A benefit concert was held at CSUN’s Plaza del Sol Theater Saturday, Oct. 25, to raise money for scholarships for Chicana/o Studies students.
“There is no other institution that has contributed more to the field of Chicano Studies,” announced Telemundo newscaster Jose Ronstadt, who served as the master of ceremonies for the event.
The department provides interdisciplinary study but for those that have spent time in the halls of what was once known as Sierra Hall North and is now known as Jerome Richfield Hall today, the student lobby and many of the classrooms have been filled with song.
Most of the performers were “home grown artists” from the Chicana/o Studies Department who came together for the benefit.
Professor Everto “Veto” Ruiz, a resident of San Fernando, performed with many of the original members of Conjunto Aztlan. “In two years, I will have been here at CSUN for 50 years,” Ruiz said.
He also gave credit to the other original members who first met and played together when they were very young and continued their work to support Mexican art and culture. “Rudy Vasquez was the first to bring Mariachi music to the public schools.” Ruiz said.
While now mature, the performance groups were as strong and impressive musically as they had been over the decades.
As Conjunto Aztlan played “Huelga en General” and other songs familiar to the Chicano and UFW farmworker’s movement.The audience clapped along as the group sang the lyrics known for driving the spirit of the “movement”: “Viva la huelga en el fil…Viva la causa en la historia…La raza llena de gloria…La victoria va cumplir.” (“Long live the strike in the field…Long live the movement in history…The people rich in dignity…The victory will win”).
Dancing to the music were members of Ballet Folklorico Ollin, a community-based troupe.
“Over the years, we have performed at so many top venues around the country, but most people don’t realize that we first started many years ago as a class at CSUN’s Chicano Studies Department,” said founder Virginia Diediker, an alum.
Many members of the university’s La Raza Alumni Association were in the audience. “It made me cry and brought back so many memories of our time together as students,” said one member. “We had two criers in our row of seats,” she added, laughing.
Professor Fermin Herrera also brought his years of musical history with the department, center stage. He is a well-known patriarch of a family of talented musicians, and teacher of the Nahuatl language and the complex Mexican harp. Herrera and his family performance group Conjunto Hueyapan is unique, known not only for their musical skill for traditional son jarocho music but for singing songs both in both Nahuatl and Spanish.
Herrera’s daughter Ixya ended the evening with a solo performance, accompanied by the Mariachi Estrella de Jalisco de Ernesto Molina.