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Dímelo Stories Celebrates Local Voices With Year-End Party

by Kai Parmenter

Tucson is one of the most culturally diverse places in the Southwest, perhaps even the whole country. This is no surprise to us. We live it every day. Tucsonans are proud of their heritage, and are continuously finding new ways to celebrate and explore it. In placing local experiences front and center, Dímelo: Stories of the Southwest has done just that.

A part of Arizona Public Media, Dímelo Stories is “a micro-storytelling project exploring identity, community and the cultural geography of Tucson.” In recognition of their first year of stories, Dímelo is hosting a party at La Cocina restaurant on Sunday, July 24th, and you’re invited.

The aptly titled End-of-Year Celebration Party marks Dímelo’s third event in Tucson, but what exactly makes it, or this project, so special?

“It’s a celebration of our first season of Stories,” says Sophia Paliza-Carre, who serves as lead producer for the project. “We’re going to have about an hour in which people can enjoy music, eat food…and look at the stories that we have on display.”

The stories themselves will be presented as a multimedia installation of postcards, and herein lies what really sets Dímelo apart: the project receives stories from Tucsonans via postcards left in special mailboxes set up around town (and more recently, online). The criteria for sharing is completely open—those who write to Dímelo may choose anything about their lives or experiences as part of a specific community or Tucson as a whole.

In keeping with this theme of community, the display will also feature an audiovisual component, giving participants a sense of genuine interaction with the stories. The reception will also include refreshments and a complimentary taco bar.

Then comes the live storytelling. The second half of the evening will be dedicated to performance, wherein people can share their experiences right on stage. Criteria for sharing here is similarly open, and will include poetry, hip hop, breakdancing and, of course, good old-fashioned storytelling.

Most of the people participating in the End-of-Year Celebration have previously been featured on the radio program, or submitted postcards, yet won’t be limited to talking about any one thing on the 24th, so come with an open mind. You might be surprised. The evening will close out with a live performance from Pueblo High School’s Mariachi Aztlán.

“The show is kind of a live performance of different forms of storytelling,” says Paliza-Carre, again noting the emphasis on shared experiences.

Dímelo Stories is one of fifteen projects that together comprise Finding America, a national initiative devoted to creating new storytelling models, while showcasing our diversity as a nation. “We’re the only one present in the Southwest,” says Paliza-Carre, a note of pride in her voice. She has much to be proud of.

Dímelo found its start as an AZPM radio segment nearly one year ago. What began as a simple “community storytelling project” has since expanded to include a live component, as seen in the upcoming End-of-Year Celebration.

“Now we’re kind of full steam creating stories on a weekly basis for the air, seeing a lot more engagement with the community,” says Paliza-Carre. “We hope to do even more in the future—do more events, and continue collecting stories, providing them as a mirror of the community here…we’ve seen a really great response, and we hope to continue doing it.”

UPDATE- Dímelo's End-of-Year Party was a rousing success! Well over a hundred people crammed into the courtyard at La Cocina to hear stories from the community. Attendees settled in during the reception, taking time to mingle and get beverages and free tacos.

The multimedia installation of postcards and photographs was a hit, drawing many a curious individual to explore the stories on display. There were also several listening stations where guests could hear stories for themselves via audio postcards, yet the live storytelling was undoubtedly the star of the show. We heard from Gwen Hernandez, who told of her grandmother’s first coming to the United States, a tale of love, pain and a whole lot of delicious food. Enrique García Naranjo then took the stage to slam us with his affecting poetry.

Next up was Betty Villegas, who shared a heart-wrenching story about her family’s struggles with cancer. The evening closed out with some breakdancing and an excellent performance from Pueblo High School’s Mariachi Aztlán.