Latino artists to be in spotlight
 By Carmen Duarte

Nuestras Raíces offers showcase for storytellers, music, writing

Nuestras Raíces, a second annual celebration of Latino literary arts and film, is featuring musicians, authors and storytellers this weekend at the Downtown Joel D. Valdez Main Library.

A mercado and tamale festival will also be part of the fair that offers fun for people of all ages, said Anna Sanchez, an organizer with the Tucson-Pima Public Library.
"This all came about after a group of Hispanic librarians went to a conference in Las Cruces, N.M.," explained Sanchez of the Border Book Festival, which was founded by author Denise Chávez.
"There were all these wonderful Latino writers sharing their work. There also were Latino films full of dramatic presentations and great storytelling," recalled Sanchez.
The group of local librarians proposed that a festival take place here and the idea took off with community organizations, including Friends of the Tucson-Pima Public Library and El Centro Cultural de las Americas, helping sponsor it, Sanchez said.
Singer and composer Wladimir Pinto, a native of Venezuela, is among the artists that will be featured at the celebration. He plays guitar and percussion and will be accompanied by musicians Amilcar Guevara on piano, Adam Gay on upright base, Rick Peron on trumpet and Pete Cadava on congas.
Pinto, 44, will perform his original compositions from his CD, "Mis Canciones," which he describes as the "culmination of a dream."
The reading teacher at Lynn Urquides Elementary School began working with Tucson Unified School District in 1991. When he was in a regular classroom, he began turning his stories into songs to excite his students about topics they were studying. The music styles include flamenco, cumbia, merengue, salsa and Latin pop.
"Music exhilarates me. I get a rush," said Pinto. "I like to beat a drum. When the song is going well, you feel so good."
Pinto, who received a master's in bilingual education in 1995 from the University of Arizona, laughed when he recalled his undergraduate years in the early 1980s. It was a time when he could not afford instruments. He and friends would use wastebaskets for drums and wooden spoons and a cheese grater for a güiro.
Pinto and his wife, Caroline, 43, who is also a teacher, and their son, Wladimir, 8, travel to Pinto's native Venezuela every two years to visit relatives in Caracas. It's a family tradition for Pinto to play and sing with his parents, Juan, 79 and Lisbia, 68, who also have music running through their veins.
"It is natural for us to gather after dinner in the living room or dining area and start singing and clapping. Someone usually begins to dance and everyone has such a good time," said Caroline of special moments with her husband's family.
● Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at 573-4142 or