Review of Juana Bordas's Salsa, Soul, and Spirit

salsa-soul-spirit-1401Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership For A Multiculural Age
by Juana Bordas (Chile 1964–66)
Berrett-Koehler Publishers [Second Edition, Updated and Expanded] $22.95 (paperback); $11.62 (Kindle)
232 pages

Reviewed by Bob Arias (Colombia 1964–66)

I WAS PREPARED that Juana’s book would read like a text . . . so I got ready to prep myself like any good student.

Wrong — from the first page this “text” read like a novel, excitement and adventure on every page . . . I stopped underlining her quotes with my yellow pen, and just started reading what felt like another beautiful novel from Isabel Allende, same colorful and intense style. Surely they must have been childhood friends! I began to see myself, and my Mexican heritage, as Juana opened doors for me to appreciate the beauty of who we are . . . a “text” of a different nature.

There is more to Juana’s quest for leadership from within the Black, Native American, and Latino communities . . . we bring traditions that have formed our families, and can bring values to the American way of life . . . our country is changing. In Salsa, Soul, and Spirit, Juana shows us where those changes are taking place, and why. Learning from our past brings my grandmother, Julia, to me in full detail. She would be making tortillas and telling us what we must do to fulfill our dreams in this new country. Why not, as Juana says . . . we have a responsibility to reach down to help others, bring them up to join us as we take our place in this society. Juana moved me with her I to We message, as Blacks, Native Peoples, or Hispanics we must stand together to build the new community, working together like we did in the fields . . . making our lives better.

Juana Bordas hits you with information that has to impact where we will be in the next ten or twenty years, her Preface is a wake up call: “In just one decade, a majority of Americans under age eighteen will be non-white.” If you are planning to retire soon, who will be paying into Social Security to fund your nest? Bordas shocks you but opens the door to solutions that challenge your common bias toward the Western or European influenced way of life. But then her experience comes back to us with solutions gained from her family and extended family of friends . . . and from her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Chile. She has a beautiful way of bringing us together with this experience. She follows us and does not lead us forward.

I ask you to read and then read again what Juana tells us about the Iroquois Seventh Generation Rule. I hope we can share this with our current and future leaders — to always consider the impact of our decisions on our children, their children’s children, and unto seven generations. It is so little to ask, as Juana tells us. The Iroquois have given us something to bring to the next generation; a generation that will soon be mostly non-white and under eighteen!

There is so much to gain from Salsa, Soul, and Spirit, a manual to find a means for us to work together looking for solutions to challenges that face us. As Juana says, “Mi Casa es su Casa” which really means sharing, being one with our communities. The new generation of Americans are changing and may not be aware of Juana Bordas or the impact that the Black, Native American, and Hispanic culturals are having on their lives, what they take as American may really be from Mexico. I was at a birthday celebration recently with a group of young Peace Corps Volunteers in Barranquilla, Colombia. These Volunteers were mostly white, mid-western, and teachers. Being homesick was solved when I brought out bottles of Corona with lime wedges, and chips and lots of salsa! They were in tears, it felt like being home, what a birthday for the Volunteers. I mentioned Juana’s book and that we were doing something very Mexican — and now American! You are making the change possible, Juana. These Volunteers felt it!

Our paths must have crossed, Peace Corps, Civil Rights, issues facing our Native American brothers and sisters, and the quite leaders of our Black and Latino communities as they influenced our lives. We may not have met, but I now consider you a close friend and spirit.

Bob Arias (Colombia 1964-66; Trainer at Camp Radley 1966-68; APCD Colombia 1968-70; Language Director for the Peace Corps in Latin America 1971-73; CD Argentina and Uruguay 1993-95; Response Volunteer to Panama 2009-10, Paraguay 2010-11; currently in Colombia with Peace Corps Response) has also worked as the State Director for ACTION, 1973–75, and retired from the position of County of Los Angeles Affirmative Action Compliance Officer in 1993.

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