Marcela Davison Aviles: They say San Jose is a city of festivals, and it’s true

I keep wondering if it is a mere coincidence that at summer’s end, and the start of fall’s election cacophony, two men who devoted their lives to telling the stories of our lives now find themselves at each other’s side.

I speak, of course, of the beloved San Jose Mercury News columnist Leigh Weimers and renowned lyricist Hal David, who left this world within days of each other.

It’s as if the good Lord, knowing what was ahead the next few months, needed the true voices of reason and heart by his side. I can imagine the introductions: “Mr. David, I want you to meet Mr. San Jose. Leigh, meet Hal. He sang the moments of life you chronicled every day.”

I didn’t know Leigh Weimers well, or Hal David at all, but I feel I know what they stood for. It’s here in our town. It’s in the hearts of the commuters at the old train station, still standing beside the river. It’s on the calloused hands of the urban gardeners at Emma Prusch Farm Park. It’s in the little red clapboard steak house standing in the shadow of the modern concert arena. It’s the old adobe home, its hearth still burning after 200 years, a stone’s throw from the memory of a signal tower and its modern semaphore, now signaling commerce, invention, and new meanings for the word Adobe. Leigh Weimers and Hal David found the meaning of our lives here in these streets. Here, they said, is our heart’s true delight. Here is a town. Here is San Jose.

This week in our pueblo the citizens are gathering to celebrate what makes a town. Down Santa Clara Street the annual Mexican heritage and mariachi festival will sing its corridors of heart and passion and young promise. Up Santa Clara Street the ZERO1 festival reveals the latest newfangled inspirations from international artists. At the town center for the arts, you’ll discover the Vietnamese Ao Dai festival — elegant and intricate, beautiful and intertwining; it’s one part haute couture fashion show, one part world music and all parts giving back by raising funds for Vietnamese orphans.

They say San Jose is a city of festivals, and it’s true. San Jose Jazz (a Leigh Weimers favorite), the Big Easy Blues, the Italian festa — these summer shindigs might be over but chances are you can still hear the horns in the alley by the Rep and smell the aroma of grilled sausage next to the Guadalupe River as we gear up for September’s revels. San Jose festivals are quirky that way. They aren’t the massive conglomerations of crowds, beer, merchandise and bands you never heard of that beat in the hearts of the big concert promoters.

All of them — every single one — raise funds to help our community. Now, you just might hear this drumbeat of service from Taiko drummers at the village green, or from chamber music in an old movie house. As they said at the Big Easy festival, you’ll find the music right over here — in “dis” place — or yonder over there — at “dat” place. San Jose may not be the capital of hip. Some might even say it’s not the capital of Silicon Valley. But anyone who ever dreamed, could live in our town. And anyone who has a heart, would know our town. The way Leigh Weimers did. The way our festivals do.

Marcela Davison Avilés is president and CEO of Mexican Heritage Corp. and the producer of VivaFest! San Jose Mexican Heritage and Mariachi Festival, the largest of its kind in the country, which takes place this week. She wrote this for this newspaper.

– By Marcela Davison Aviles

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