Washington County Community Profile
Portraits of Oregon Home Page
On July 5, 1843, the Provisional Legislature created Washington County as Tuality District. It was one of four original counties created in Oregon. In 1844, the Columbia River made the northern boundary of Tuality County. The county was bordered by Clackamas County on the east, the Pacific Ocean on the west and Yamhill County in the south. In 1849, the name of Tuality County was changed to Washington County in honor of President George Washington. The area of Washington County is now 727 square miles.
Washington County is one of the fastest developing areas in Oregon. The population in 2001 was listed at 461,119. The development of a large electronics industry during the last two decades has contributed to the economy of Washington County. Other industries are agriculture, lumber, manufacturing and food processing.
Washington County has a large Hispanic population. In 2001 the Hispanic population constituted 11.2 % of the total county census. Five club members with ties to the Hispanic community from the Oregon State University Service 4-H Extension Program explored four Mexican traditions that are also present in Beaverton, Cornelius, Hillsboro and Forest Grove.
Maps and county historical facts verified through the Oregon Bluebook
Washington County 4-H Club Members
The five 4-H club members participating in the Portrait of Oregon project had a beginning level experience documenting community life.
They previously participated in an award winning program from the county called Web Wizards. Extension agent Lisa Conroy and Program Mentor Cecilia Giron introduced the five club members to the Sony TRV900 3cc video camera and Adobe Premiere 6.0 computer editing system. Portraits of Oregon Project Director Carol Spellman of the Oregon Historical Society Folklife Program provided training sessions in documentary video techniques, interviewing and photography. Each club member chose a tradition that interested him/her, made contact with the tradition bearer(s) and filmed them. If a second camera of interviewer was needed club members teamed up with others on their projects.
The video projects took several hours to edit. The film, Tamales, by Denny DeLoya, received an award at the 27th Young People's Film and Video Festival organized by the Northwest Film Center. Three club members attended the 2003 American Folklore Society annual meeting with Project Director Carol Spellman to present thier community documentation project and show excerpts from their videos. Their videos have also been shown at youth film festivals locally and nationally.
Hi, my name is Denny DeLoya. I am a student at Sunset High School. I filmed my aunts while they made tamales. Tamales are a very important celebratory food in Mexican culture. My aunts, Irma and Blanca, make this traditional dish. It was originally prepared by the Aztecs. More than any other food, tamales carry a strong social and cultural significance because they are made in the family setting. Mexican food is like a colorful mosaic. Our food is our heritage from past generations. In my family food provides a reason to get together and have good times.
Making tamales is very labor intensive work. In the video my aunts show the process of making this delicious Mexican food from beginning to end. Tomatoes and spices and roasted chilies are blended to make the sauce. Pork is stewed and cooked. Then the cooked pork is mixed into the sauce and continues to cook for flavor. It is important to mix the masa, or corn flour, for the tamales with water. It takes much water and you knead it together with the masa. The more this happens the better it tastes. Then you take the corn husks and soak them in water. After that you dry them off. You fill the corn husks with the masa and the sauce with meat. You put the corn husks in a tall pan where they are steamed and after a while they are cooked and ready to eat.
My young cousins watch my aunts as they make this food. They learn about the tradition and it is passed on to them. My uncle, Pepe, comments on the whole process. The best part of preparing this food is eating the wonderful tamales with the family.
Miguel Cholula: Documentary Video Maker
My name is Miguel Cholula. I filmed Lo Nuestro, a group of teen dancers who have learned the traditional dances of Mexico under the instruction of Maestro Manuel Ramos. They live in Washington County. The documentary, Baile Folklorico, was filmed at Neil Armstrong Middle School where Lo Nuestro performed for a school event.
