Florida State Representative Mario Diaz-Balart wearing his “Kiss Me, I’m Cuban” button: Tallahassee, Florida (1990)
September 15 marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the history, culture and contributions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking countries of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson began Hispanic Heritage week; President Reagan expanded the observation to a month in 1988; it was enacted into law August 17 of that year.
Jesus Rodriguez playing the Venezuelan harp: Naples, Florida (1988)
The date on which National Hispanic Heritage Month begins is significant as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all celebrate the anniversary of their independence on September 15. Mexican Independence Day closely follows on September 16, and Chile’s falls on the 18. Also included in this month-long observation is Columbus Day on October 12.
Governor Bob Martinez signing a bill: Tallahassee, Florida (July 1, 1987)
The following resources relevant to National Hispanic Heritage Month are available on Florida Memory.
Florida’s close proximity to the Caribbean islands has introduced a variety of rich cultural celebrations to the state. In this podcast we explore some of the music that grew out of the Bahamian Junkanoo parades as we listen to the Key West Junkanoos.
Employed by the City of Key West, the Junkanoos were led by bassist Bill Butler, pianist Lofton “Coffee” Butler, and featured percussionists Charles Allen, Kenny Rahming, Joe Whyms and Alvin Scott. They appeared often at the Florida Folk Festival from 1977-1991.
Key West Island Junkanoos peforming at the Florida Folk Festival: White Springs, 1983
The origin of the name Junkanoo is a matter of debate. Some say it is derived from the name of 18th century African Gold Coast leader John Connu. Others have looked to similar sounding phrases such as the French for “masked people,” gens inconnu. Bahamian Junkanoo parades can be traced back to the 1800s when African slaves would gather, don masks, and celebrate with music and dance on Christmas Day. The parades have evolved to become huge tourist attractions and occur in two stages or rushes: the first on Boxing Day (December 26) and the second on New Year’s Day. This tradition was carried to Key West and Miami by Bahamian immigrants of African descent.
The Key West Junkanoos have distilled the sounds of the parades’ marching bands into their own repertoire of original material, as well as performing classic Calypso tunes such as “The John B. Sails,” “Island in the Sun” and “Yellow Bird.” The recordings in this podcast are from the Junkanoos’performance at the 1983 Florida Folk Festival’s Main Stage.
Julian Edwin “Cannonball” Adderley playing the saxophone: Tampa, Florida
Saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley was born September 15, 1928, in Tampa, Florida. He attended college at Florida A&M University, and taught music at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale.
In 1955, Adderley moved to New York, and began a successful career as a performer. He led groups that included his brother, cornetist Nat Adderley, as well as many other notable musicians such as Bill Evans, Milt Jackson, Art Blakey and Philly Joe Jones. As a sideman, he appeared on classic recordings such as Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.
Cannonball Adderley died from a stroke in 1975, and was buried at the Southside Cemetery in Tallahassee, Florida.
Thelma Ann Boltin, affectionately known as “Cousin” Thelma, was a storyteller, emcee, teacher and long-time director of the Florida Folk Festival. Her dedication to sharing Florida’s folk traditions brought diverse groups of artists to the festival each year, and established the festival’s reputation for celebrating unique and varied cultures.
Born in South Carolina, she was raised in Gainesville and taught theater in schools and community centers. Here’s a clip of Cousin Thelma discussing the history of the Florida Folk Festival and various folk tales.
Tour boat guide Wilbert Gavin: Wakulla Springs, Florida
Alligators, snakes, rare birds and Native exoticism are all pinnacles of Florida’s tourism industry. Wakulla Springs State Park offers visitors the chance to experience all of these things and more under the guidance of clever and knowledgeable guides. In this month’s podcast we’ll examine the oral traditions of the Wakulla Springs boat drivers.
