Celebrating Mexican American and Chicana/o Culture at the 2018 Northwest Folklife Festival

Folklore Mexicano Tonantzin. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)

Each year, in aligning with our mission to ‘share, celebrate and participate in the evolving cultures of the Pacific Northwest,’ Northwest Folklife features a Cultural Focus to highlight the existing and emerging cultures of our greater community. This year, Northwest Folklife is honored to celebrate the evolving traditions of Mexican American and Chicana/o communities!

Echoes of Aztlán and Beyond explores and celebrates Mexican American and Chicana/o communities from around the Pacific Northwest through stories, art, film, music, song, cuisine, dance, language, and culture. This program aims to showcase, preserve, and recognize traditional and popular arts and culture in Mexican American and Chicana/o communities in our region. Throughout the year, we explore what it means to be Mexican and Chicana/o, starting with indigenous roots, to immigration, the building of communities, and envisioning the future with youth. Audiences will understand the history of the Mexican diaspora in a larger picture of history and development of the region and explore the vibrant art and culture celebrated in today’s communities. Today more than ever, it’s important to share how communities evolve with the ever changing societal and cultural shifts we face as a region.

Over the past 4 years, we have had the honor of working with our Cultural Focus Committee, composed of individuals, professors, culture bearers, activists and local artists, who serve as the consulting council to develop and curate this program. Including members from SEEDArts, Dia de Muertos Committee, the Indigenous Aztec community, La Sala, Bailadores de Bronce and Joyas Mestizas Folklorico groups, members from The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) and heritage artists from around the Seattle area, that is curated and developed by and for the Mexican American and Chicana/o communities.

The Cultural Focus Committee has identified that the main focus of this program will be exploring offering a larger platform for youth to explore their heritage and visualize the future. This is their program.

Northwest Folklife Festival’s Cultural Focus Committee. Bottom row (left to right) Jake Prendez, Edgardo Garcia, Luna Garcia, Francsica Garcia. Top row (left to right) Kelli Faryar, Barbara Rodriguez, Jim Cantu, Ixtli White Hawk, Adrian Olivas. Not pictured: DJ Chilly, Tony Gomez, Fulgencio Lazo. (Photo by Northwest Folklife.)

“In the committee meeting last night,” says Francisca Garcia of SEEDArts, “we were all so excited at this opportunity to look back at what we’ve contributed to the Pacific Northwest, to our home here, to see how deep our roots are, what our ancestors have left us, and to continue passing on our cultural heritage. We talked about the youth and what traditions we want to keep alive. We talked about how great it was to share this with our greater Seattle and Northwest community, to show what we bring to the table. Because Folklife is about all the cultures that are here in the Northwest. It’s about how folks live and express themselves in their own cultural traditions. What makes the Northwest Folklife Festival beautiful for me is to see the rest of the cultures in this region. I get inspired at Folklife by the Irish dancers, the Serbian musicians, the indigenous blessing that opens the festival… All of that is also mine, because I’m American. What we’ll show you is also yours, because we’re all part of the same community. We are the American experience.”

2018 Northwest Folklife Festival poster. (Art by Victor Melendez.)

Many of the Committee’s programming will be featured at the 47th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival, happening at Seattle Center from May 25-28, 2018.

Highlights of the Cultural Focus programming include:

Theatre Presentations

Mexico: The Music and Cultural Attire

Travel around the regions of Mexico through cultural attires, fabrics, and traditional accessories. Saturday, May 26, 3 – 5 PM in the Cornish Playhouse.

Echoes of Aztlán and Beyond: Mexican Folklórico Showcase

Experience traditional Mexican folk dancing as seven Northwest regional ballet folklórico groups showcase a repertoire of regional styles on Sunday, May 27, 3 – 6 PM in the McCaw Hall.

Cultural Cuisine Demonstrations

Cooking Asparagus Tamales

With Felipe Hernandez, co-owner of Los Hernandez Tamales. Felipe Hernandez was names one of five recipients of the James Beard Foundation’s ‘America’s Classics’ award in 2018. Sunday, May 27 from 12:00 – 12:45 PM on the Narrative and Cultural Cuisine Stage: Sponsored by Uber Eats.

Music and Dance Performances

Cultural Oaxaqueño Showcase on Saturday, May 26 from 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM on the Mural Amphitheater: Sponsored by Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Próxima Generación: Youth Residency Showcase on Saturday, May 26 from 6:00 – 7:30 PM in the Vera Project/Gallery

Music Performances

¡Que Viva el Mariachi! on Sunday, May 27 from 1:15 – 1:45 PM on the Mural Amphitheater: Sponsored by Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

A Bailar! Latin Dance Party featuring Banda Vagos, Banda La Mejor and others on Sunday,May 27 from 7 – 10 PM on Mural Amphitheater: Sponsored by Seattle Cancer Care Alliance


Latinos: The Changing Face of Washington

Enrique Cerna, the son of Mexican immigrants, traces his Yakima Valley roots and explores the growing presence of Latinos who are helping to shape the future. Catch this documentary each day of the festival in the SIFF Film center. Join us for an inside look at the making of the documentary on Saturday, May 26 from 1:15 – 2:15 PM on the Narrative and Cultural Cuisine Stage.

Panel Discussions: Narrative and Cultural Cuisine Stage: Sponsored by Uber Eats

Lucha Libre Volcánica! with José Luis Gómez, Lucha Libre Volcánica Luchadores and moderated by Jose Vasquez on Sunday, May 27 from 4:00 – 5:00 PM

Norte Y Sur: A Twenty Year Reflection and Look Forward with Alfredo Arreguin, Lauro Flores, Irene Gomez and special guests. Moderated by Judge Steve Gonzales. Monday, May 28 from 1:15 – 2:15 PM

Northwest Folklife is excited to share this year’s programming with you, as we come together as a community to celebrate the vibrant cultures that make up the cultural tapestry of the greater Pacific Northwest! The Festival will take place on Memorial Day weekend (May 25-28, 2018) at Seattle Center. We are for the people, by the people. In our commitment to making our programs access-for-all, we ask for a suggested daily donation of $10 per person.

To learn more about the 2018 Cultural Focus, please visit our website. To see the full 2018 Northwest Folklife Festival schedule, featuring over 6,000 performers on 26 stages, click here.