I have a personal connection to baile folklorico. I learned how to dance traditional Mexican dances when I lived in Puebla in Mexico. I too learned these dances when I was a teenager. I had just moved to Puebla to live with my grandparents. I just knew my relatives and didn’t know many people. I was shy. I started going to school and didn’t know they had a baile folklorico group but a teacher told me. Because I didn’t have anyone to talk to I thought the activity would be a way to make friends. So one of the teachers invited me to join and it was a great experience. I learned that I had some other skills besides sports. There I learned to dance and learned that I could dance well and so many other skills that I didn’t know I had
Manuel Ramos: Dance Maestro with Lo Nuestro
I interviewed Maestro Ramos for this video. He is the instructor of Lo Nuestro.
Maestro Ramos said,
“I was born in Mexico in the state of Chihuahua. I moved to the United States when I was eight years old but managed to go to school in Mexico for two years before I came to the states. They bring in a lot of the culture into the curriculum in Mexico and that is how I got started dancing. My love of dancing just grew and I came to the United States…when I moved to Hillsboro in Oregon in 1971 I helped a migrant teacher start a Mexican folk dance group in Hillsboro and we were the only Mexican folk dance group in the state of Oregon at the time.”
“I started another folk dance group when I went to college. I just continued sharing my culture. When I received my B.A. in elementary education I continued sharing my culture in my classroom because I believe that multicultural education is very important in this country since we live in a very diverse country. I studied in 1984 at the University in Guadalajara and that helped me with my footwork, the costumes and the regional dance forms.”
“It is important to keep these traditions alive. I need to continue to keep sharing what I know of my own country and pass it on to my children and my students. Hopefully they will pass it on to their children, my grandchildren. That will keep it alive. It is important to bring multicultural activities into the classroom so the students will feel proud of who they are and not embarrassed and keep passing that on to another person.”
Sandra Salazar: Principal dancer
Sandra Salazar is one of the principal dancers in the group Lo Nuestro. I interview Sandra, who is from Ecuador. She is very interested in the Hispanic tradition of baile folklorico.
“I saw some dancers dancing on a stage because they wanted to show the Mexican tradition to students who might not know it or remember the traditions of their country. The thing that I like about baile folklorico is that it is very active and keeps you in shape. You also show the Hispanic tradition and I like to meet people, get involved and we travel to places and it is a lot of fun.”
David Gallardo is another principal dancer with Lo Nuestro.
“ Mexico is divided into many different states and each state has different types of costumes and dances. In the video we have dances from Tamaulipas in the northern region where there is the cowboy influence and in the southern region we have dances from San Las Chiapas and in Nyarit the dances feature strong women because the ladies are so tough and the ladies dances are known because of their tough women there.”
Documentary Video Editor
My name is Natalia Castorena. I spent a lot of time editing the Baile Folklorico video with Miguel. We had several choices to make. Like Miguel, I had danced in a baile folklorico group. I joined in baile folklorico because in my school there weren’t many programs that showed my culture so I wanted to know more about it.
Adan Merecias Cuevas:
Documentary Video Maker
My name is Adan Merecias Cuevas. I made a documentary video on barbacoa de cabaeza called Barbacoa. This tradition of barbacoa or carne asada en un hoyo que se abre en tierra, y se calienta como los hornos (grilled meat cooked in a hole in the ground and heated like an oven) is not only a custom but a cultural event. It took one day to prepare the meat and the corn soup and then it was cooked overnight in the pit that was dug and fired up with hot stones and coals. The next day the Barbacoa feast was eaten and enjoyed by the families involved in making it.
I learned to make a video and edit a video. I spent more than sixty hours making it. The hardest things were adding subtitles, putting music in it and sometimes the project got erased and we had to start over. …but I’m proud of it.
The soup used in barbacoa is made from roasted corn ground on a metate, (a grinding stone and slab). It is added to a base of tomatoes and spices and put in a large pan to cook along side the meat in the pit. The meat barbecued is sometimes lamb, but in this case the family chose to barbecue the cabeza or head of a cow. It is put in the pit as well. All parts of the cow’s head are eaten including the brains, the tongue, and any other meat on the head. Corn tortillas are filled with the meat which is dipped into the special soup. The soup comes out of the pit hot and steaming. Everyone ate it and it was a thumbs up!
