Boise State's Mexico Week: A New Journey in Boise's 'Spanish Town'



For the past 15 years, Boise State has been hosting an annual Canada Week. This year brings in the beginning of what will become an annual Mexico Week. Associate Professor Mac Test, who in the past put together the Latin American Arts Festival of 2011 and 2012, has been the chief organizer behind Mexico Week, which begins Monday, April 7, and runs through Saturday, April 12.

“Now we have concentrated on Mexico and putting together an entire week that includes not only art and culture, but also politics, history and sociology,” Test told Boise Weekly.

A year in the works, Test has been working with the Mexican Consulate of Boise to bring together a slew of artists, government officials, and business workers to fill the program of Mexico Week. A trade panel hosted by the Idaho Department of Agriculture will be presented as part of the events.

“Most people probably don’t know, but Idaho has had a representative down in Mexico, for business and trade, for 20 years now,” Test said. “So we’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of that relationship between Idaho and Mexico.”

Test pointed to the fact that even though Idaho shares a border with Canada, people of Mexican descent make up the majority of Idaho's minority population—representing 10 percent of the Gem State. Mexico has long since played a role in Idaho history, since the late 1800s, when what was called Spanish Town formed in what is now the downtown Boise area.

“They called it Spanish Town, but it was actually Mexicans that were here working in the mining industry,” Test said.

Though initiated mainly by Boise State, Mexico Week events are not solely aimed at students, but rather to the entire Treasure Valley. The events will take place not only at Boise State locations, but also at different locations throughout the community, such as The Cabin, The Arcade, and Washington Group Plaza.

“It’s really not just a Boise State event. It really is reaching out to the community,” Test said. “So the targeted audience isn’t really targeted, it’s everybody.”

Test himself spent 13 years living in central Mexico and, fluent in Spanish, currently teaches translation courses at Boise State.

“The best ambassador for any country is its culture,” Test said.

Grabriela Brizio, officer of cultural education and commercial promotion at the Mexican Consulate, plans cultural events for the community. Brizio has only been working at the Consulate for six months, but feels that with the growing population of Mexicans in Idaho, there will be a great turnout for this event. Brizio worked with Test to develop promotional posters of the event and bring in artists.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Brizio said. “As long as we can promote Mexican artists or talk about Mexican history, that is great.”

One of the artists that will be flying in for the week is Mexico City native Alejandra Regalado. Regalado’s photo exhibition, In Reference To: Mexican Women of Idaho & Oregon, will be displayed all week long at the university's new classroom and office space In Boise's BoDo district, off of Capitol Boulevard.

Regalado’s series was inspired by her own journey as an immigrant moving from Mexico City to New York City, where she went to pursue her career in photography and currently resides.

“In my case, for example, when I moved to the United States, I was able to bring very few things with me, and that made me think of what other woman would have chosen at that particular moment,” said Regalado.

Regalado began this project in New York City, but expanded to other regions of the states to create a more expansive series. The final series will feature 1,000 different photographs.

“After I finished I was really curious about what women from other areas of the U.S. would have brought with them,” Regalado said. Which led Regalado to take her project to places such as Idaho, Oregon, Texas, California and Illinois.

The series is made up of portraits of woman looking into the camera in front of a white background, then next to their photograph is another of an object, also placed against a white background.

“Each object represents her connection with Mexico,” Regalado said. “It could be either an object that’s traveled the immigration journey, it could be something that they brought up or that somebody sent them.”

The framing and set-up of the photographs is very deliberate and meant to create a more accessible story to a wide audience.

“The format is inspired by identification pictures,” Regalado said. “The objects are inspired by how archeological artifacts are catalogued. Both together, the aesthetics, I was looking for something that is familiar to any audience.”

For each woman and object photographed, there is an accompanying text, written by the woman featured, that tells the story of why she chose her object and how it connects her to Mexico.

“I am really thrilled and honored to be able to show for the first time this project for Mexico Week,” Regalado said.

When Regalado originally came to Boise to work on this project, it was during the time of the Latin American Arts Festival that Test organized.

“It tells me that there is continually interest in these kinds of projects and in Mexican culture, particularly in the Boise area,” Regalado said.

Test is confident that Mexico Week will be able to continue as an annual event for years to come.

“I think now is the time to bring it about and, of course, make Idaho and Idahoans aware of the larger world that exists beyond our borders,” Test said.