DJJD bank raid re-enactment: Should there be a Spanish-language version?

Dan Freeman, emcee, DJJD re-enactment

I got email from NCO Chair Nate White yesterday alerting me to this essay posted on the TC Daily Planet last week: FREE SPEECH ZONE | Language Shootout in Northfield

Jesse James stormed Northfield last weekend, six guns blazing, as he tends to do each September.  But this time, he and his gang didn’t speak a lick of Spanish.  And that was a mistake.

Last year, the Defeat of Jesse James Days organizing committee included a Spanish language re-enactment of the James Gang’s 1876 raid on Northfield as a way of reaching out to the town’s burgeoning Spanish-speaking population.  But while some applauded the effort and welcomed a more diverse audience, many were angered by the move…

This year, all eight re-enactments of the raid on Northfield were conducted in English.  When a curious local asked at the information booth why there was no Spanish language version this year, he was told that the organizers found it “too controversial.”


Financial challenges aren’t stopping Eddy from imagining a bigger, better DJJD. He’s already looking at the possible inclusion of a soap box derby and is considering staging a raid re-enactment in Spanish in May during local Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

Last year, the committee was criticized for hosting a raid re-enactment in Spanish without advance notice, a move which frustrated some DJJD visitors. While he’s anxious to share Northfield’s history with Spanish speakers, he says it’s impractical during a public celebration where out-of-towners might not expect the switch.

Links to the issue from last year:

Visitors who showed up to one Saturday re-enactment of the 1876 failed robbery attempt at First National Bank first heard emcee Dan Freeman narrate the events in English, followed by the Rev. Father Denny Dempsey translating into Spanish…

This community has long prided itself on its inclusivity. The decision to provide narration is an acknowledgment of the many Latinos in our community who may not have ever heard the story of the raid. They should be able to share in our pride.

That said, next year the committee members need to more widely promote, well in advance and in both English and Spanish, that they will provide the narration. That way, more Latinos will be alerted to attend and those who don’t want to listen to the translation can plan to attend at a different time.

One Comment

  1. Griff Wigley said:

    Shelley Brady emailed me this press release this morning:


    Contact: Wayne Eddy, or Shelley Brady,

    September 21, 2011

    We have received some inquiries regarding a Spanish Interpretation for the DJJD Raid Re-enactment.

    In 2010, we attempted to deliver two special interpreted raids; one for the hearing impaired and one in Spanish. The ASL interpretation for the hearing impaired went so well we were able to expand it for more reenactments in 2011. The Spanish raid did not go well because presenting in both languages ended up with a long, drawn out introduction that was untenable for the audience and the performers. We believe we have come up with a better Spanish version but we were unable to organize it in time for this year’s event. We are encouraged that so many in the community agree with us on the need for a Spanish interpretation of the raid and hope they may even want to join our committee to help with the organization!

    Jane Moline, the volunteer committee member in charge of the reenactments, invites everyone interested in the Northfield community and this historic event to join us to help make the 2012 Defeat of Jesse James Days the best ever! We are a group of volunteers who want the people of Northfield and our visitors who attend DJJD to enjoy and understand the outstanding history behind this celebration.


    The Defeat of Jesse James Days Committee

    September 21, 2011

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