Oregon cultural contributions
The cultural and political landscapes of Oregon are quite different in this new century than they were fifty years ago. Today, the Mexican and Latino American presence is well established throughout the state. Supermercados (markets), panaderias (bakeries), and tortillerias (tortilla factories) can be found wherever there is a population of Mexican descent.3 Other Mexican restaurants and taque-rias attract mainstream Oregonians almost everywhere. Latino influence and products are evident in cultural celebrations such as the Fiesta Mexicana, an annual
event in Woodburn since 1964; the annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta in Portland, organized by the Portland-Guadalajara Sister City Association since 1984; and the annual Latino Fiesta of Eugene-Springfield, which started in the mid-1980s. Latino-themed murals are found in Portland, Woodburn, and other cities, and many of these murals adorn Latino social service agencies. Latina artists are featured in art galleries in Portland. Latino music, dance, and theater groups such as the Miracle Theater Company (Teatro Milagro) from Portland and La Grandeza Azteca from Nyssa perform around the state. Begun in June 2006, Latino Gay Pride marked its second celebration in 2007, with more than 500 people in attendance. It featured a combination of speakers and performers, including Multnomah County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey, the folk dance troupe Baile Folklorico, from Forest Grove High School, and the band Lo Nuestro of Eugene.
Spanish-language and bilingual newspapers such as El Hispanic News (published since 1981), El Latino de Hoy (published since 1991) and Noticias Latinas have proliferated in Oregon’s largest cities. La Campeona in Dallas (KWIP AM 880) was the first Oregon radio station to go 24 hours in Spanish; and LaX is a Spanish-language radio network broadcasting in Portland and Eugene. Between Portland and Eugene, seven stations broadcast full time in Spanish among them La Pantera in Salem and KPCN-LP La Voz del Pueblo, PCUN’s own 96.3 FM radio station in Woodburn and two other radio stations broadcast in southern Oregon. La Voz del Pueblo broadcasts in Mixtec, Zapotec, and occasionally in other indigenous languages of Mexico as well. Portland has one Spanish-language television station.
Latino soccer leagues, other sports teams, and sporting competitions (such as the Oregon Basketball Tournament that started in Woodburn in 1986, and the Latinos of Oregon Golf Association) have proliferated with the growth of the population. Soccer leagues are now well established in most communities. A number of towns have Mexican-style rodeos with the participation of charros (cowboys). Mexican music, food, and entertainment are major components of these events.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Latinos struggled to ensure that they could carve out their space as citizens in Oregon’s civic and cultural life. In 1971 Governor Tom McCall created the Advisory Committee on Chicano Affairs (now Hispanic Affairs). Those struggles resulted in new social programs, educational opportunities for children of farmworkers and laborers, and laws against discrimination based on national origin, language, and race.
In the 1980s several nonprofit organizations that provide culturally specific services to Latino children and adults were established. Among such organizations are the Oregon Council for Hispanic Advancement and Catholic Charities’ El Programa Hispano in the Portland metro area; Centro Cultural in the Forest Grove-Cornelius area; and Centro Latino Americano in the Eugene-Springfield area. CAUSA is a statewide grassroots Latino coalition that defends and advances
the rights of migrants in Oregon. Formed in 1986, CAUSA uses a combination of mobilization, strategic research, popular education, actions, media campaigns, and policy formulation to advance immigrants’ rights. Portland VOZ is a worker-led organization that tries to secure and promote members’ rights through leadership development and community education. The mission of VOZ is to empower migrant workers, particularly day laborers. Voz Hispana Causa Chavista is a community-based organization in Woodburn composed of Latino parents, workers, students, small business owners, and community organizers working to register new voters and encourage them to participate in the electoral process. Latinos Unidos Siempre (LUS) is a youth-led organization that works for the educational, cultural, and political development of Latino youth. LUS empowers youth to resist negative societal and peer pressures, advocates for social and political change, combats racial discrimination through grassroots organizing, and builds coalitions with other youth of color. The Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) now has representation in most universities and community colleges of Oregon. In 1995 a Chicano/Latino Studies program was established at Portland State University.
2. Gamboa, 1990, 9.
3. Nusz and Ricciardi, 2003.
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