Javier Ramirez was born in a small Nicaraguan town called Masatepe, "The Land of the Deer," to a family of musicians in 1970.
His judge father was also a part-time musician and taught music to people in the village. The young boy's great-grandfather, grandfather and uncles were also proficient on instruments - the violin, flute, piano, cello, saxophone, clarinet and guitar.
As Ramirez grew up, in that musical family on a ranch, he listened to one particular song over and over: "Raices Americanas," or "American Roots," by Hernaldo Zuñiga.
The song tells of a child in a rural village who goes to the big city. It is the first time he ever sees pavement, and when he walks on it in his sandals, he stumbles and falls.
"He smells the asphalt that is killing the smell of the flowers," Ramirez said. "Like technology is taking over. This kid, afterward, he forgets his roots. He doesn't remember where he comes from. The song is about let's be united, and let's sing about our roots."
Ramirez, who left Nicaragua at age 16 rather than be forced into the army by the Sandinistas, a left-wing militant group that overthrew the ruling dictator in 1979, made it a point to remember his roots.
"Before I left, my grandma made sure I knew the story of the town and the story of the country and all of the folktales and what not," he said.
He headed north to Honduras, where many native Nicaraguans went to escape. For the next six years, he traveled through El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Honduras, living among families who introduced him to their culture.
At the age of 22, he obtained a visa for political asylum from the American Embassy in Nicaragua and left for Miami.
Ramirrez's past produced a love of culture in him and is the reason the 35-year-old Hispanic Services coordinator at the Carson City Library is planning a program called "Traveling Through America," which will be featured at the library, schools and the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada.
He will focus on one of each of the 35 American countries every other Thursday, beginning with Peru on Jan. 12. His bilingual program will include folklore, facts, songs and a craft project from each country.
Ramirez needs help.
He is sending letters to area businesses asking if they can sponsor a country for $20, and he is asking people to donate artifacts. Friends of the Library will match donations.
"Sometimes, people bring things back from their travels, and they say 'This thing I never use,'" he said. "They could donate it - that way I can have something the children can touch."
He already has a jorongo, or rug, from Mexico; muñecas, or dolls, from Cuzco, Peru; a cotona, or coton shirt; and a tinaja, or jug, from Nicaragua. With $20 donations from members of his citizenship classes, he purchased a canopy to hang the 3-by-5-foot flags from each country.
Ramirez, who has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nevada, Reno in international business administration, moved to Reno several years ago. His mother and younger brother live here, and his other three siblings live in Nicaragua.
He returned four years ago to Masatepe to obtain some of his ancestor's belongings, including classical music written by his grandfather. One of the pieces will be performed this winter at the Carson City Symphony's "Christmas Throughout the World."
Ramirez recently wrote his own version of "American Roots," called "Traveling through America" - the last lines of which are: "Explore, explore, oh child, and then you could use the colors of the rainbow to paint a new horizon where you will live."
"This is my hope," he said. "That the children will have the curiosity to ask questions and want to dig up more about other countries. If you are exposed to different cultures, you can see the world different."
To help Ramirez with his program, call the library at 887-2244, ext. 1025
-- Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.
Javier Ramirez needs sponsors for these countries for "Traveling Through America"
North America: Canada, United States, Mexico
Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama
South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay, Venezuela
Caribbean islands: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago
To donate: Businesses are invited to sponsor a country at $20 a piece, which is tax-deductible. Make checks payable to Carson City Library Gift Fund, Traveling Through America, 900 N. Roop St., Carson City, NV 89701. Ramirez is also seeking donations of artifacts from Mexico and Central and South American countries
Call: Ramirez at 887-2244, ext. 1025.