The Gilroy Rotary this week kicked off Hispanic Heritage month, which runs from Sept. 15-Oct. 16 and celebrates the great diversity of our town.
It was organized by furniture magnate Jaime Rosso and educator Rachel Perez, who is running for the Gavilan College Board of Trustees. The celebration started with one of the all-time great mariachi bands, Mariachi Estelar, performing in Spanish with a special request in English (Elvis’s “Angel Baby”). Mariachi Estelar is led by Jorge Rodriguez and was established in Gilroy by Jose & Anna Montes and their family. They train new students at the Gilroy Mariachi Academy.
One of the singers stunned the audience by holding a note for what seemed like five minutes. Rodriguez explained to listeners the background and history of the music. It was an education about what many in the non-Latin minority of Gilroy have heard, but may not have understood for its subtleties and techniques. The singer explained how he held the note and the practice and skill in doing something so seemingly impossible using his “chest voice” and his “head voice.” Some people are born with the ability, he said, and others take years to achieve it.
The show was as educational as it was fun. Rodriguez got the audience to sing along, even those with limited Spanish. This is a band everyone should book for parties and at $400 a gig, they are a steal!
Jose and Anna’s daughters, Geraldine and Moriah, played exquisite violins and sang tight harmonies that soared to the heavens. They are studying at Santa Clara University and spreading the gospel of mariachi there. Moriah will be taking over the mariachi program at the University that Geraldine’s boyfriend Anthony Angeles started there.
Speakers included Father Jose Rubio from Saint Mary’s, who baptized both of Jaime’s daughters and Rachel’s oldest daughter. Father Rubio gave the history of Hispanics in the United States since the 1800s.
He talked about Jose Franco, who was born in Gilroy, went to Gilroy High School, graduated from Boston University and went on to become a superior court judge in Santa Clara County. Franco is one of only six Latinos to become a superior court judge in the United States.
Another important speaker was Art Baron who is the president of CARAS, the community agency for Resources, Advocacy, and Services, which promotes social justice and Latino culture in the county. Art has sat on the Youth Alliance board, planning commission, Gilroy Prep, Leadership Gilroy Board, and was involved in South County Housing. CARAS will be hosting their annual Tamal Festival Oct. 2 in Downtown Gilroy.
It wasn’t just mariachis and yummy food. Another highlight of the day was the presence of Gilroy resident Theodor Carpenetti who turns 100 on Saturday, Sept. 17. His nephew is a Rotarian from out of state and brought his uncle to lunch as a treat. On Friday, the Gilroy Senior Center will be celebrating his century.