The Old-Time Herald Volume 14, Number 4

Tales from the ‘Woods, Part 13:
Costa Rica Serenade
By Walt Koken
Bob Potts, Mac Benford, and Jim Griffiths outside the Congreso Nacional building in Santiago de Chile.


In the summer of 1974 we were invited to play at the National Folk Festival at Wolf Trap Farm Park in Vienna, Virginia, just outside our nation’s capital, and then to go on a six-week tour of nine countries in Central and South America, sponsored by the State Department. On the trip we would be part of a 26-person entourage, all of whom performed during the weekend festival at Wolf Trap. The tour was called “Los Rasgos Musicales del Pueblo,” meaning “Musical Features of the Community.” This was a foreign relations goodwill tour set up by the government to show that the United States was not all bad, and that even though we supported several military dictatorships in Latin America, including the coup in Chile the previous year in which Pinochet was put in power, we still were a country of good guys which had various types of thriving, fun folk music. We were criticized both before and after going on the tour for being pawns of an imperialist foreign policy, especially by the left-leaning “folk” community, which did not support us much anyway. Support is a key word here, as we were struggling to make ends meet with our lifestyle. We were not mainstream entertainers, our love of the old-time tradition kept us out of commercial markets, and because we did not fall under the auspices of what little support our government provided for national heritage by its standard, that of learning our art directly from our parents and home community, we felt that this was a good way to be employed by our government. And besides, we were musicians, and we wanted to play our music for folks everywhere, and we thought we would be good representatives of our people. So we went.

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