Sunday, October 19, 2008

Santana Wows San Rafael Middle-Schoolers

Santana wows San Rafael middle-schoolers
By Paul Liberatore
Article Launched: 10/16/2008 10:04:28 PM PDT

Wearing an impeccable white suit and a black fedora, Carlos Santana, looking and sounding like the rock-superstar-cum-spiritual-figure he's become, was greeted Thursday morning by a gymnasium full of squealing, screaming, wildly cheering students at Davidson Middle School in San Rafael.

In honor of Spanish Heritage Month, Santana's highly orchestrated appearance was on behalf of the San Rafael-based Milagro ("miracle" in English) Foundation, the charitable organization he and his wife, Deborah, founded a decade ago. The organization works to improve the lives of disadvantaged children through tax-exempt donations to nonprofits such as Marin City-based Performing Stars of Marin.

"Milagro," Santana intoned in a video shown before his talk, "is the hand of God."

In an article headlined "Carlos' Cosmic Bummer" in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine, he vowed to stop performing seven years from now, when he's 67, and become a preacher, "Like Little Richard," he said.

In his sermon-like talk to the Davidson students, the majority of them Hispanic, he seemed to be warming to that role, imploring them to pause for 10 seconds of silence in honor of "the holy ghost, for allowing us to come together in unity and harmony and trust and hope, to change the fear all around us on this planet right now."

Santana, a long-time San Rafael resident, instructed the children to "visit your own heart and touch your own light."

The respectful silence that followed in what
had been a gym full of hundreds of squirming middle-schoolers was clear evidence that these kids were paying attention to a celebrity they can identify with, one who rose from an immigrant background similar to many of theirs to become a rock icon.

"It's important for each one of you, no matter where you come from or where you're going, to value yourself," he told them, in the next breath challenging the education system in California to introduce a new curriculum called "unconditional love" that would combat racism and promote self esteem.

"Just like we can teach history and arithmetic, it's important to teach unconditional love," he said, criticizing the state for spending more on prisons than on schools.

"Someone is making the wrong choices for you," he said, continuing his plea for "spiritual education" in public schools.

"Not necessarily about Jesus or Buddha or Krishna or Mohammed or Rama," he clarified, "but about being kind to one another, about being gentle to one another. It's the best spirituality we can share on this planet."

Deborah Santana, who has filed for divorce to end the Santanas' 34-year marriage, was conspicuous by her absence, but Carlos acknowledged her, thanking her for "helping me create this vision."

"Even though she's not here, she is here in my heart," he said. "She's with all of us because we want the same things for the same reasons."

During the event, Samsung Electronics America's Four Seasons of Hope program in association with Best Buy stores presented the Milagro Foundation with a check for $100,000. All the kids in the audience had on black Samsung Seasons of Hope T-shirts with Santana's image on them.

Sitting in the front row beside San Rafael Mayor Al Boro, Santana smiled appreciatively when youngsters from Performing Stars sang and danced to songs from his career-reviving 1999 album "Supernatural."

Forty years after his career began in San Francisco's Mission District, Santana and his music are so much a part of the popular culture that even 11-year-old Lizbeth Canche, a sixth-grader, said she learned to play "Oye Como Va," from Santana's classic 1970 album, "Abraxas," on the recorder in school.

"I've only seen him on TV," she said before the start of the program, "but my brother works in a car wash, and he came home and told me he saw him there."

Afterward, parent Armando Quintero said having a star of Santana's stature take an interest in a school with an overwhelmingly minority enrollment goes a long way in improving its image and the way its students feel about themselves.

"He didn't even play, but the kids were excited about seeing him," he said. "And they got it. They heard from him how important they are."

Contact Paul Liberatore via e-mail at

No comments: