July 2, 2010
Friday, July 2
Cuentacuentos (Story Telling)
11:00 AM-12:00 PM Weaving Traditions
12:00 PM-1:00 PM Dance Traditions
1:00 PM-2:00 PM Sin Maíz No Hay Pais
2:00 PM-3:00 PM Cultural Conversations
3:00 PM-4:00 PM Tradition and Innovation Tequila and Mezcal
4:00 PM-4:45 PM Community Enterprises
4:45 PM-5:30 PM A Conversation with Alfredo Ortega
La Cocina (The Kitchen)
11:00 AM-12:00 PM Wixárika Cooking Traditions
12:00 PM-1:00 PM Morelos-style Cooking: Tamal de calabaza
1:00 PM-2:00 PM Candy-making: Dulces de Santa Cruz Acalpixca
2:00 PM-3:00 PM Téenek Cooking Traditions: Tamales
3:00 PM-4:00 PM Mayan Cooking Traditions: Tortillas
4:00 PM-4:45 PM Oaxaca-style Mole
4:45 PM-5:30 PM Xochimilco-style Cooking: Pizza Nahuatlaca
La Fonda (The Inn)
12:00 PM-1:00 PM Mariachi Tradicional Los Tíos
1:00 PM-2:00 PM Palo Volantín Ceremony
2:00 PM-3:00 PM Son de Madera Trio
3:00 PM-4:00 PM Trío Santa Quilama
4:00 PM-4:45 PM Palo Volantín Ceremony
4:45 PM-5:30 PM Son de Madera Trio
El Salón de México (The Hall of Mexico)
11:00 AM-12:00 PM Baile de Jarana from Campeche
12:00 PM-1:00 PM Los Verdaderos Caporales de Apatzingán
1:00 PM-2:00 PM Wixárika Music and Dance
2:00 PM-3:00 PM Chinelos de Atlatlahucan
3:00 PM-4:00 PM Mariachi Tradicional Los Tíos
4:00 PM-4:45 PM Hamac Cazíim
4:45 PM-5:30 PM Grupo de Fandango de Artesa Los Quilamos
July 1, 2010
Dr. Joseph Chang sees the new exhibition, Masterpieces of Chinese Painting at the Freer Gallery as a classroom. And with more than a thousand years of Chinese art on display, the show certainly represents a survey course for the uninitiated.
Last week, Chang, who is a Freer curator of Chinese Art, gave me a tour of the exhibition and I was introduced to hundreds of years of Chinese art history, from the Northern Song dynasty (960-1279) to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
Arranged chronologically, the exhibition gives visitors a sense of how Chinese art developed over time, from the portraiture of early Song dynasty China (the earliest work on display is a hanging scroll from 968, depicting the Bodhisattva Guanyin of the Water Moon that was discovered in a Buddhist cave complex in the early 20th century) to the semi-abstract works by individualist-school painters of the Qing period. There are examples from each of the three major formats of Chinese painting: hanging scrolls, hand scrolls and album leaves (Chang describes them as “almost like a book you can flip”).
Calligraphy and markings cover and accompany most of the paintings. And Chang explained why.
“That is one feature that western paintings don’t have,” he said. The small red markings that are scattered across the paintings are generally not from the artists themselves. They are collectors’ marks, or seals, from each individual who owned the painting, going back hundreds of years. These marks have helped art historians uncover the lineage of these pieces.
In a handscroll entitled, “Horse and Groom, After Li Gonglin” from the Yuan-era (1279–1368), there is a circular seal in the upper right-hand corner belonging to Emperor Qianlong of the 18th century. This emperor is renowned for having assembled the largest collection of Chinese art in all of history. Prominently displayed in the middle of the artwork is the elegant calligraphy set forth by the Emperor, praising the artist, who had died four centuries prior, for his skill in depicting the horse as like that of a dragon or a phoenix, and very powerful.
Calligraphy, noted my tour guide Dr. Chang, distinguishes Chinese paintings from Western art.
