Community Day at UTPA celebrates life along the Rio Grande
Posted: 10/07/2003
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Area residents learned more about the culture and traditions of the borderland during El Río Community Day, Saturday, Oct. 4 at The University of Texas-Pan American.

Community members listen to Bene Layton, musician from Elsa, as he talks about his experiences living along the border area.

The special event was part of El Río - a Smithsonian binational traveling exhibition celebrating the cultural heritage of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo basin that is being featured at UT Pan American until December 13.

"The reason we planned this community day was because we wanted the people who were the actual subjects in the exhibit meet with the community," said Juanita Garza, history lecturer and cultural scholar. "They are holding discussions with the audience about what life along the border means to them."

Among those being featured during community day were Antonio Manzanares, a sheep rancher from Los Ojos, N.M.; Julius Collins, shrimper from Brownsville; Jose Isabel Quiroz, lechuguilla weaver from Saltillo, Coahuila; Juan Luis Longoria, Melecio Longoria and Hildebrando Lopez, all cattle ranchers from San Isidro; Arnold Herrera, drum maker from Cochiti Pueblo, N.M.; Jesusita V. de Jimenez, adobe builder, Presidio, Texas; Rita Morales Alvarez, maquila worker from Matamoros, Tamps.; Cirilo Gauna Saucedo, instrument maker from Santa Catarina, Nuevo Leon; and Bene Layton and Rubén Hinojosa, traditional musicians from Elsa.

Each individual was given the opportunity to meet with community members and explain what they do for a living. Layton, who has been a musician most of his life, told audience members that music has been something he and his family have used to remain united.

"We don't see it (music) as work, it is so much fun. It is somewhat like therapy for us," Layton said. "Our music theme now is 'Celebrating with Family for over 45 Years'."

Dr. Olivia Cadaval, program curator for the Smithsonian Institution, said the exhibit was created to bring different people together from various parts of the river who share similar backgrounds.

"These people have lived through many changes in culture and we want them to pass this on to the next generation," she said.

For more information of El Río or for touring, contact 956/381-UTPA.