Posted on July 23, 2018

Salinas Celebrates Founding of México-Tenochtitlán, Indigenous Identity

Eduardo Cuevas, Californian, July 22, 2018

A colorful flowerbed made up the Aztec calendar and served as an altar in the center of Salinas celebrations for the 14th century founding of México-Tenochtitlán at Northridge Mall this weekend.

This sacred space was overseen by firekeepers from the local cultural group Calpulli Yaocuauhtli, led by its elder, Zipaktonal — her given name, Stella Gloria Morado Najera.

In order to enter the space, firekeepers blessed people with smoke that acknowledged higher energies that define the universe. Leaving the space required walking backward facing the altar, symbolizing reverence.

Dancers — garbed in Aztec and other Mesoamerican regalia — performed around a semicircle, with drummers in front.

A former teacher at Alisal Union School District, Zipaktonal said indigenous people have not been acknowledged for their historical contributions. But events like this seek to change that, she said.

“We’re conserving it for our youth, teaching them this spiritual tradition, the cultural tradition, because it’s connected with their identity and purpose,” she said.

She added that the event recognized sacrifices people made, not only to create the pre-Columbian Aztec civilization but also to maintain traditions and spirituals in the face of genocides from the Spanish and other Europeans.


This was the 10th annual celebration in Salinas and was previously held at Natividad Creek Park.


Calpulli, initially founded in 2003 as an Aztec dance group, organized more than 30 vendors and 150 dancers for the event this year beginning Friday, ending Sunday.


The pre-Columbian civilization would become an advanced society with agricultural and scientific innovations, a precise calendar and complex bureaucracy. They spread their empire through much of what is now Central Mexico, conquering and subjugating many groups in their path.

While the Spanish and newly established Mexican upper classes tried to eradicate indigenous identity across the Americas, later movements by Mexicans and Mexican Americans sought to reclaim that very history and culture as their own, particularly in the 20th century.


Since its founding, the celebrations have expanded from just one day at Natividad to a whole weekend at Northridge, an area organizers wanted for more visibility to vendors.


Visible at the event were the Watsonville Brown Berets, a community group modeled after the original 1960s East Los Angeles organization that responded with militancy against segregation, police brutality and poor educational and socioeconomic outcomes of Mexican Americans, along with protesting the Vietnam War. The original Brown Berets drew from the Oakland-rooted Black Panthers who responded to similar needs in African-American communities.

Part of a four-year commitment to the Mexico-Tenochtitlan event, the Brown Berets have provided general services, including security, for close to three years.

While there have been no major security issues, the group does have to occasionally remove people who are too intoxicated, which runs in conflict with the event as a drug and alcohol-free area.

In the middle of Saturday’s celebrations, Marcos Vallejo of Salinas stood alongside other veterans of the Indigenous Warrior Flag Group in a ceremonial honor. {snip}

“It gives more culture to the kids,” Vallejo said of the event.

Descended from Texas Apaches, he joined Mexica, Purepecha and other indigenous groups from the U.S. and Mexico. Veterans came from as far as Fresno and Las Vegas to attend.

“This is our land, you know,” Vallejo said. “They make us feel like we’re strangers in our own land.”