Here to stay Indigenous communities north and south of the US-Mexico border celebrate their existence


Article and photos by Estrella Zarate-Pacheco

Under the motto of “We’re greater as a force together,” Indigenous communities from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border came  together Oct. 9 at Patriot Park in Greenfield to celebrate their own existence. Through dances and storytelling they urged others to learn more about Indigenous Peoples Day, which they hope becomes a national celebration.

It was the first event of its kind to celebrate Indigenous culture in Greenfield, and organizers say they hope to bring it back next year.

The event was organized by Frente Indigena de Organizaciones Binacionales, also known as FIOB. Speaking on the importance of unity, Esselen Oholone-Costanoan Nation tribal chair Louise J. Miranda Ramirez said, “We’re greater as a force together.”

During the opening ceremony, Miranda Ramirez spoke about the survival of Indigenous peoples despite colonization by the Spanish and other European groups. She said Indigenous communities in Mexico have been through the same struggle and have been resisting colonization as well. She said the groups support efforts to designate Oct. 12 as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Sand City Mayor Mary Ann Carbone, who is the first elected official of Indigenous background in the city, was present. Carbone, representing the Chumash Nation, said, “It’s fantastic because the people are coming out — Triqui people, different people — That is a wonderful thing.”

“This celebration commemorates over 500 years of resistance of our Indigenous towns,” said organizer Oralia Maceda, a Mixteca from Oaxaca.

Organizers worked to represent the Indigenous people of Mexico, including Triqui, Mixteca, Chatino and other communities of Oaxaca. The hope is to include more Indigenous peoples in the future, because Greenfield has a large population of Indigenous residents who are trying to teach their children and community to be proud of their culture.

Dancer Aira Hernandez said she was inspired by her sister to be part of this event. “It feels great being part of this culture and to showcase everyone; our culture and our traditions,” said Hernandez, who is Triqui.

In addition to the performers, craftspeople sold their handiwork to the community. One seller offered colorful traditional shirts, skirts and dresses, all handmade by Indigenous people of Oaxaca. The designs contain symbolism of their ancestors and tribes they are affiliated with, said the vendor: “Some of these earrings of animal shapes represent where people are from, because that is the animal where they are from.”

Musicians and dancers from throughout the community showcased the traditions of their homelands.  In la danza de las piñas, the performers hold on to pineapples as they dance to traditional Indigenous music, wearing the traditional red dresses of Triqui women. When the dance is over, the piñas are given away to the audience to signify their gift of art and community.

Greenfield police officers joined the community event and purchased tamales from vendors.

The event also attracted organizations that informed attendees of their rights and provide services, including representatives of the Mexican General Consul of San Jose, Rodrigo Navarro Garcia and Rafael Bernal Cuevas.

Jesus Lopez, representing California Rural Legal Assistance, spoke to attendees about field workers’ rights. Lopez said more interpreters of Indigenous languages are needed at CRLA because “we see very few people with the ability to speak them.”

Salinas Councilmember Anthony Rocha, also in attendance, is originally from Greenfield and of Mexican ancestry. He said it’s important to attend events that honor ancestors and family.

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