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Wanita Grange Hall No. 270

Texto en español.

Built in 1920, this grange hall is one of several which became important gathering places for the Latino communities in the Yakima Valley in the mid-20th century. These grange halls served as community centers for musical gathering, dances, weddings, and other celebrations. An acute sense of cultural isolation from their traditional social and psychological environment led immigrants and migrants to reconstruct familiar ethnic traditions, especially the Mexican music which was close to the lives and hearts of Yakima Latinos.

Outside of radio, very few families purchased records, or could afford a record player, so the musical repertoire of the community consisted of songs passed down by word of mouth or memorized from song books. Despite the fact, a few people mastered musical instruments, primarily the guitar or another string instrument. In the Wapato-Toppenish area, Ray Tabares organized a small band that became popular across the Valley. Among the Tejanos, one or two families had an accordion player that, when matched with a 12-string “bajo sexto” or guitar, introduced the fast-paced and lively “conjunto” music of south Texas to the Pacific Northwest. Latino musicians were scarce, however, as many Latinos in the Valley were laborers with little time to learn or practice. For that reason, musicians willing to entertain in the community were well-regarded and continually sought out to perform at important familial celebrations and dances.

Latinos began to celebrate their music, with Mexican public dances emerging as a nucleus of the community. The first organized Mexican dances took place in various community centers, grange halls, and social halls in Catholic parishes. At Crewport, Latinos organized for the benefit of long-time residents as well as the newly arrived.

These dances, whether sponsored by local merchants or individual families, became important social and cultural events, particularly when the parents of young Latinos celebrated their children’s weddings. These gatherings became renowned throughout small working-class towns and drew an ever-increasing network of familial kinships and friends. At first, guests were invited by word of mouth or by personal invitation to help celebrate familial and personal momentous occasions. It became customary to enlist the expertise of the best cooks in the community to prepare Mexican food for the scores of invited guests.

Images

2016 view of the Wanita Grange Hall No. 270, located between Mabton and US 12, along Sunnyside Mabton Rd. Grange halls are community centers for rural areas.

Image by Artifacts Consulting, Inc.

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