MORENCI — The community in Greenlee County came together to celebrate its heritage last weekend at the Un Gran Exito Fiesta.
The event was organized by the Eastern Arizona Hispanic Heritage Corporation at the Morenci Club. The new nonprofit group was established earlier this year to hold fund-raising events to provide scholarships for local students.
On Saturday, the community responded by turning out in support both as sponsors and attendees. A full house of guests enjoyed live music, dancing and the celebration of local Hispanic icons.
Frank “Pancho” Gonzales and his wife, Lydia Gonzales, were named the 2019 Greenlee County Hispanic Family of the Year. Pancho described himself as the last person born in the now defunct town of Metcalf in 1936. He and his wife were married in 1954. Pancho is a lifelong resident of Greenlee County who put in 42 years at then Phelps Dodge before his retirement. In his address to the crowd, he told the story of his grandson serving in the military, meeting fellow Greenlee County native Sharon Brokeshoulder (interviewed previously in the Copper Era), who was entertaining the troops in Iraq.
“It just goes to show you that the world is big, but yet it’s small,” he said.
The evening also saw longtime local educator Josephine Lunt honored as the 2019 Greenlee County Teacher of the Year. Teaching first the second grade and then music to local students for decades, Lunt asked the room if anyone there was a former student, and at least half the crowd’s hands went up. She talked about touching numerous lives, including that of Hispanic Heritage Corporation co-founder Mike Andazola.
Arriving on stage with a cane and a smile, Lunt said, “I accuse you, my students, of making me walk with a limp from dancing too many maypoles. We had too many parades down Chase Creek. The Sugarettes did their dances at the basketball games; and we sang, and sang and sang our little hearts out.”
The evening featured the auction of several items, guest speakers including Clifton Councilwoman Laura Dorrell, two groups of folklórico dancers and three different mariachi — Corazon de Tucson, Sol Azteca and Tesoro de Tucson — playing live throughout the night.
All that and a fajita dinner made for a loud and lively celebration, and organizers said they are already excited for next year.
“We are astonished that we sold out so soon in the preparation,” said Eastern Arizona Heritage Corporation Secretary and Treasurer Lupe Munoz. “I’m anxious to see what the reviews here are going to be and to see how we’re going to handle it. Tomorrow (Sunday and Monday) is going to be crucial to finding out how the reviews come out.”
Munoz also praised the many sponsors who came together to support the event.
“We know this is going to be a successful event,” Andazola said, speaking with the Copper Era. “To the people of Greenlee County I just want to say, ‘Thank you’ for your participation and support in helping the corporation.”