And indeed, most of the paintings in the exhibition are beautifully enhanced in calligraphy with poems written by the artists themselves, messages of admiration from friends of the artists, scholars or collectors, and colophons (inscriptions) providing a history of the piece.
“Painting, poetry and calligraphy are considered the three perfections (of Chinese art),” Chang said. “If someone, a scholar or an artist, can do all the three: can compose the poems, can write beautiful calligraphy and do painting and put all the three together that’s three perfections in one.”
That formula, Chang told me, makes many of the 27 paintings in this collection masterpieces.
Chang’s favorite piece is “The Southern Journey” from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The handscroll, done by the highly regarded painter, poet and calligrapher Tang Yin, depicts a musician, a friend of the artist, setting out on a journey to the south. He is riding a donkey and followed by a servant carrying his qin (an instrument similar to a lute). The artist and other prominent scholars wrote poems in calligraphy on the piece wishing the musician a safe journey.
“This piece was like a parting gift that he could bring with him to the south, sort of like a ‘painting of introduction,’” Chang explains. “This is better than a letter of introduction. This is a whole painting.”
“Masterpieces of Chinese Paintings” runs through November 28 at the Freer Gallery of Art. This is a must-see exhibit because in order to protect the paintings from light damage, after six months on display, each painting will placed in storage for five years “to rest.”
To see paintings of the Song and Yuan dynasties, from this exhibit and others in storage, the curators at Freer have developed a special online exhibition.
June 28, 2010
Monday, June 28
El Salón de México (The Hall of Mexico)
11:00 AM-12:00 PM Grupo de Fandango de Artesa Los Quilamos
12:00 PM-1:00 PM Los Verdaderos Caporales de Apatzingán
1:00 PM-2:00 PM Hamac Cazíim
2:00 PM-3:00 PM Mariachi Tradicional Los Tíos
3:00 PM-4:00 PM Los Verdaderos Caporales de Apatzingán
4:00 PM-4:45 PM Hamac Cazíim
4:45 PM-5:30 PM Chinelos de Atlatlahucan
La Fonda (The Inn)
11:00 AM-12:00 PM Cardencheros de Sapioriz
12:00 PM-1:00 PM Palo Volantín Ceremony
1:00 PM-2:00 PM Trío Santa Quilama
2:00 PM-3:00 PM Cardencheros de Sapioriz 3:00 PM-4:00 PM Trío Santa Quilama
3:00 PM-4:00 PM Son de Madera Trío
4:45 PM-4:45 PM Palo Volantín Ceremony
4:45 PM-5:30 PM Mariachi Tradicional Los Tíos
La Cocina (The Kitchen)
11:00 AM-12:00 PM Morelos-style Cooking: Mole
12:00 PM-1:00 PM Candy-making: Dulces de Santa Cruz Acalpixca
1:00 PM-2:00 PM Oaxacan-style Chocolate
2:00 PM-3:00 PM Téenek Cooking Traditions: Tortillas con Mole
3:00 PM-4:00 PM Costa Chica-style Cooking: Pescado a la Talla
4:00 PM-4:45 PM Wixárika Cooking Traditions
4:45 PM-5:30 PM Mayan Cooking Traditions: Tamales
12:00 PM-1:00 PM Craft Traditions and Community Life
1:00 PM-2:00 PM The History of the Chinampa
2:00 PM-3:00 PM Corn Ceremonies
3:00 PM-4:00 PM Family Craft Traditions
4:00 PM-5:30 PM The History of Mezcal
June 26, 2010
When Roberto Martínez Sr. was five years old, around 1934, he would sit on his grandparents’ porch–five miles from his parents’ house and birthplace in Chacón, New Mexico–banging away at an imaginary guitar. He was imitating his uncle Flavio, an accomplished guitarist and singer and a regular performer at family functions. Another uncle, Ray, noticed him at it and constructed a faux guitar for him out of a rectangular, one-gallon gas can, a piece of board for the neck and few thin wires. It was his first “guitar,” but not his last. Not by a long shot.
