Words by Jo Ann Andera, director of special events at UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures. Andera has directed the Texas Folklife Festival since 1981:
A lot of the original groups have been aging out, and the younger generation’s interests are very different. With the construction and remodeling of the Convention Center and Hemisfair, our footprint has changed. For us the most important consideration was that we did not want to lose a single participant that traditionally had a space on the part of the Folklife Festival that changed. A couple of groups dropped out because they were aging and didn’t have the physical ability to build a new space. In some of the groups the younger generation moves away for college, they get jobs, and their interests are different. The Folklife groups form because they share a common culture, language and history. These younger people have a global community – they don’t need that close-knit community support. Their support is Facebook.
However, the Festival continues to diversify with new immigrant communities coming to our state and San Antonio. We’ve helped grow a lot of our groups because we have made it possible for them to meet other Argentineans, other Peruvians, other Chinese, other Koreans. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for them, and of course, for the Institute. These groups are part of the story of Texas, and we tell the story of the people of Texas. Everybody talks about immigration and the early years and the struggle. These new immigrants are pioneers as well. It takes great courage to leave your homeland, to get on an airplane and come to a brand new world where you cannot understand a word anybody is saying, and the culture is different, the weather’s different, the food. They are very courageous. I think that many of them are so proud to be on American soil – they feel like they have made it.
I don’t know what our future is in Hemisfair – I think they are planning to create something here that will be a magnet for downtown living and to create a sense of community. The Institute is an iconic anchor, the building and what it stands for is one of the few institutions that has retained its identity since the Fair. Whatever happens, I think the Institute will be part of it because of its history and its reach into the community, not just San Antonio, all over Texas. It was a pavilion during the Fair, but then it became an educational institution that does research and archives a fantastic photo collection. ITC is a very important piece of Hemisfair Park, and it will be a key part of the Hemisfair neighborhood, enriching the neighborhood.
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