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THE NEW YORK TIMES
As American as a Mariachi Band: Celebrating a Latino
by Sarah Boxer
December 10, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All Rights Reserved.
Latino Life in the United States," now on view at the
Museum of the City of New York, is a Family of Man show, upbeat
and uplifting, celebrating the life of Latinos in America, from
birth to death, christening to burial.
Organized by the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service and
the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives, this extensive
and colorful exhibition is arranged by subject -- sports, religion,
family, etc. -- and has the feel of a magazine spread, writ large
and read upright.
That is no accident. Most of the photographs in the show were
taken by photojournalists. And what they have documented is the
up side of life.
In Huntington Park, Calif., José Gálvez took
a photograph of a boy sucking on a bottle and lying on his father's
back while his father lies on his stomach holding a basketball.
In New York, Rita Rivera took a portrait of a police officer,
Lisa Demetriou, and her son, standing proudly with Puerto Rican
flags at the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
As part of a photo essay about a Mexican girl's new life in
Florida, Janet Jarman included not only the shy girl, Marisol,
on her first day of school in the United States, but also her
brother, Juan, a laborer, carrying a crate of strawberries. His
labor doesn't look backbreaking. His eyes smile and a tuft of
his hair springs energetically out of the hole in his backward
baseball cap, like a new shoot.
Never mind that he also looks as if he might be young enough
to be in school himself.
Paul Perez has photographed a piñata bursting in Yuma,
Ariz., catching the follow through of a powerful swing and the
rush of children to candy. And speaking of powerful swings, there
is Antonio Pérez's picture of Sammy Sosa tipping his Chicago
Cubs cap after passing Roger Maris's home-run record (broken earlier
by Mark McGwire).
There are other celebrities,
too: the fashion designers Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta
and Adolfo, the guitarist Carlos Santana, the twin painters Haydee
and Sahara Scull and the salsa queen Celia Cruz.
If the subject of this show is Latinos, why is it called "Americanos"?
Edward James Olmos, one of the organizers of the project, notes
in the exhibition catalogue that the name is meant to show that
Latinos "are an integral part of U.S. society," and
that they are "citizens not only of the United States, but
of all the Americas."
One photograph, taken by Genara Molina in Los Angeles, says
it all: a little boy, Gustavo González, rushes by on his
tricycle in late afternoon light, watched over by a mariachi band
painted on the mural behind him.
Photograph (above, left) from The
Museum of the City of New York
Rita Rivera's "Police Officer Lisa Demetriou and her son
Troy Julio at the Puerto Rican Day Parade."
Photograph (below, right) from The Museum
of the City of New York
Alexis Rodriguez Duarte's "Salsa Queen Celia Cruz With Her
Husband, Conductor Pedro Knight."