Despite performing his farewell concert with Los Reyes de Albuquerque last December, Roberto Martínez Sr. will be making his fourth journey to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to perform with his Nuevo Mexicano mariachi group. They take the stage on Sunday. (In 2003, Martínez donated his entire collection of master recordings to Smithsonian Folkways.)
Roberto is 81 years old now, but he can’t get away from music. When I called his home in Albuquerque this week, he had just returned from playing for a senior center in the Sandia Mountains.
“You can’t keep him down,” his youngest son, 46-year-old Roberto Jr., said in an interview.
As a teenager, Roberto Sr. received his first actual guitar and idolized the mariachis and ranchero singers and stars of the Southwest. But he never played seriously until he was an adult, after his service in the Air Force, marrying Ramona Salazar and having his first child. But his first true guitar, a gift from Uncle Flavio, was with him wherever he went.
Roberto Sr.’s first foray into professional music came when the family moved to Denver and met Ramona’s uncle, Jesús Ulibarrí. The two men formed their own mariachi, Los Trobadores, in 1952 after discovering a mutual affinity for the guitar. It helped that they both knew how to play the same songs.
But Roberto Sr. began to notice the divisions between the Latino musicians and white musicians in Denver and how it mirrored those divisions in the community itself. Roberto Sr. recalls opening his copy of the Rocky Mountain News one day in 1957 to find a picture of a little Latino boy with a headline describing how the Denver chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution had refused to let this boy carry the American flag in a school patriotism event, even though he was a citizen of the United States.
Along with other Denver-area musicians, Roberto and Jesús joined Denver radio pioneer Francisco “Paco” Sanchez in protesting the event and campaigning for civil rights.
In 1960, Roberto Sr. moved the family back to New Mexico for health reasons, settling in Albuquerque. Two years later, along with his friends Ray Flores, Miguel Archibeque, George Benavides and Isidro Chavez, Roberto Sr. formed Los Reyes de Albuquerque (The Kings of Albuquerque). Roberto Sr. and Ray Flores are the only members of the original group still living.
The two touchstones of Los Reyes in their nearly 50 years performing, have been civil rights and cultural history.
Soon after moving to Albuquerque, Roberto Sr. realized that most Latino musicians weren’t paid. They were working entirely for gratuity.
“When I formed Los Reyes, one thing that we did was we made a promise not to degrade ourselves by working for tips,” he says. “We didn’t get many jobs for a long time. But … we didn’t charge much but we always got paid.”
The Reyes also decided that they would not be cheap entertainment. They play to educate.
“I don’t mean that our audiences are dumb or anything,” Roberto Sr. says. “But I mean to inform them so that when they left, they didn’t just listen to a lot of songs … we impart on them a little bit of our culture. That’s been one of our biggest goals to promote, perpetuate and preserve the music of Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.”
Two of Los Reyes’ most successful corridos (ballads) were El Corrido de Río Arriba–a tribute to land-grant activistm protesting the seizure of lands held by communities and private individuals in New Mexico and a plea for justice–and El Corrido de Daniel Fernández–honoring a Latino soldier from New Mexico who sacrificed himself for his fellow soldiers by throwing himself on an enemy grenade in Vietnam.
Their music is a reflection of the rich cultural history of Nuevo Mexicanos.
“We’re one of the United States, but we were part of Mexico and before that we were part of Spain for a couple centuries. Add to that the first people that were out here, the Pueblo Indians,” said Roberto Jr., who joined Los Reyes in 1992, at which point included his brother, Lorenzo. “We have all of that in us. In our bloodlines. In our culture. In our language. We speak English, but we speak Spanish too and we’re not going to stop.
“Artists and musicians tend not to care about borders or political disputes. If we like something, we put it in our music. ‘Oh that Irish song? We’re gonna take some of that. That Spanish tune? We’re gonna have some of that. That Pueblo rhythm? We’re gonna put that in there.’ And it shows in the music.”
In the 50s and 60s, Latino musical acts didn’t have a chance with the white-owned record companies. Lots of groups from Albuquerque would change their names from Spanish to gain the attention of the major record labels, to survive. “I wasn’t about to do that,” Roberto Sr. recalls.
