Welcome back, fellow Appalachians.
As we head into November, I want to introduce you to Estela Knott, a Mexilachian singer/songwriter based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the incoming co-host of our Creators and Innovators Newsletter Series!
A native of Luray, Virginia, Estela and her husband, Dave, co-founded the Lua Project, a Mexilachian musical endeavor that draws inspiration from Estela’s Mexican and Appalachian roots. Over the next four weeks, Estela will be sharing more about her passion for preserving traditional elements of her mother’s Mexican culture, the travels that have influenced her perspective and her efforts to help connect the Spanish speaking community with the larger community in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m so excited for you to meet Estela, and I’ll be keeping you updated about our upcoming Instagram Live!
Here’s a word from Estela, detailing what you can expect to see this month:
Buenos dias amigés of the Appalachians!
As I sit in my humble little home in Charlottesville Virginia, thinking of how I should introduce myself to you, my eyes wander over the walls, floors and ceilings, and I am absorbed by the layers of living we have done in this sweet little rectangle we call “home.” I birthed my children in this house. They are now 10 and 13. We have stripped floors and tiled them over, taken down walls to open up space. We have uprooted dead trees in our yard to plant gardens and filled our home with love and family, friends and music, poetry and cooking. All of this has seeped into the very soul of this house.
Our triumphs and tragedies are woven into everything, from the towels and sheets in our cupboards to the pots and pans hanging from the kitchen corner. The word “home” holds more than its letters: It holds rituals, traditions, heritage — some of which we choose to keep, and some we create or recreate with friends and family who adopt and share rituals and traditions of their own. And we begin to knit ourselves into the fabric of the history of the Appalachians, as Mexilachian people.
I look forward to diving into the meaning of home (hogar in spanish) in the coming weeks. And I hope to dig deeper into what it was like growing up Mexilachian in rural small town Virginia and how sometimes it takes leaving home to really appreciate where we are from. Over the next four weeks, I’d like to spend a bit of time talking about how I use music and art to do bridge-building work between cultures in my community.
Until then, let me introduce myself. My name is Estela Diaz Knott. I am a singer/songwriter, music teacher and culture weaver. My husband Dave Berzonsky and I founded “Lua Project” a cultural arts-based project that is rooted in the creation of a new style of music we like to call Mexilachian Music, which is inspired by traditional music and people of Mexico, Appalachia and the borderland between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, where my mother is from.
Together in 2000, we went traveling extensively throughout Latin America for over a year and half. It was a journey of a lifetime. We met lifelong friends, explored many styles and traditions of music, food and culture from Mexico, Central and South America. In coming home, we realized how beautiful it is to know that under the same moon (lua in Portuguese), so many cultural worlds exist. Though we might speak different languages, there are so many things that we have in common. Like our love for family, for doing things together in community, and the rituals we create — tied as they are to the seasons, and to the flavors and smells, wafting through our kitchens.
I’m looking forward to spending these next four weeks with you!
If you’re new around here, 100 Days in Appalachia started the monthly Creators and Innovators Newsletter Series in April to give folks something to look forward to at a time when much was still uncertain. Each Thursday, we meet in this space with a new Appalachian creative who shares with us their words, works and inspirations. Since April, we’ve hosted Appalachians from four states, including Roger May, founder of Looking at Appalachia, nature illustrator Rosalie Haizlett, Affrilachian Poet Bianca X, Jeremy Wilson, a photographer and enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Katlin Kazmi, owner of The Pakalachian Food Truck, and folklorist Jordan Lovejoy. You can find each host’s newsletters in our archive.
We’ll meet you here tomorrow for Estela’s newsletter debut.
See you then,