by Chelo Grubb
¡Viva Arizona! has a lot to celebrate this weekend. As always, Viva will be celebrating Hispanic culture in Tucson. The event will chronical everything since the 1800s with mariachis, can-can dances, orchestras and special thanks to Tucson Hispanic radio announcers who helped keep the culture alive.
It is the 20th anniversary celebration of the organization, so it was bound to be a big celebration no matter what. However, this year is different for Julie Gallegos, a local folkloric choreographer, who founded Viva Performing Arts with founded with her dad Ralph Gonzalez.
Gallegos says her father always had a huge passion for music, and music's history in Tucson's culture. He was always interested in how European instruments found their way into Tucson's culture, and shaped the music scene. Gonzalez acted as the historian to Gallegos' role as choreographer, and together they created the cultural celebration that is Viva Arizona.
In addition to celebrating the history of Hispanic culture in the area, the show will be honoring Gonzalez. Gonzalez is in hospice right now, and while Gallegos is concerned about his strength, he does plan on going to Sunday's show.
"He doesn't know I'm honoring him, he would have a heart attack. He's a very humble man. He's always thinking about other people, not himself," Gallegos said.
It's not just Gonzalez that Viva is losing. Gallegos, remembering Viva's early days and the musicians who helped put on the first years of the performances, says many of the people who helped make the shows great are in their 80s and 90s. Gallegos says that musicians such as Jesse Tovar, a saxophonist, were instramental in making Viva a success. Tovar died last week.
"That was just deviating. He would put together a 16 piece orchestra with musicians who knew how to play the songs from the 50s and I was so appreciative to him," Gallegos said. "This event will be a very sentimental journey because we are losing this generation of men who gave us this beautiful music."
Tickets are $15 and are sold at Viva Performing Arts Center at 4563 S. Park Ave.