Roberto Sr. remembers a conversation with his daughter Debbie “La Chicanita” Martínez when she was gaining her fame as a singer. “I threw it at her, ‘well mijita, you might have a hard time getting a place with La Chicanita.’ And she stood her ground and she said ‘no, no. I am La Chicanita and I want to have that on the label.’ It didn’t make any difference. It sold.”
Not every Hispanic group could pull off such a feat. But Debbie, who died of cancer in 2007, had a voice too big for any group act, a voice that would make her a regional star.
Always an advocate for the underdog and for civil rights, Roberto Sr. opened Minority Owned Record Enterprises, operating out of his home. He wanted to have a free hand in the music he was creating and to help other groups have the same creative freedom.
“He wanted to have an outlet for local Hispanic people to put their music out,” Roberto Jr. said. “Mostly it was a conduit for Los Reyes, but it was also for my sisters, for Debbie, and for the music of my brother.”
Much of Roberto Sr.’s original masters were lost in 1987. The MORE archives, which included many unreleased original recordings, had been located in a closet down the hall from the Martínez family den. One morning, Roberto Sr., in a rush to make it to a children’s day-care facility for a performance, forgot to take out the ashes from the fireplace in the den. Ramona smelled smoke. Thinking it was smoke backed up from the fireplace she turned on a fan. Before she knew it, the entire den was in flames. She rushed out of the house and called 9-1-1. By the time the fire department arrived, the house was nearly completely ruined and much of Roberto Sr.’s collection of original MORE recordings was lost.
Though much of the original material was lost forever, Roberto Sr. managed to rebuild his collection through friends and family. The fire was one impetus for Roberto Sr.’s decision to donate the reconstructed collection to the Smithsonian in 2003. The decision was also spurred by his uncertainty of how he might divide up the collection among his children and his confidence in the Smithsonian.
“I know that my records will be well taken care of there,” he said.
Roberto Sr. was recently diagnosed with stage-four prostate cancer. But he says he’s not “battling” it yet and that he feels “perfectly fine.” Nevertheless, he has decided that soon he will finally put Los Reyes to rest. But, he’s not worried about Los Reyes fading away. It will live on, he says, through all the material that has been left behind.
Los Reyes will also live on through Roberto Sr.’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and all the musicians that made their start with the band. Roberto Sr.’s mission with Los Reyes has always been to support and showcase the younger generation of musicians, so much so that, now, Roberto Sr. describes Los Reyes as a volunteer organization.
At one point or another, Roberto Sr.’s children were all either a part of Los Reyes or performed with the group. On Sunday, Sheila Martínez, Debbie’s daughter and Roberto Sr.’s granddaughter, will be performing with Los Reyes. Lorenzo Martínez’s son, Larry, plays with Los Reyes as well, but will not be performing on Sunday. Roberto Sr.’s great-grandchildren are also musicians. Tino, 14, and Ramon, 9, are already quite proficient in the saxophone and guitar, respectively.
“It’s always great to still be able to play with my dad when we can because we want to keep him around as long as we can and keep making music,” Roberto Jr. said. “But, regardless, we’ll always do that. We’ll play music. We have to do it.”
Los Reyes de Albuquerque is performing at 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 27, at El Salon de Mexico on the Folklife Festival grounds on the Mall. Members of Los Reyes performing include: Tamarah Lucero and Sheila Martínez on violín, Jose “Chino” Carrillo on guitarron, Antonio “Tony” Orduno on guitar and Roberto Martínez Sr. on vihuela. They will be performing traditional music from Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.
June 22, 2010
White House “Crustmaster” Bill Yosses has the weight of the world on his shoulders. The first family’s executive pastry chef has to cook up delectable concoctions to please the picky palates of world leaders from Brasilia to Bangkok. And let’s not forget about pleasing the president’s daughters Malia and Sasha. Smithsonian’s Brandon Springer spoke with Chef Yosses.He will be at the S. Dillon Ripley Center Tuesday night at 6:45 p.m. discussing the sweet life of a White House pastry chef.