The women I interviewed told me about the special things they do to make barbacoa.
“Cooking the food in the ground gives meat good flavor. We use dried leaves of the avocado tree and salt the meat. We grind white corn and put it with peppers in the soup. White corn is used. On the metate you grind the chilies and corn and everything else. The metate gives it a different flavor than using the liquidizer. In Mexico, barbacoa is cooked for a lot of people, up to 200.”
What was important about the Portraits Project? I learned to use cameras and videos to share my culture and to tell the story. Using Adobe Premier and interviewing and going to a barbacoa was a great experience. I interviewed people from the same state I am from, Oaxaca, but their barbacoa was different. I learned about variation in traditions. But their barbacoa and the way I know it all taste good.
I liked working with the editing on the video. I learned a valuable skill and today I am interested in helping others to learn how to edit and make videos. We are starting a club at our school to teach other students how to do this.
A visitation to the University of Oregon,
Las Posadas: House Visiting, Alcides Cerrud: Documentary Video Maker
My name is Alcides Cerrud. I am from Panama but I am interested in the celebration that occurs nine days before the 24th of December (Noche Buena or Holy Night). I interviewed Rocio Espinoza about the tradition called las posadas and made a documentary about how this is celebrated in Washington County. It is a reenactment of the search for lodgings at an inn by Joseph and Mary (los peregrinos or pilgrims). The first step is a candlelight procession where people weave through the streets singing hymns and small children carry figures of the Holy Family. When the procession arrives at a home the leader knocks on the door. Mesoneros, those who act as the innkeepers, initially refuse los peregrinos lodging. Songs are sung asking to be let in and los mesoneros respond in song. Eventually the pilgrims are allowed to enter. They say the rosary and sing more traditional songs. After prayers, there is a party for the children. Food and drink and the breaking of the piñata complete the celebration. For adults there is ponche, a hot beverage made out of seasonal fruits and cinnamon sticks.
Rocio Espinoza came to the United States in 1998. She is a traditional dancer and started dancing at the age of eight with her grandfather in the city of Cuernavaca, Mexico. She learned pre-Hispanic dances. She works for the Library Services in Washington County and this is where I met her when I was volunteering there. Rocio believes very deeply in the importance of maintaining traditions. When I interviewed Rocio about las posadas she told me about the various stages of the celebration. She also shared with me the story behind the symbolism of hitting the piñata. I found this story very interesting.
“I really believe in the community and in the family. For me, to try to celebrate and preserve traditions from the country you are from is really important. In my experience, when the community comes together to do something traditional we are moving ourselves forward as a culture. It is important to come together to make something together. It is important not to be alone.”
“The piñata has another meaning too, other than a party game. It has seven cones around that means the seven sins so that you are breaking them when you hit the piñata. You need to be blindfolded so you can’t see what it is you are hitting because in this world there are sins everywhere and you don’t see them. You feel them but you don’t see them, so when you hit the piñata and the cones break, then you are breaking the sins and you find peace.”
“I just want to let the people know that it is not just las posadas that we have as traditions. We have many others. We need to try to preserve our culture because I want to be proud of it, it is what makes us different from everybody. We need to try to look in one or another way to continue our traditions.
Rocio ended our interview by singing noche de paz (Silent Night). She sang,
Noche de paz, noche de amor,
Todo duerme en derredor.
Entre sus astros que esparcen su luz
Bella anunciando al niñito Jesús
Brilla la estrella de paz
Brilla la estrella de paz
It was a great experience working with video and learning how to make films. It was wonderful to share our culture with other people. I went to a conference in Albuquerque and presented my documentary about Las Posadas that I had been working on for several months. Everyone told me that it was a great project for me to have worked on. For teens like me to be involved in learning about culture is a blessing. When I talked to Rocio Espinoza she explained to me about how Las Posadas is celebrated. Rocio was very helpful and at the same time she shared with me the culture. She explained to me how it is celebrated in her town of Cuernavaca, Mexico.