September 14, 2022 532 PM
PRESIDIO — Last weekend’s first annual Multicultural Festival went off without a hitch, starting with a parade through town and followed by a wide array of programming from educational talks to dance beats. Vendors representing the area’s diverse cultural landscape offered up a variety of treats and handmade goods. The Convention and Visitor Bureau kept the party going until late in the evening, providing something for everyone throughout the day.
Jumano Nation Tribal Chair Jo Ann Betancourt tabled the event, offering information and educational materials to festival attendees about local Indigenous culture. The Jumanos were one of hundreds of groups who lived in the Big Bend before Europeans arrived — one of Betancourt’s tabling materials was a banner with a list of last names that could indicate Jumano heritage. Common Presidio County monikers like Acosta, Hernández, Luján, Madrid and Peña are all on the list.
Betancourt thought the poster helped get locals excited about investigating their Indigenous past. She explained that lots of folks with roots on either side of the river know that they’re part Native or fully Native, but don’t know where to start looking for more information. “It’s a conversation starter,” she explained. “Jumanos were all over West Texas, but the biggest concentration was here.”
The Jumano nation has had a table at the Marfa Lights Festival for two years running, and Betancourt was the grand marshal in this year’s parade. This weekend’s Presidio event was an opportunity to reach a different local audience. She’s hoping to establish more of a presence in the region by hosting events — a tribal dance seemed like the first order of business introducing locals to their roots. “I don’t think people have ever seen a powwow in this area,” she said.
Other tables at this year’s Multicultural Festival served up homemade food and drink. Presidio High School’s Art Club hosted a bake sale offering cakes and cookies and aguas frescas to wash it all down. Emylee Medrano and Liliana Elguezabal explained that there weren’t a ton of creative outlets for local kids, so they were hoping to raise money for supplies. “Kids need a way to express themselves,” she said.
Though the Art Club students work in a variety of mediums, painting seems to be the most popular. “Everyone loves painting,” Elguezabal said. They had an open gallery at the Slack building earlier this year and are hoping to become more of a presence in the local cultural scene — with a little help from the money raised at the festival.
As the sun set, the event took on a more raucous vibe with help from DJ Maxwell “Fully Maxxed” Ferguson, Roxy Foxy and the Damien Valenzuela Band. A round of karaoke performed by audience members helped rev up the crowd. Candidate for Presidio County Judge Joe Portillo stole the show with a performance of Ramon Ayala’s “Recuerdamé y Ven a Mi.”
Portillo said he’s not much of a karaoke regular and performs mainly for his wife, who begged him to get up on stage when there was a lull in the lineup. The song is significant in their love story — they started dating in high school and broke up for a while until Portillo tried to win her back. “This song is very sentimental to us,” he said. “If you translate it, it’s about a guy that loses the girl and she finds someone else. He tells her ‘If you ever decide I have another chance, give me an opportunity and I’ll come back.’”
His brief time in the spotlight wasn’t the highlight for the couple — they enjoyed sampling foods and learning about other cultures. Portillo was especially glad to see participation from Presidio’s Filipino community, heavily represented in Presidio schools. He was grateful to the Convention and Visitor Bureau for putting on the bash. “This was the first time they hosted the event, but I was so happy to see the whole community come together. It was all so good.”