I understand that for you dessert has deep connections to American traditions. Can you tell me about that?
Sure, one of the things that I mentioned in the book that I always love talking about is how America, especially even before the revolution, as our country was being formed, was seen as kind of a source of great food. Potatoes, tomatoes, chestnuts, all theses things did not exist in Europe and were found in America. All these were seen by Europeans as a new source, an interesting source, of food. Just as in the 14th century, spices from Asia were the new thing and only available to royalty and the aristocratic class, America was seen as this great source of new food and was looked to for new ideas.
One of the things that was developed here was new apples. The most famous one, that was written about by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, was called the New Town Pippin. That apple was developed in what then was called New Town and what is now Queens, New York. Both Franklin and Jefferson write about this great apple that has no peer and European stock and all that. So, these foods were being celebrated even by our founding fathers who were, in Jefferson’s case and Washington’s case, basically farmers, but gentlemen farmers with very erudite backgrounds. So, that’s why things like apple pie have becomes so much a part of not just our American menu and American folklore, but also, really, our political traditions.
Have your desserts ever had an impact on politics and diplomacy at the White House?
Well, of course! [Laughs] Let me put it this way, I think food in general is sort of a universal. It’s universally appreciated. It has been since people gathered around the campfire. Food has a great civilizing influence. It’s when we stop hunting and we sit down and enjoy food together. It’s also the beginning of community.
In that sense, I think food is an important political tool. And this is the type of thing that was recognized in the early 19th century by Napoleon who hired Antonin Careme, one of the great chefs of that period. And his lavish dinners were used to persuade and cajole a lot of political questions. So, I don’t mean to glorify what we do by comparing them with that opulent period, but yes I think food is a great chance for people to come around a table and relax and talk through their differences. But I cannot point out a single amendment or bill that credit could be given to the strawberry shortcake.
What has been your most, let’s say, fanciful creation at the White House?
I would have to say the Chocolate Easter Village. It’s one we have a lot of fun with. We make an entire village out of chocolate, and little chocolate huts in the shape of eggs, and little creatures made out of marzipan and chocolate. Susie Morrison, my assistant, and myself spend a couple weeks preparing this and it is unveiled at the Easter Egg Roll and the kids get a big kick out of it. So in terms of fanciful, whimsical, I think that would count.
The whole Christmas season for us is a one huge, long event. From Dec. 1 to Christmas, there are several events a day, so we do a lot of decorated cookies and dessert buffets and decorations on that buffet, so that’s kind of our peak period.
How do you meet that balance between your inner artisan and your inner chemist when creating your desserts?
The inner artisan is what it’s all about in terms of creating something appropriate. The great thing about working at the White House is that we have a very cohesive team and basically we are all responding to the direction of Mrs. Obama and so, through her social secretary, we work out the theme of the event, what the food will be and what dessert will be. And this goes down to include as much as the invitations, the tableware, the florists, tablecloths, every department in the White House is involved in this joint process.
So, the artisan in each of us is attuned to what the theme of the event will be. As far as the inner chemist, that certainly has a place in pastry because our recipes are a kind of cooking chemistry and we base them on recipes we have developed, or the favorites of the first family, or are White House traditional recipes.
How often do the Obamas order dessert and what is their favorite?
As far as the frequency, we can say it is certainly not every day and mostly for special occasions. And the family likes traditional American desserts like cobblers and crisps and pies.
Final question: In the White House, does everyone receive their “just desserts”?
[Laughs] Well, I guess if you are philosophical in life in general and believe in Karma, then everyone gets their “just desserts” and I’m sure we’re no different.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would just add this: that as a chef it’s really exciting to be in the food business at this time when Mrs. Obama has put the importance of quality food and the importance of healthy eating in the forefront of the national conversation. Cris Comerford and myself are proud to be part of that effort.
Chef Yosses will also be signing copies of his new book “The Perfect Finish: Special Desserts for Every Occasion.” Praline Bakery and Bistro will be providing tasty treats for the event. Tickets are $25.