SAN BENITO — Yes, you can go home again.
Jose Alvarez knows this through his own experience, and he made his point so very clear Saturday at the “Beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration with Merienda.”
The event at the San Benito Library drew about 30 people interested in learning more about Hispanic Culture through speakers and musicians. Joe and Rosa Canales Perez brought their “Rumbo al Anacua” to the event and Jesus Perez delivered some very eloquent Spanish poetry. Gloria Rivas, a retired UTRGV professor, also spoke.
A merienda is a sort of coffee break, which in this case also included lots of fresh pan dulce.
People were touched by two stories written by Jose Alvarez, a native of Cuba who has lived and worked throughout the world. He wrote about his father immigrating from Spain and the letters he left behind.
“Thomas Wolfe said, ‘You can’t go home again,’” Alvarez read. “But these letters rekindle memories of my happy childhood and open my eyes to my father’s life in Cuba as an immigrant.”
Joy Arnold had heard this and other stories by Alvarez many times and she always enjoys them.
“I know those stories well and I loved hearing them again,” he said. “I really and truly enjoyed the music. I’d never heard Rosa and Joe Perez perform before.”
Rosa and Joe as always made a great duo with their rich, earthy voices mingling with their guitar music. They played a “must hear” favorite “Stonewall Jackson Blues,” composed by Rosa Canales Perez.
She was pleased with the turnout.
“It was pretty good from what I could tell,” she said. “I heard Jesus Perez read his poetry and it was in Spanish and it was very good. Of course I enjoyed Dr. Rivas’ trip through her academic experience.”
Rivas did, indeed, share some powerful reflections with the audience.
“I shared some personal experiences of how I came to have a better understanding of Hispanic Heritage Month,” she said. “Having grown up here in the Valley I thought everybody was like me, Mexican-American, or Anglo. It wasn’t until I moved away and was in college that I really had an opportunity to learn about other cultures. I spent several summers at Harvard and I met some wonderful people from Cuba and Puerto Rico.”
She also recalled a Chicano from California who taught her a whole different perspective on what it’s like to be of Mexican descent.
The message caught the attention of many, including Diana Morales.
“I really liked Dr. Rivas talking about the cultures and how we’re not just one people but we come from many facets of life and there are all kinds of Hispanics,” she said. “We all have our own stories to tell. I thought that was really interesting.”
And so was Jose Alvarez’s story about plans for relatives to visit him in March.
“We each have several letters and pictures,” he said. “We plan to sit here in Rancho Viejo and call Michael in California to enjoy reading together the letters from my father. We’ll be home again.”