First Mexico Week focuses on Idaho's largest minority

A partnership between BSU and the Mexican Consulate spotlights culture, business, history and border issues

awebb@idahostatesman.comApril 7, 2014 

  • MEXICO WEEK: A FEW HIGHLIGHTS

    Monday

    "In Reference To: Mexican Women of Idaho & Oregon": 6 p.m., 301 S. Capitol Blvd. Boise. Exhibit and lecture by Alejandra Regalado, who photographed women and the physical objects they chose to bring when they left Mexico. On display until Saturday.

    Tuesday

    Public address: 6 p.m., Boise State Special Events Center.

    A representative of the Mexican office of the Secretary of Foreign Relations speaks.

    Wednesday

    "From Acá to Allá and Back: Leaving, Loving and Legislating Across America's Southern Border": 6 p.m., Student Union Farnsworth Room. A talk with Nathaniel Hoffman, co-author of "Amor & Exile: True Stories of Love Across America's borders."

    Thursday

    Reception: 5:30 to 7 p.m., Washington Group Plaza, 720 Park Blvd., Boise. Celebrates 20 years of the Idaho-Mexico Trade Office and its director, Armando Orellana. Cost: $10 at the door.

    "Frida Kahlo: Her Life and Art": 6:30 p.m. Student Union Simplot C Ballroom. Artist Alma Rosa Gomez examines the life and art of the renowned Mexican artist.

    Friday

    "Trade and Business with Mexico": 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Washington Group Plaza, 720 Park Blvd., Boise. Students may attend free, except for $10 lunch. Cost to the general public is $25, including lunch. Attendees must RSVP to monique.wilson@agri.idaho.gov or 332-8535.

    Saturday

    Mexican poet Valerie Mejer: 7 p.m., The Cabin, 801 S. Capitol Blvd., Boise. Bilingual reading from Mejer's new book, "Rain of the Future."

Boise State University has hosted an annual Canada Week for more than a decade. This year, it's turning its focus southward: Mexico Week is Monday through Saturday.

"This is not a one-shot deal. This will be ongoing at BSU," said Errol Jones, a history professor emeritus and one the organizers of Mexico Week.

Jones describes himself as a "Mexicanist." His academic writings have focused on the country for many years.

"We've got two minors on campus that relate to Mexico," he said. "We have a huge population of Mexican-Americans on campus and in the state."

Residents of Mexican descent make up about 10 percent of Idaho's population and are the fastest-growing minority in the state.

This is the 20th year that Idaho has had a trade representative in Mexico. It's the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Mexican Consulate in Boise, which is joining with the university to present Mexico Week.

DEPARTMENTS COME TOGETHER

Mac Test, a professor in Boise State's English Department, is another organizer of Mexico Week. He lived in Mexico for several years, has translated several works in Spanish and headed past Latin American Arts Festivals on campus that brought painters, filmmakers and others to Boise.

He began meeting with Jones. Jones had met with officials at the consulate when it opened and knew they were eager for more community outreach. The idea for Mexico Week began to come together.

"We wanted to get the campus, the community, as well as the consulate involved and to expand beyond the arts," Test said.

He wanted to help dispel the narrow ideas some people have about Mexico as a country of beach resorts and migrants.

Mexico Week is the collaboration he was hoping for. The Idaho Humanities Council gave the project a $5,000 grant. Five colleges at the university - from arts and sciences to education - also have contributed.

"Some of the greatest enthusiasm is coming from the business department," Jones said.

"Trade and Business with Mexico" is a full-day conference Friday at Washington Group Plaza, the complex that houses the consulate.

ARTS AS CENTERPIECE

The week's program is broad and inclusive, but the arts retain a central role.

"In Latin America, artists are often considered the ambassadors," Test said.

Mexico Week opens with "In Reference To: Mexican Women of Idaho & Oregon," an exhibition of photographs and a lecture by Mexico City-born artist Alejandra Regalado, who now lives in New York.

Regalado was an artist-in-residence through the Latin American Arts Festival in Boise in 2012. Her work features portraits of women, along with a photograph of an object each brought with her when she left Mexico for the U.S.

One example is a Boise woman whose object of choice was an Aztec calendar on bark paper that she brought from her home in the state of Guanajuato.

The idea for the project came from Regalado's own experiences when she moved to America and had to leave many belongings behind.

"You know you will build a new story in a new place, but there is also a need to touch the past," Regalado said.

She spent seven weeks photographing women in and around the Treasure Valley. She found her subjects through the consulate - some were women who came to the Boise office for assistance with passports and other issues - and St. Mary's church Rev. Jesus Camacho, who leads services in Spanish.

"It was interesting. Some women told me they had never had a formal portrait taken," Regalado said. "In some cases, three generations of women came together."

After photographing women in Idaho and Oregon, Regalado shot similar portraits in New York, California, Texas and Illinois.

"Idaho has a special place in my heart because it was the first place I traveled and photographed in the U.S.," Regalado said.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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