by Francisco G. Gómez
Recently I was asked why Raíces’ mission had strayed so far away from the Arts. As all things evolve through the processes of experience, connections and new understanding, I pondered the question for a moment before answering. For the last five years the Center has come to understand the close relationship between Ecology, Culture, Food and the Performing Arts. And, while it is true that we have been dedicating lots of time to sustainable agriculture practices and the environment, we haven’t forgotten our Roots; after all, Raíces is the name of our organization.
After the hundreds and hundreds of programs, events and performances we have sponsored or done ourselves throughout the years, there has always been two things that were present in all of these activities, food and/or music. In the Caribbean it is usually both and those cultural traditions have followed us very closely throughout the diaspora.
Whether you’ve sat at the Shabbat table to tell or listen to stories while you slurped down some matzah soup or you held hands while you sang a song of thanks before breaking bread, these practices are not new to any of us who have cultural values that were probably instilled at a very young age. Even Amadeus earned his few florins for bread, wine and the good time composing while he partied. Here are two great articles on the subject of food and music:
Some of my fondest memories are of my Abuelita (Grandmother) who would always have the radio tuned to the Spanish station WADO while she cooked Moros y Cristianos (black beans and white rice) or some other incredibly delicious dish. She would sing along to some Bolero (slow song) or Són (Cuban rhythm) to make the culinary task more pleasurable and tasty. It was the best time of youth; Abuela’s table was the place where we learned about God, Orichas, Ancestors and life the way it was before the Cuban Revolution of 1959. It’s where I first heard about the vicissitudes that poor people in Cuba endured in a time when words like sustainability and ecology weren’t of much concern to most people. But, without even knowing or understanding, Abuela was explaining things that many people on this planet are concerned and talking about today!
In the present epoch, where the fast food hamburger, hotdog, burrito and all the other junk food out there reigns supreme, we must question what food and music was and is now. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I remember the waitress bringing the tray over to our car while she was on roller skates and Chuck Berry’s Johnny Be Good was blasting through the loud speakers. Yes, that was culture too – American culture that is! Those were cool times also, even though it was the genesis of the crappy food system that we have today.
So in response to the question I was asked, I explained to the young lady that Raíces was now practicing Eco-Culture, learning about wholesome organic food and growing an abundance of the same. That we are attempting to cultivate sustainable living habits and yes, lots and lots of music to augment what we all ready knew and what we’ve recently learned!