Sandgren family enjoys a glass bottom boats: Wakulla Springs, Florida (1946)
Glass-bottom boat tours are certainly not exclusive to Wakulla Springs. They have been a long-standing attraction in Silver Springs, Homosassa Springs and Rainbow Springs, among others. Boat tours in Wakulla Springs date back to the late 1800s. Right up through recent history, descendents of the first boatmen of the Springs have followed in the footsteps of their forefathers, and their chants, jokes and stories have been passed down through the generations.
Henry the pole-vaulting fish at Wakulla Springs: Wakulla Springs, Florida
Now keep your hands and arms inside the boat, and enjoy the mysterious waters of Wakulla Springs!
Mary Smith McClain, also known as “Diamond Teeth” Mary for the jewels she once had embedded in her teeth, or “Walking Mary” for her notorious renditions of the “Walking Blues,” was a blues and gospel singer. Born in West Virginia, she began her singing career at the age of 13 performing in medicine shows as well as alongside the likes of her half-sister Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. In 1960, she settled in Manatee County, Florida, married her husband Clifford, and became a devoted gospel singer.
Mary McClain singing gospel: White Springs, Florida (1983)
Diamond Teeth Mary was rediscovered by folklorist Steven Zeitlin in the 1980s, and performed regularly at the Florida Folk Festival from 1981 until her death in 2000. Her renewed fame brought additional performances across the United States and Europe, including the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C. She received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1986.
The Memphis-born bluesman Keith Brown lays down an excellent rendition of Furry Lewis’s “Judge Harsh Blues” at the 2000 Florida Folk Festival.
Earlier that year, Brown held residency at the Bamboo House in Lake Worth, and recorded his debut album Got to Keep Movin’. In addition to his music career, Keith Brown has portrayed blues legends on film, including Son House in Stop Breakin’ Down and Skip James in The Soul of a Man.
Eddie Massena from Rasta Samba Gynin playing conga drum during Jamaican Independence Day festival: Miami, Florida (1985)
As part of their research, the Florida Folklife Program selects and surveys a particular region or tradition. The Dade Folk Arts Survey was conducted from 1985-1986 by folklorists Tina Bucuvalas, Nancy Nusz and Laurie Sommers with the goal of finding folk artists to bring to the 34th annual Florida Folk Festival. Many of the recordings found in the collection are the result of fieldwork conducted by folklorists. Their findings are extensively documented through field notes, sound recordings, photographs and video.
Manolo Franco playing Venezuelan harp during a rehearsal: Miami, Florida (1985)
This podcast contains a sampling of recordings from the Miami-Dade region as found in the Dade Folk Arts Survey. While Latin American, Haitian and Jewish cultures were most prominently represented, the survey also covered a wide range of traditions, including shoe rag popping, Middle Eastern music, Jamaican stories and dance, and Irish fiddling.
Klezmer musician Jaime Bronsztein performing at the Traditions Festival: Miami, Florida (1986)
We hope you enjoy the variety of traditions captured in the Dade Folk Arts Survey, and look forward to sharing more fieldwork from the Florida Folklife Collection in the future.
Having worked in traveling medicine shows and vaudeville revues since the age of five, Abner Jay (1921-1993) rightly described himself as the “last working Southern black minstrel.”
As a solo performer, this one-man-band played banjo, bones (which he describes during the introduction to “Rattle These Bones”), harmonica, and percussion while singing traditional field songs, Pentecostal hymns, and minstrel tunes alongside eccentric original material. Abner Jay traveled down the Suwannee to White Springs from his riverside home in Georgia for the 1977 Florida Folk Festival, and gave the audience a memorable history lesson on American music.
Guitarist Doc Watson died on Tuesday at the age of 89. Hailing from Deep Gap, NC, his impressive flat-picking, deep baritone voice and gift for storytelling captivated audiences around the world. Although he didn’t begin his professional musical career until the age of 40, Watson grew up playing a variety of styles and instruments. His willingness and ability to embrace and interweave a broad spectrum of genres earned him many prestigious accolades, as well as a long list of collaborators and fans.
We look back on Doc Watson’s legacy with a podcast featuring his performance with Jack Lawrence at the 1996 Florida Folk Festival’s Old Marble Stage.
Florida Memory is funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services.