Life experiences from Perú to Minnesota provide many opportunities for creative expression

Lalo Quillo not only fills his home with music but performs with the “Stearns County Pachanga Society.” His love for music has been passed down to his children. He is shown playing a siku, pan pipes, as he beats a tinya, a drum made of leather. He is also wearing a rattle made of pisonay tree seeds around his wrist, making a sound similar to rain.

Lalo Quillo crafts jewelry and music when not interpreting

By Jennie ZeitlerStaff Writer


Long Prairie resident Lalo Quillo was born in Cuzco, Perú. His journey to the United States began in 1990 when he met his wife, Elizabeth, who was in Perú as a University of Minnesota student researching the nutrition of the Quechua people.

“We started dating, and eventually decided to get married in Minnesota in 1992,” Quillo said. “She graduated that year with her masters degree.”

The Quillos went back to Perú in 1994 so Elizabeth could complete her research. She returned to the United States first, in 1995, and spent some time as a house parent at Camphill Village between Sauk Centre and Long Prairie.

“When I came back in 1997, we were in St. Cloud for a couple years before finding this house in Long Prairie,” said Quillo.

Both of the Quillos act as interpreters through The Bridge World Language Center in Waite Park. They work throughout Central Minnesota. Quillo speaks Spanish and Quechua.

“Long Prairie is the primary location, but I also go to Morris, Alexandria, Melrose, Sauk Centre, Little Falls, Brainerd and St. Cloud,” Quillo said.

He started interpreting for Immigration and Naturalization, much of the work done for United States District Court cases.

“Many cases were on the west coast and I used to travel,” he said. “When I found this full-time position in St. Cloud, I quit that job.”

Quillo is often called to clinics or hospitals, government offices, schools, home visits and conference calls. Sometimes the calls are international.

“It’s most satisfying to bridge the gap between two different cultures,” he said. “The interesting part of interpreting is the challenge of trying to fully explain what someone is trying to say in a different language.”

The interpreting work is sometimes stressful, having to be extremely accurate in every situation — but most especially in courtrooms and medical situations.

“I’m always finding out things I didn’t know,” he said.

Quillo has some relaxing creative outlets to balance the stress of interpreting. Making jewelry is a trade he learned in Perú, growing up in a tourist area.

“Making crafts was a way to earn extra money,” he said. “I began by making and painting beads, then started turning them into jewelry. With more practice, it became my main job.”

While he and his wife were dating, she took his jewelry back to the United States to sell, financing her trips to Perú that way.

Quillo’s brother, who lives in Lima, Perú supports himself making a wide variety of jewelry at his small shop.

The nickel silver used in many of Quillo’s earrings and necklaces comes from Perú. His brother sends most of the stones he uses.

Quillo named his jewelry business “Imamunai,” which means “what a beautiful thing” in the Quechua language.

For a few years, the Quillos were almost supporting themselves with the jewelry, but it’s done now mostly as a hobby.

In 1992, Quillo started playing Peruvian music on wood flutes. He formed a collection of different kinds of flutes over a period of 15 to 20 years. Some were souvenirs and some were gifts. In 2002, his case was stolen, leaving him with only one flute.

“It took nearly 10 years to replace the instruments,” he said.

Quillo has played with a number of different bands. Now, he is a member of a band based in St. Cloud, the Stearns County Pachanga Society. They play music from Cuba, Colombia, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Spain, France, Brazil, Bolivia, England and the United States.

“We play a lot of festive dancing music,” he said. “We play everywhere, at least once a month. In the summer we are busier.”

The band lays down songs and Latin/Afro-Caribbean/rock rhythms while members of the audience play the percussion instruments that the group distributes or those they bring from home.

The group’s Web site describes Quillo in this way, “While growing up in the shadow of Macchu Picchu near Cuzco, Perú, Lalo could never have dreamed that one day his haunting and beautiful melodies would be the main force in making the Stearns County Pachanga Society a truly sublime and unique musical experience.”

The band has played for the Millstream Arts Festival in St. Joseph and the New London Folk Music Fest. They are asked to play for all types of private parties — weddings, holiday gatherings and Hispanic celebrations.

The Quillos have seven children. The three youngest are home schooled. Their eldest son, Kori, teaches violin and cello at St. Francis Music Center in Little Falls.

“Since the kids have seen me play with different bands on many occasions, most of them play an instrument — violin, cello, guitar or piano,” Quillo said.

Their eldest daughter is a student at Perpich Center Arts High School in Golden Valley, studying vocal music and guitar.

Quillo takes his jewelry to the Green Fair in Little Falls, the Paramount Gallery in St. Cloud and to art shows at Munsinger Gardens. He will be at the Arts and Crafts Show and Sell at Long Prairie-Grey Eagle High School Saturday, Nov. 24.

Quillo is available for arts and cultural events and presentations.

For more information, call (320) 732-4110.