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Virtual youth storytelling event will focus on Hispanic heritage

Performers will range in age from 6 to 18

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Isabela Esperanza Teresa Gonzalez, left, Gabriela Aranza Teresa Gonzalez and Brianna Marie Pena Begay display some of the stories they'll be reading during the inaugural Hispanic Heritage Virtual Youth Storytelling event next weekend.
  • The event will feature approximately a dozen young people relating tales in Spanish and English.
  • The event will be featured on Zoom, with all the participants performing their segment from home to maintain social distancing.
  • Organizer Flo Trujillo used to work on the annual Four Corners Storytelling Festival at the Farmington Public Library.

FARMINGTON — Flo Trujillo figures everybody has got a story to tell — whether it's a tale that was related to them by a grandparent, or a whopper they made up to avoid blame for that time when they broke a lamp during childhood.

And that's a big part of what makes storytelling such a popular and enduring pastime, she said. Trujillo is retired from her position as youth services coordinator at the Farmington Public Library, but she spent many years working on the library's Four Corners Storytelling Festival, a formerly annual event that was discontinued last year.

Trujillo missed that event and thought its absence left a void in the community. So in her capacity as president of the Northwest New Mexico Arts Council, she dreamed up a new event that engages young people in the art of storytelling as part of a celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which began Sept. 15 and continues through Oct. 15.

The inaugural Hispanic Heritage Virtual Youth Storytelling event will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26, and will feature approximately a dozen young people relating tales in Spanish and English. The event will be featured on Zoom, with all the participants performing their segment from home to maintain social distancing.

Flo Trujillo

"Arts and theater are very important to our community," Trujillo said. "So, I thought, 'Why not get the kids involved in something on Zoom?'"

Trujillo said she had written a grant request for a storytelling event early this year to an organization that funds cultural events. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her application was denied. That's when she got the idea to modify it for a virtual setting and resubmit the idea to the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation, the Farmington-based nonprofit group that helps fund various local arts-related enterprises.

The foundation approved her request, and the Hispanic Heritage Virtual Youth Storytelling event became a reality. The participating students range in age from 6 to 18 and hail not just from communities throughout San Juan County, but also Albuquerque, Hobbs and Española.

"It's a great way to have the kids do something fun and engage with their families," Trujillo said.

Trujillo said she has been working with the performers for the past few weeks, and she acknowledged that many of them are nervous about appearing before what they all hope is a large, albeit online, audience.

"I don't know how they'll do," she said, laughing. "They've all been practicing and having fun, but for many of them, (Spanish) is not their first language. I can tell which ones actually speak it or just hear it spoken in their homes."

Trujillo likes to joke that she is fluent in all 33 languages in New Mexico — one Spanish-English, or "Spanglish," dialect for each county, she says — and looks forward to the different variations she will near next weekend. But she is serious about hoping the event inspires entire families to gather in front of the computer for two hours of enjoyable listening.

Isabela Esperanza Teresa Gonzalez, left, Gabriela Aranza Teresa Gonzalez and Brianna Marie Pena Begay will be joined by several other students from around the state in performing during the Hispanic Heritage Virtual Youth Storytelling event next weekend.

"I think it's important for all the families to be engaged," she said, explaining that storytelling events also help promote literacy. "I don't want just kids plastered in front of this."

She also believes the experience of performing will offer the participants a chance to develop greater poise and enhance their presentation skills in a virtual setting – something they'll likely need for quite a while as the pandemic lingers and more and more events are held in that format.

"I hope they'll have more confidence to do presentations (virtually)," she said.

The list of students who will perform includes Diego Mathieu of McCormick Elementary School in Farmington, Young Miss New Mexico Latinita Gabriela Aranza Teresa Gonzalez of Piedra Vista High School in Farmington, Isabela Esperanza Teresa Gonzalez of Piedra Vista, Young Miss Mexico U.S. Latinita Brianna Marie Peña Begay of McCormick Elementary, World Teen Miss New Mexico Tourism Valeria Marquez of Bloomfield, Miss Teen Kirtland Beauty Latina Mina Hazen, San Juan County Beauty Latina Anna Hazen, Atsa Biyah Deja George, Miss Teen New Mexico Beauty Latina Jennifer Felix, Little Miss Latinita New Mexico Mariana Falson and Makena Montoya of Española Elementary School.

Trujillo wants the event to inspire organizers in other communities to develop storytelling events of their own that are tied to cultural heritage. As of late last week, she said she had received several requests for the event's Zoom link from people around the country who had become interested in it.

To watch the event, email nwnmac1@gmail for a Zoom invitation or visit https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81991980779?pwd=ZjFGNmMwdFQ0S2JndStuTWU3ODZrUT09. The event also can be seen on the Northwest New Mexico Arts Council Facebook page.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.