions in the American West. If you would like to be interviewed for this project, or know of someone else who should participate, please contact the Western Folklife Center at 888-880-5885 ext. 231. 

The recordings and photographs that result from the Western Folklife Center’s research will become part of the permanent collections of the Folklife Center’s Archives and will be used to develop an exhibit and cultural programs focused on Mexican ranching traditions during the 2008 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. By interviewing those who keep Mexican ranch culture alive in their homes and families, and sharing their knowledge with people who want to learn about Mexican culture -- the Western Folklife Center hopes to help bridge cultural differences and contribute to mutual understanding in a changing West. 

Ethnomusicologist Juan Díes will be conducting the majority of this fieldwork. Originally from San Luís Potosí, Mexico, Díes earned an MA from the Indiana University Folklore Institute. He has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in a variety of communities in three continents and served as Research Curator for the 2006 Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s Nuestra Música: Latino Chicago program. Also a musician and recording artist, he is Executive Director of Sones de México Ensemble in Chicago. 

In addition to the field research on corridos and Mexican ranching traditions, the Western Folklife Center will also produce corrido composition workshops for high school students in the Nampa/Caldwell area and a corrido contest for the general public in Nampa this summer. In the workshops students will learn about the historical roots, themes and structure of this traditional song form through listening to and studying popular corridos, and writing their own corridos to commemorate a personal or community story. The corrido contest is open to the public and will showcase original and traditional compositions. It will take place at 3:00 pm on Sunday, July 15, 2007 at the Hispanic Cultural Center of Idaho, 315 Stampede Drive in Nampa. Anyone interested in participating in the corrido contest, please call the Western Folklife Center at 888-880-5885 ext. 231. 

The Western Folklife Center will make high-quality recordings of the corrido contest and will offer a free CD recording of each song as a gift to the participant. Selected songs will be included on a CD that will be released later this fall on the Folklife Center’s Deep West Records label. Cash prizes will be awarded to the best original corridos in various categories as well as the best performances of traditional corridos. The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage will be documenting the Idaho event for their upcoming online exhibition Música del Pueblo, which will feature a national panorama of profiles of Latino musicians in their community settings.  

These programs are made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and the Nevada Arts Council with support from the Idaho Commission on the Arts, Oregon Historical Society Folklife Program, Radio Bilingüe, and others.

Producer of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for 23 years, the mission of the Western Folklife Center is to enhance the vitality of American life through the experience, understanding, and appreciation of the diverse cultural heritage of the American West.