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April 20, 2010

Mixtecos in New York: Language and Identity

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New York City Celebrates Immigrant Heritage Week from April 15 through April 21. This program is sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. As a part of the week’s programming, the NMAI Heye Center hosted Mixtecos in New York: Language and Identity in conjunction with the organization, Mano a Mano: Mexican Culture without Borders on Saturday, April 17. This program focused on the language and identity of the estimated 25,000 indigenous Mixteco people who make their home in the Greater New York region. Primarily settled in East Harlem, Staten Island, the Bronx, and the Upper West side, most members of this community come from the Mexican states of Guerrero and Oaxaca. Facing many special challenges in their new environment, these communities see the Mixteco language as a unifying factor in their community.

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Leslie A Martino-Velez

Program participants Leslie Martino-Velez, an educator in Bilingual Education, and Flor de Maria Eilets, Director of Community Adult Education at LSA, shared insight and personal stories about working with Mixtecos in New York. Sebastian Vega (Mixteco) discussed his efforts to mainstream his language and culture in New York. Mano a Mano Executive Director, Emily Socolov, stated that the goal of the program was to give visitors a deeper understanding of the diversity within the migrant population of New York, while emphasizing the common threads that connect indigenous communities throughout the region.

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Program Participants: Mariala Ureno, Luz Aquirre, Emily Socolov, Flor De Maria Eilets, John Haworth, Leslie A Martino-Velez, Sebastian Vega, Rebecca Madrigal.

Photos by Stephen Lang

Comments (3)

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Thanks for the post.Quite an interesting one.I wasn't aware of the fact that Mixtecos existed in New York.I think such programs will certainly help the cause of creating awareness of the diversity within the migrant population of New York and the threads that connect as well.Look forward to more such programs taking place.Thanks for the pictures too.

Interesting blog I know that Latino's are the fastest growing segment in America. I think diversity makes the melting pot better. Dynamic and diversified is the way the US will always be known.

Well, [the book] Mixtec Transnational Identity examines in detail the emergence of transnational indigenous organizations and communities throughout the Mexico-U.S. border area.

April 08, 2010

The Voices of Native Women


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 Cecilia Fire Thunder 

As Women’s History Month comes to an end, I continue to reflect on the presentation made by Cecilia Fire Thunder (Oglala Lakota) for the NMAI’s Heye Center’s, Women’s History Month Lecture.  A woman who is leading a remarkable life, Ms. Fire Thunder inspired, entertained and educated the audience that attended her March 11, 2010 lecture.

Cecilia was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and lived there until she was 15.  At that time her father participated in the Indian Relocation Act and moved their family to Los Angeles.  In California, she became a registered nurse and eventually opened one of LA’s first Indian Health Clinics.  By 1987, however, she felt the tug of home and moved back to the Pine Ridge Reservation where she established herself as a voice for Indian women and families.  In 2004, Ms. Fire Thunder was elected the first woman president of the Oglala Lakota Nation.  Her tenure ended in 2006 after an extremely difficult period of trial and tribulations which developed as a result of Cecilia’s outspoken and controversial views on women’s rights. 

Her continued activism and concern about issues that affect women has established Ms. Fire Thunder as one of Indian Country’s most respected leaders.  She now travels the world sharing her insight with others and currently serves as an appointed member of the Democratic National Committee.  

Cecilia Fire Thunder’s presence in our Women’s History programming was a continuation of a long line of prominent Native women who have lectured at the NMAI.   During Ms. Fire Thunder’s lecture she mentioned that she had recently received a call from Wilma Mankiller who was one of the first speakers in our Women’s History Lectures.  Cecilia shared with the audience that Ms. Mankiller was extremely ill.  Wilma told Cecilia that she was at peace with the fact that her time in this life was ending.  It was a poignant and touching moment.

When I heard the sad news that Wilma Mankiller had passed on, I reflected on Cecilia’s words and thought back to my own experience with Wilma when she lectured at the Heye Center several years ago.  At the end of Ms. Mankiller’s program, I profusely thanked her for a wonderful presentation and mentioned what an honor it was to have her on our stage.  She quietly said, “Remember that I am just a woman who is living a very abundant life.  Every step I take forward is on a path paved by strong Indian women before me.”  As I reflect on her words, I realize that Wilma’s steps continued the tradition of Native women who had something to say and who had a mission in this life to speak out.  We should all give thanks for the gigantic steps she made that widened the path for all of us to travel. 

We will miss her.

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Wilma Mankiller and Shawn Termin

Photos courtesy of Stephen Lang

Comments (4)

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What a legacy she leaves behind, really. Great story

Awesome write-up!

When you think about the legacy that Ms. Mankiller has left and the impact on the life of her people, especially the women, it is really humbling. I wish I had had the honor of meeting her. It sounds like she was a very brave person to take the stands she did. Thank you for the wonderful article.

An incredible journey with much courage and determination. An inspiration for us all. Thank you for this article, we all need to remember the struggles of our women and how far we have come.