Monday, September 12, 2011

Food, Music and Fun = Progress

I am a firm believer in planning your work, then working your plan. However, sometimes in life plans go awry and you find yourself flying by the seat of your pants instead.

That was what happened to us this past weekend at Hunterdon Hispanos. We spent months planning a wonderful outdoor event on a farm as a kick-off to Hispanic Heritage month and to raise awareness for a cause near-and-dear to our hearts. And then Irene came to visit, followed in quick succession by sister Katia and little brother tropical storm Leo. New Jersey has been waterlogged for weeks now (and in some places still is) and the forecast for our event was . . . wait for it . . . more rain!

Tough decisions had to be made. The event was moved from the farm to our office on a slightly smaller scale, but, we hoped, still a very fun day for one and all. We had great food provided by Flemington Swine and Dine a passionate key note speaker, Doctor Nelson Turcios, one of the leading Pediatric Pulmonologists in New Jersey, who spoke of his incredible journey from a childhood of poverty in El Salvador to his many achievements as a physician. And, to truly make it a party we had Cimarrones as our musical guests.

Cimarrones is a bomba y plena group based in New Brunswick, NJ, founded by Nelson Baez and his wife, Magda. The name Cimarrones means run away slaves, which is a tribute to the historical context out of which bomba developed on the sugar plantations of Puerto Rico. It is a joyful, spontaneous, interactive mix of afro-carribean drum rhythms, song and dance.

Despite all the stress of moving the event, there was a vibe that day that is difficult to put into words. Passion was in the air, and inspiration. When the music started and the drums began to pulse, suddenly the diverse group came together as one. For me, the highlight of the day was when one of our girl scout volunteers, who had never seen or heard Bomba in her life, jumped in and danced with happy abandon.

The moral of this story is when we come together as a community, there is no challenge too great to overcome. Add a little music, some good food and pretty soon what was a problem is now a party. What were challenges became opportunities and those who came together as strangers left as friends, all of us energized around the goal of bringing the HISPA role model program to our area.

Our rained out picnic became a wonderful first step on a longer journey, the ultimate beneficiaries of which will be school children here in Hunterdon County. I'm looking forward to all the possibilities to come.

The magic of Bomba, bringing people together 

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