100 years of mexican-american influence

February 10, 2012


Guadalupe, a town like no other in Arizona
By Ben Garcia

ombre, Takaa, Man. These words in Spanish, Yaqui and English are examples of the three languages spoken in the Town of Guadalupe, a community in which two distinct cultures, Yaquis and Mexican are living together under similar shades of brown and next to each other in houses built by one another. If one didn't know any better, visitors could easily mistake the residents of Guadalupe for being all Mexican or all Yaqui. In fact, outsiders passing by on I-10, which walls in Guadalupe on its west side, probably would not know that a distinct community – a town with its own government and unique history and customs and language - exists just yards away from their vehicle. Tempe squeezes up against Guadalupe on its east side, reducing it to a kind of enclave inside the vast Phoenix metropolitan area. While the different cultures have their own story to tell, there is one thing the people of Guadalupe all share. It is what makes the town so special and is by far the most important thing shared by its 6,000 residents (in which the population split of Yaquis and Mexicans is believed to be just about 50/50 according to the Guadalupe Town Manager Bill Hernandez): a sense of community and togetherness. Gabriel Alvarez, Town Mayor from 1981-83 described it best when he said that Guadalupe is like a Mayberry. He was referring to the small fictional town that was the setting for the Andy Griffith television show, and to the likelihood that if one house burnt down, there’d be five neighbors in line ready to lend a hand in the rebuilding of the house.


known as La Cuarenta or modern day Guadalupe. Glaser reported that in May, 1910, a widow named Marian Higgins offered to donate the 40 acres of land which is now present day Guadalupe. This land, located between Tempe and Phoenix, has been the place were both Yaquis and Mexicans have lived intertwined since 1910.

the incorporation
For the Yaquis, life has always been a struggle to keep their ways and culture from changing. Some of them felt that if Guadalupe - which by now had had a strong foundation of Yaquis occupying the territory for 50 plus years was to incorporate and become a town, they would lose many of their traditions. They also didn’t feel comfortable with change and the old school or traditionalist mentality saw any type of change as bad for the people and bad for traditions. Alvarez, who was not one of these people, said “we saw what was happening to other barrios in Phoenix: for example the barrios on 16th street and Buckeye were uprooted because of the airport.” Along with many others, he felt that in order to protect their culture and traditions, an incorporation was necessary. Alvarez credits an “outsider” by the name of Lardo Garcia for setting up meetings in Guadalupe to inform the people of what was coming. Garcia who was head of the Guadalupe Organization (G.O. was a social agency organization that along with many other great things helped people get the first G.E.D for a Guadalupe resident) put the thought of incorporation in

The Guadalupe municipal building. CouRTESy oF GuADALuPE CITy HALL.

Examples of this include a whole “Self Help” subdivision. This subdivision, located in the southeastern part of Guadalupe, was built by the families that occupy the houses now. Everyone would chip in and do their part in the construction of one house for a family and when that house was finished they would move on to the next. Families helping families is a quality communities all around Arizona are losing due to the popularity of suburban housing developments in which families come and soon leave, which means that families never establish roots. Just like everything else, change has affected Guadalupe but the one thing that remains a constant after all these years is the people working together for the better of their cultures and future generations.

Coming to america
Yaquis originally come from the area around the Yaqui

River in Sonora, Mexico. Leah Glaser, an Arizona State University graduate student who in 1996 wrote her thesis on the town of Guadalupe, describes why Yaquis left their homeland in Sonora for what is now Guadalupe. The Mexican government wanted the irrigated and fertile land belonging to the Yaquis. The Yaquis had fought for their land in that area since the 17th century when they first encountered Europeans. By the 18th century, the resistance had turned into all out warfare with the Mexican government. Alvarez, in about as serious manner possible, said that Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz was, for Yaquis, equivalent to Libya's oppressive leader Muammar Gaddafi and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. Yaquis fought Diaz but never won the battle. After much blood was shed, Diaz “instituted an indiscriminate persecution and deportation

program against all Yaquis. Hundreds were deported to the Yucatan region of southern Mexico to be used for slave labor, while others escaped to the United States.” Those who fled to the United States did so as refugees, which Websters Dictionary defined as “someone who flees a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.” While in the United States, the Yaquis began working alongside Mexicans as cheap labor, and helped with the building of new railroads and in the dangerous mines. Unlike many other Indian tribes, Yaquis had the reputation of being good workers which helped them to find jobs. The original settlement of the Yaquis, in the metro Phoenix area, which is located just a few miles north of Guadalupe, was named Our Lady of Guadalupe. Due to its small size and economic value, the Yaquis relocated to what is


