In Pioneer Cemetery there is a simple, thigh-high headstone with a one-word epitaph: Papa. The headstone marks the grave of one of Idaho's most prominent citizens, a self-made man who revolutionized the mining industry, contributed heavily to the development of Boise and its economy and who was instrumental in the Basque community's choice to settle in Boise. He was the J.R. Simplot of his day. But you may never have heard of Jesus Urquides, the best mule packer Idaho has ever known.
"The history of the Latinos was left out of the history books," says Ana Maria Schachtell, a local Latino leader.
After helping to translate a book about Jesus Urquides, Schachtell decided to do something about it. Together with Errol Jones, a history professor emeritus at Boise State, and the Mexican Consulate, she began to put together a program of Mexican songs called corridos--folk songs that were traditionally used to spread news or recount oral history--telling stories of Mexican history in Idaho.
The project started with Jones assembling 25 worthwhile stories. Schachtell then reached out to musicians she knew to translate the stories into song. She also approached Idaho Commission on Arts. Everyone approached thought it was such a good idea, that they suggested other participants, until 18 musicians joined the project.
After months of work, the result is a collection of dreamy Spanish guitar ballads following the official format: an introduction, a request for permission to tell the story--"Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song"--then a chronological recount of events, finally thanking the audience and saying farewell, often with a metaphor. Those songs will be performed in a concert at Boise State on Saturday, Sept. 11, to celebrate 150 years of Latino history in Idaho.
"It's going to be a very ... Bohemian-type concert, where the musicians sit in a circle to sing the corridos," says Schachtell.