Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de San José State
By Linda Castillo
September 15 through October 15 marks Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to recognize the contributions of Latino Americans and celebrate the heritage and traditions of Latino culture. This month we are highlighting Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de San José State, a student organization that has been celebrating Mexican culture through traditional dance for the last 14 years.
Looking back to the 2002/2003 academic years at SJSU, it was a time before the César E. Chávez arch, before the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, and before Tommie Smith and John Carlos 1968 Olympics Black Power statue. Students weren’t seeing a lot of cultural and ethnic representation on campus outside of Yoshihiro Uchida Hall. Understanding the importance for students to see themselves recognized on campus, Malenda Wallin Boykin and Judy Carlos founded Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de San José State to address that need.
I had a chance to talk with SJSU Alumni Itza Sanchez, the Artistic Director and one of the founding members of the dance group who has been a part of its growth over the years.
When Itza was recruited to be a part of the group she already had more than 15+ years folklorico dance experience, as well as dancing as an established soloist in a company. She had just returned from studying folklorico dance in Mexico City, and wanted to teach it. She formally applied for the instructor/artistic director position and with much to her excitement she landed the job. As she was going to school for her undergrad degree, graduate work and then continuing on to be employed by the University, the one constant was always her participation in Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de San José State. She has seen it transition from a group of 10 students performing once a year to now 60+ students who do about 50 performances a year.
In addition, the group has improved the quality and caliber of performances they do. It started with their first fundraising event to support the Chicano Commencement and now they are sought after by Silicon Valley corporations including Yahoo!, eBay and Cisco booking the group for Hispanic Heritage Month. The last couple of years Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de San José State has been recognized as a MAS Mexican American Studies Class, a hybrid form of student organization and class with a faculty member and access to rehearsal space. “Because of their work and the excellence of their work is why we are able to get support of the class,” says Sanchez about the students.
Itza is quick to point out and proud of the fact that the progress of the dance company would not be possible without the strong student leadership. “The students and student leaders also play an integral part of growing and shaping Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de San José State. They run the marketing, treasury, social media and because of their collaborative efforts and pulling in the expertise and talent from students is why it’s successful,” says Sanchez.
Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de San José State provides students an outlet for self-expression and cultural exploration. Itza explained that participation in performing arts is just as important as academia by building non-cognitive skills such as time management, team building, confidence and so much more. “Folklorico is a way for them to safely explore and strengthen their cultural understanding. They feel a stronger sense of connection to campus and Spartan pride,” says Sanchez.
“At the end of the day these are all engineering students, business majors and future teachers that are not only pursuing their higher education degree but while they are doing it they are creating a cultural presence on campus and in the broader community as well,” explained Itza.
Anyone who is interested in folklorico is welcome to join Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de San José State.
“We have matriculated students, students who have graduated come participate. You can participate as alumni members and community members who are not SJSU alumni but supportive of what we represent. There is a space for everyone to participate who is interested in this common shared vision and goal,” says Sanchez.
You can see Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de San José State perform at the following upcoming community events:
San Jose Multicultural Artists Guild presents the 19th annual Dia de los Muertos Procession and Festival de Calacas
Date: Sunday, 10/23
The procession begins with attendees gathering at 11:00 am in the City View Plaza across the street from Cesar Chavez Park on Market Street. At noon the procession will make its way through downtown San Jose to the MLK Library on Fourth Street at E. San Fernando. The Festival de Calacas runs from 12:45 pm – 3:30 pm at the library and features ceremonies, a children’s Culture Camp, food and product vendors, the Art of Remembrance altar exhibit, and other family entertainment (like Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de SJSU)
Christmas in the Park
Community Theater Stage, Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park, San Jose, CA
Celebrate the holiday season and the Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe with Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de San Jose in this festive San Jose holiday tradition.
Linda Castillo is a San Jose State University Latino Alumni Network board member and the Founder and Executive Editor of www.ModernLatina.com. She writes on topics that empower and inspire Latinas including art, motherhood, green living, culture, travel, and issues transforming the Latino community. Linda has earned a B.S. in Business and a M.S. in Mass Communications from San Jose State University.