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[whitespace] How to Stay Rooted

Cultural heritage-finding it and keeping it

By Mary Spicuzza

A TOWN WHOSE LARGEST SCHOOL is nicknamed the University of Caucasian Spoiled Children, Santa Cruz has at times been accused of talking about cultural diversity without actually having it. True, plenty of locals can only trace their roots as far back as a childhood trip to the Boardwalk. But Santa Cruz also flaunts a tradition of commitment to diverse ethnic identities, as seen in long-standing cultural institutions, ranging from Watsonville's stunning Ballet Folklorico de Mexico dance troupe and downtown's Poet & Patriot Irish Pub. More than just a spot to have a beer, the beloved Poet offers a chance to hear tales of faraway lands by its visiting speakers--or just to prop yourself on a stool and listen to bar owner Chris Matthews' tales of New Jersey.

Perhaps some manifestation of millennial fever fuels an exciting flurry of new ethnic organizations, fairs, festivals and performing troupes in Santa Cruz. While some are stocking up on dry goods and building a Y2K survival bunker, others are plunging into Brazilian Capoeira dance classes or checking out the Loch Lomond Celtic Society--acknowledging that knowledge of the past is the best base for a successful future. A resident accredited genealogist and the wide world of the web mean that even those without tales from the Old Country or anecdote-spinning ancestors can connect to the motherland.

Mary can trace her roots to Termini Imerese, Sicily, and County Cork, Ireland.

American Historical Society of Germans From Russia
Hosts dinners, picnics and gatherings to talk about history and genealogy of Germans from Russia. (796.0790)

Brazilian Centre for Cultural Exchange
Hosts Yemanja Festival, annual event celebrating the goddess of the sea, as well as offering lessons in Capoeira dance and Portuguese language. (426.1473)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Website offering free genealogical services.

Genealogist Karen L. Robert
Researches ethnic heritage and is available to write up a family book complete with photos. (768.0212)

German American Hall
230 Plymouth St., SC (425.9367)

Henry J. Mello Center for Performing Arts
Hub of activity for local arts, including regular performances of Mexican folkloric dancers.
231 Union St., Watsonville (763.4047)

Italian Catholic Federation
Hosts regular events for Santa Cruz's large Italian community. (427.2575)

Loch Lomond Celtic Society
Hosts annual Loch Lomond Highland Games, monthly educational meetings, and Robert Burns nights.
PO Box 509, Felton, 95018 (479.1508)

Marconi Civic Club
Long-standing Italian-American organization, led by Fred Moro for 28 years; hosts dinners and fund-raisers and organizes trips. (423.7958)

Hosts annual Kwanzaa celebrations and regular events honoring the African American community.
PO Box 1433, SC, 95061 (454.1478)

Portuguese Community Hall
124 Atkinson Lane, Watsonville (728.4789)

Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church
Annual Greek festival, baklava sales featuring homemade treats created by the women of the local Orthodox community.
223 Church St., SC (429.6500)

Internet's oldest and biggest free genealogy website.

Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds
Agricultural History Project, regular square dancing and annual county fair.
2601 East Lake Ave., Watsonville (724.5671)

Sons of Italy
Longtime leader of Santa Cruz's Italian community. (426.6473)

Temple Beth El Jewish Community Center
3055 Porter Gulch Road, Aptos (479.3444)

Valhalla Scandinavians of Santa Cruz
Plans annual Midsummer Festival, September Viking Faire and Lucia Festival in December.
Viking Hall, 240 Plymouth St., SC (425.9725)

Watsonville Community Cultural Center
Hosts regular events celebrating Chicano and Latino heritage, offers space for community events.
328 Union St., Watsonville (768.0375)

Watsonville Japanese-American Citizens League
Hosts community events, speakers and history lectures.
150 Blackburn St., Watsonville (724.4028)

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From the September 22-29, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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