The photo is of my new friend, Dr. Jesus "Chuy" Negrete, who is a well-known musicologist and founder and Director of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Chicago.
He came to Ohio at the invitation of the agency I work for and will be doing a series of his concert "500 years of Mexican/Chicano History through Song" to support the immigrant/migrant workers here.
Dr. Negrete knows the life of these people well. Born in Mexico in 1942, he came to the United States as a child with his migrant worker parents who eventually settled in Chicago. He earned his B.A. and M.A. at the Unversity of Illinois and Chicago State University and his doctorate at the University of California at Berkley. He was also was named a Smithsonian fellow.
Our agency sponsored a fund-raising dinner last Sunday featuring a performance by him so I, of course, had the opportunity to meet and talk with him. He is a very kind, caring and intelligent person who, through his music and great sense of humor, tells the story and struggle of the Chicano people as they made their way north.
We were surprised at the turnout for this occasion because the ten-dollar cost is a lot of money for our clients but one of our case workers had told them that since we had helped them, it was their turn to help others. That they turned out in force as well as volunteering to help was gratifying and told me something very special about our clients. I have been very impressed with how grateful they are for the assistance they get from us. I am even more impressed with their sacrifice to give back and help others.
It was a great evening -- one of my favorite restaurants donated the supper: chicken fajitas, refritos (beans) and pasole (rice). I was in heaven as I joke that I have a Mexican stomach and could live on beans, rice and tortillas.
Chuy's multi-media performance was wonderful and extremely well-received! One of the Guatemalan ladies with whom I shared a table with got a good laugh when she asked me why he kept making jokes about Toledo and I explained that he was teasing me because I'm from there. His performance of "corridos", i.e., traditional Mexican folk music was punctuated with anecdotes and jokes about growing up as a Chicano here in the U.S. kept us laughing, shouting, applauding and singing along. Writer-historian Studs Turkal called him the "the Chicano Woody Guthrie" and I think Studs got it right. Chuy is a true entertainer which explains his popularity on the college circuit.
He came by the office on Tuesday to tell everyone "adios" before returning home and told me he was glad to know I'd be there to help if he ran into a problem when he returned. As I said, he's a very nice man who endeared himself to all of us and we're all looking forward to his return.
A great night out and a new friend!!! It doesn't get better than that!!!