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Special to El Observador

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Yei Tochtli Mitlalpilli of Calpulli Tonalehqueh, an Aztec community, located in San Jose, California, aims to bring a sense of nature, community and cultural experience to the children and youth of the bay area through the two-day celebration. Their work is founded on the principles of wisdom, harmony and culture. For approximately 15 years, the Aztec Mexica New Year has been celebrated in San Jose, Calif., hosted by Calpulli Tonalehqueh.

Growing up in San Jose, attending events like the annual 5 de mayo celebrations has made Mitlalpilli aim to distinguish the celebration of Mexica New Year from other events. The family friendly celebration has been held in different neighborhoods through San Jose throughout the years. One of its distinguishing factors is that there is no alcohol at the event.

This year the event will be held at Emma Prusch Park. The park includes a playground, a little farm, bird farm, and community gardens for the children. “We want to encourage families to come and bring their children and introduce them to the culture, have a cultural experience, a positive cultural experience here in San Jose,” says Mitlalpilli.
Through cultural events and ceremonies, Mitlalpilli believes that “this has become also a positive gathering place, or a positive second family group, for these children that can keep them away from things like gangs, drugs and alcohol.”

Mitlalpilli believes that the curriculum of the current educational system is not “culturally relevant to the students” and that “it’s not very motivating and for that reason there’s a large drop out rate.” According to the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project, although there has been a decrease in the rate of Latino dropouts, in October 2012 there were 134,000 Latino high school dropouts.  Mitlalpilli believes that these dropouts do not have the opportunity to experience culturally specific education such as Chicano Studies courses that are often offered at the college level. By exposing families and youth to cultural celebrations he says, “When we have these events, it’s exposing the children, the families, to the culture, to be proud seeing the beauty of their culture and it’s important that they get that sense of pride, that sense of belonging, to be part of something.”

Through a partnership with the Mexican Heritage Plaza’s School of Arts and Culture, youth will have the opportunity to actively participate in the festivities. Not only will the artwork of students of the School of Arts and Culture be on display, they will also have the opportunity to offer a piñata, which they have created in the shape of a rabbit, during the ceremony. One of the dances throughout the day will also be given to the youth and children in order to offer them a sense of community.

Other youth participants will contribute through volunteer work. Outreach work in low income charter schools will include a presentation from Mexico City’s musical group, Grupo Tribu, in an effort to reach an estimated 1,000 elementary school children.

The Aztec Mexica New Year Ome Tochtli (Two Rabbit), which is March 12, will be celebrated on Saturday, March 15 at Emma Prusch Park in San Jose, Calif. The celebration will begin with a sunrise ceremony at 6:00 a.m. and will include between 60 and 80 arts and crafts booths, educational workshops, 30 to 40 dances throughout the day and proclamations by city and state officials. According to Mitlalpilli the celebration “is one the largest gatherings of Aztec dancers and the Aztec community in general, as well as other Native Nations.”

For more information and updates visit the Azteca Mexica New Year event page or the Calpulli Tonalehqueh page on Facebook.

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