Over the past 45 years, Northwest Folklife has had the opportunity work with leaders, organizers, teachers, elders and various community members who have helped us celebrate the unique arts and culture that make up our Pacific Northwest community. We would like to highlight some of the many groups and individuals that we work with, to put a face to the people who really help to make Northwest Folklife possible–because Northwest Folklife truly is all about your communities, your traditions and your folklife.
This is ‘Faces of Northwest Folklife’
Born and raised in Mexico, Edgardo Garcia first moved to the United States at the age of 22, bringing his culture and heritage with him. “Because I was born & raised in Mexico, it is what shaped me to be what I am,” says Edgardo. Since moving to Seattle in 1991, he has found ways to both celebrate his heritage (proudly identifying himself as Mexican), while discovering other unique cultures that Seattle has to offer. He is a volunteer, festival producer and committee member of the Dia de Muertos Committee and an integral member of our 2018 Cultural Focus Committee.
In 2001, Edgardo was introduced to the Dia de Muertos celebration when he attended his first event at Cooper-Boren Elementary School. “I was fascinated to see one of my most memorable celebrations from my childhood in Seattle–so much so that I wanted to be part of this event that also lifted my spirit as an immigrant in this city,” says Edgardo. In 2003, he joined Casa de Artes as a volunteer, helping to produce each Dia de Muertos celebration.
Since then, Edgardo joined the Dia de Muertos Committee, which took over the production of the annual Dia de Muertos Festival, in 2012. “Being part of Dia de Muertos Festival has helped me to find out more about my self in many ways. As a Mexican, it gave me the opportunity to rediscover some of the history and traditions that revolve around this celebration that I didn’t know about.”
“I also learned how valuable and precious it is to honor the memory of our loved ones, which has become [an important] time to reflect on my life, year after year. It has reminded me where I am standing and what I have achieved day by day–especially being away from my family members and the place where I grew up called home.”
He says one of his favorite aspects of this annual festival is that it allows him to continually learn from the ways in which people practice this tradition. The beliefs and practices of the Dia de Muertos tradition, as in the case of many traditions, can slightly differ from family to family and from community to community. Thus, through the annual Dia de Muertos Festival, Edgardo is able to meet with many people and learn about what this tradition means to them. This, he says, brings him great joy.
While taking part in traditional Mexican celebrations has given Edgardo an opportunity to truly reflect on his heritage and identity, he also takes pride in being able to share this with our greater community. “Being part of the celebration of Dia de Muertos Festival has given me the opportunity to reshape my identity as Mexican and being able to share my heritage in my second hometown here in the Puget Sound and its residents.”
“What moves me the most is the fact that this is the most memorable celebration that I had as a child,” says Edgardo. “It was not just time to visit the grave of my grandmother and father, but also a time to see my family that lived in the province. The cemetery was more than a place to rest in the afterlife; it also was the place to celebrate life–to reconnect with the living and remind us that no matter how distant we are, we still are part of something that neither time nor distance will separate.”
In addition to his role in organizing the annual Dia de Muertos Festival at Seattle Center, Edgardo has also been involved with Northwest Folklife since 2013. “Every day, I remember that being part of an event like Northwest Folklife Festival has opened a new door to see the world in a positive way,” says Edgardo. “[It is] where I can share stories and live out experiences that I never thought I could have enjoyed before. It also gave us the chance to invite under-served performers to participate.”
This year, Edgardo, along with the rest of our wonderful Cultural Focus Committee, have gathered as a community to curate Northwest Folklife’s programming to best reflect our 2018 Cultural Focus, Echoes of Aztlán and Beyond: Mexican American and Chicana/o Roots in the Northwest.
“This is how I came up with the title of Echoes of Aztlán and Beyond,” says Edgardo. “According to history in what is now known as North America, Mexico and the U.S. have always weaved a cultural exchange for hundreds of years. In the myth that states the city of Aztlán existed somewhere that is now U.S. territory, a group of people headed south on a journey to find the promised land that was chosen by a deity. Eventually, this group founded Tenochtitlan, or what is now known as Mexico City. Since then, trade and culture have continued to travel between the North and South, and now it has become more than just trade–it has also created a constant migration back and forth. It is also a part of the growing process of new cities and societies. The flow of people and culture moving through generations between Mexico and the U.S. has not stopped, as the echoes of wave sounds that continue moving through time and space.”
Through Northwest Folklife’s 2018 Cultural Focus, we hope to work closely with our Cultural Focus Committee to showcase how this flow of Mexican American and Chicana/o culture, heritage and tradition have continued to echo over time and generations.
Along with Edgardo’s passion and dedication to sharing and celebrating Mexican culture, he also looks toward the future generations to continue passing on these traditions and cultural celebrations. “My advice to younger generations is to get involved in cultural activities in order to learn more about the world in which we live in. It opens the doors to new possibilities and to learn from others. It is a chance to become a better person. It helps you to make better decisions and discover more about yourself.”
Edgardo continues to teach us that learning and experiencing your culture is a lifelong journey–one that takes patience, creativity and community-building. He shows us that cherishing your culture and your community is integral to every aspect of your life. It takes place on a stage, in a festival, in your home and can be shared with every person you meet. Thank you, Edgardo, for all of the work you do for both the Mexican community and the greater Pacific Northwest communities!
This is Edgardo Garcia, and we are proud to call him a part of Northwest Folklife.