Las Cafeteras engaged with the community in a pre-concert workshop. photo by Charlie Kanzig
Las Cafeteras engaged with the community in a pre-concert workshop. photo by Charlie Kanzig
Prior to their energetic performance at the first concert of the Sisters Folk Festival Winter Concert Series on Wednesday, January 15, the musical group Las Cafeteras spent about an hour conducting an interactive workshop focused on the support of Latino families in the Sisters School District.

Elementary Principal Joan Warburg welcomed the families in fluent Spanish and Sisters Folk Festival Creative Director Brad Tisdel introduced the band.

Las Cafeteras hails from East Los Angeles, and the group is described on the Sisters Folk Festival website as being “a product and reflection of the diverse, hard-working, politically active neighborhood of East Los Angeles” and that they “present songs of activism and celebration.”

They opened with music, and then engaged the audience in an exercise in which everyone picked a partner and had them share their full name, where they were born, and where their parents were born. Everyone jumped right in and soon laughter could be heard and connections made.

Band member Hector Flores stated things simply after the exercise. He said, “We all come from somewhere and we are all the same because we are all different.” His words set the tone for the evening of the need for interconnectedness as people.

Later the band shared a song called “Senor Presidente” that also served as an interactive activity as audience members were asked to call out what they would do if they were president. Responses included “healthcare for all” and “free college education,” “equality for all,” and “everyone to learn Spanish.”

One band member said, “We are here to help people understand the power of music and how it can bring people together.”

After the workshop Flores said, “The last time we were here we played for young folks and it’s beautiful to come to a community here in the middle of Oregon, where we don’t ever go, and this time it’s good to see a Latino population that’s connected and a community working with the student body.”

He went on, “It’s good for us to connect with Latinos and non-Latinos. Our music is African, indigenous, Spanish, Arabic, and European, so we want to share with everyone,” he said. “Everyone has a story and we are here to share our stories.”

Being part of a minority population and perhaps dealing with language barriers presents a challenge to the Latino population in communities like Sisters. After the music portion of the workshop, the school/community group, dubbed “Latino Family Connections” which is designed to help keep the lines of communication open for Latino families to ensure their children’s needs are being met, gathered over a pizza dinner in the high school library to conduct a meeting to collect information and input from families in order to better understand their needs.

“Our group meets every couple of months to establish with the parents their needs, wishes and desires for their children,” said Dawna Spencer, who works as the English Language Learner specialist for the District. “This input we gather will be used as part of the Oregon Student Success Act funding to help our District prioritize where money needs to be focused.”

Citizens4Community was also involved in the event.

Gabriel Cobos, the community liaison, and Warburg also helped conduct the meeting.

Families received tickets to stay for the concert.

“This band is so famous that many of our families have been talking about this concert and looking forward to it for a long time,” said Spencer. “This is a great thing to have all cultures in our school represented.”

Flores said, “As a band, being children of immigrant families, it’s great to also share with immigrant families. That’s a very distinct experience. For us to show parents here that our band members are the fruits of our parents’ labor. We are educated. We went to college. We have masters degrees and now we are touring the world playing music. Our limitations are endless. We hope the parents here will feel that way for their children and they will push them in the direction of endless dreams.”

Superintendent Curt Scholl said, “Tonight shows the great partnership we have with the Folk Festival to do a culturally relevant activity and use the presence of the Las Cafeteras to bring together our Latino families for another meeting on identifying needs. ”