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Jessica Zapata

Born in Mexico City, Jessica Zapata moved with her family at age eight to Cuernavaca, the "City of Eternal Spring," to ease her brother's asthma. She studied architecture at the local University of Morelos, worked as an architect in Mexico City while she earned a masters in restoration, then went into business with one of her best friends in Cuernavaca. "We did both restoration and architecture," she says. In 1997, she met her future husband, Dan Howard, a Eugene native who was in Mexico to study Spanish. She spent time in the US, he spent time in Mexico, and eventually they married. She joined him in Eugene four years ago and found work as an ESL assistant at Prairie Mountain School. "The Latino kids didn't have their familiar festivities," Zapata noticed, so she organized a Day of the Dead celebration, then got inspired and followed up with more arts and music evenings in Bethel schools and around town. In 2009, she founded Eugene Arte Latino to sponsor monthly cultural events in collaboration with community groups. "Everything we do is free," says Zapata, who also dances with Andean musicians Sol de los Andes. "We volunteer and we never charge." EAL will present a Dia de los Muertos fiesta at Downtown Languages, 1035 Willamette, on Friday, November 4, 5:30-8 pm.

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 13 October 2011

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