February 10, 2012


100 years of mexican-american influence

people’s minds in order to protect the Yaqui traditions. According to Alvarez, the incorporation helped the town in many ways. One major way Alvarez believes the incorporation helped the town preserve it's culture was to be able to make town ordinances. The most famous ordinance, which Alvarez himself was an author of, is Ordinance 27. A drive through the streets of Guadalupe warns outsiders of the Ordinance that states “it will be a misdemeanor to photograph or otherwise obstruct any Yaqui ceremony or fiesta.” Failure to obey the Ordinance could result in a fine of up to $300 and/or six months in the County jail. Ordinance 27, also referred to as the no picture taking ordinance, reflects a strong will by the Yaquis to keep their traditions sacred. Since the celebrations are based around religious events this shows how strong the faith plays a role in everyday

Guadalupe, una ciudad única en Arizona
The façade of one of the churches in Guadalupe. THE ARIzoNA REPuBLIC

life to Guadalupe residents. In fact, Hernandez believes the churches have had the biggest impact on the Guadalupe community from its inception to present day.

The name Guadalupe comes from the Catholic Patron Saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe, shows a strong tie between the Yaquis and religion. The Catholic and Presbyterian Churches have always had the back of the Yaquis which is the reason to this day faith in God and religion has a special place in the hearts of Yaquis. The first structure built in the town of Guadalupe was the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church which still stands to this day. Hernandez, a 3rd generation Guadalupe resident, remembers the stories his tata told of building the Church. “My tata way back in the early 1900's helped build that church. It was built by local residents and they just patterned it after the San Xavier missions and according to my tata the men just sketched

A Yaqui dancer getting ready for a dance performance.

it out and then built it” said Hernandez. The Virgin of Guadalupe celebration, that takes place in December, and the Easter celebration are both big events for Yaquis and Mexicans in Guadalupe. The Virgin of Guadalupe celebration is a Catholic celebration where residents celebrate by decorating and lighting candles by shrines of the Virgin Mary in honor of the Patron Saint of Mexico. The residents start decorating the shrines on December 12 and they can be seen in front yards of many Guadalupe residents. Glaser states that “the sides of religious ceremonies integral to both Yaqui and Mexican culture, the Presbyterian, Catholic, and Yaqui churches, as well as the plaza land (which is the land located in front of the town's Catholic and Tribal churches), are symbolic landmarks on the unique cultural landscape. Together, they recall the historical and cultural identity of the community.” Even though the Lenten season in Guadalupe has a Yaquis spin, Mexicans in the town have fully embraced the Yaquis way of celebrating. During the Lenten season which starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday, various celebrations, including the dancing of the Matachines, occur. The Matachines, dressed in traditional costumes that have bright colors and feather head-

Guadalupe es una ciudad única en Arizona. La comunidad de Guadalupe es una, pero está compuesta por yaquis y mexicanos. Desde principios de 1900, los yaquis y los mexicanos han vivido juntos en la pequeña ciudad de Guadalupe. Los yaquis, quienes enfrentaron luchas políticas y violencia en su país natal de México, huyeron a Estados Unidos en busca de asilo durante el gobierno del presidente mexicano Porfirio Diaz. Aunque la historia de los yaquis en Guadalupe se remonta a mucho antes del año 1910, la ciudad recién celebró las elecciones para su incorporación en 1975. Se consideró su incorporación como una manera de proteger la cultura y las tradiciones de los yaquis al permitirles crear ordenanzas como la que prohibe dresses, perform a dance that is symbolic of the struggles between good spirits fighting off evil spirits. The celebrations during the Lenten season, attracts many outsiders who come to experience the fascinating religious culture of Guadalupe. Two churches of Guadalupe located side by side show the distinct cultures within the town. The original church serves as a traditional Catholic practicing church while just a few feet to the south sits what is known as the Tribal Church. This Tribal Church was built and used primarily for the Yaqui celebrations, as to not interfere with the Catholic ceremonies. These two churches working harmoniously side by side is similar to how the Yaquis and

tomar fotografías de sus sitios sagrados. Para los yaquis, la religión ha sido siempre una parte importante de su vida cotidiana. Incluso el nombre de la ciudad, que proviene de la Santa Patrona Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, nos indica la importancia de la religión para esta comunidad. Durante la Pascua, los yaquis siguen las mismas tradiciones que los católicos, aunque a su manera. Las celebraciones durante esta temporada atraen a muchos extranjeros quienes buscan vivir la experiencia de una cultura rica en historia. La celebración de los próximos 100 años de existencia traerá cambios sutiles en Guadalupe. Sin embargo, la unión entre la comunidad yaqui y la mexicana es algo que nunca cambiará. Mexicans have worked together side by side in establishing their cultures and histories in the Town of Guadalupe. What does the next 100 years have in store for Guadalupe? Hernandez believes there won't be much change as he said, “In the 60 years I’ve been here I haven’t seen much change so who is there to say the next 100 years will bring any change.” Only time will tell but if Hernandez theory stands true, the next hundred years will be nothing more than a force that continues to blur the separation of gene pools between Yaquis and Mexicans. Ben Garcia – a Communications Specialist for Raza Development Fund - is a member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe

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