Planting, singing, storytelling at the workshop brings children closer to their cultural roots

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Sahir Padilla, left, and Nicholas Domíguez-Kelley listen to Rosalba López Ramírez, co-founder of Black Zócalo, as she explains how to plant corn during Saturday’s Boom Oaxaca Children’s Corn Planting Workshop at Arte Americas.

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For 5-year-old Nicholas Domíguez-Kelley, one of his favorite parts of Saturday’s Boom Oaxaca Children’s Corn Planting Workshop was singing corn and “getting your hands dirty.”

The event at Arte Américas in downtown Fresno is part of the ‘Boom Oaxaca: Camp-to-Camp Conversations‘, a series of exhibitions and programs made possible by a grant from the McClatchy Fresno Arts Endowment of the James B. McClatchy Foundation, in collaboration with the Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño.

In the bilingual workshop led by Rosalba López Ramírez, the children planted corn native to Oaxaca, made seed bombs and learned about the indigenous practice of the La Mixteca region of Oaxaca while singing a fun song, listening to a story and learning about the elements of the earth needed to grow corn.

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Rosalba López Ramírez, co-founder of Black Zócalo, shows children how to make seed bombs during the Boom Oaxaca Children’s Corn Planting Workshop Saturday at Arte Américas. Maria G. Ortiz-Briones [email protected]

The song in Spanish said “Con la primavera, llega la huerta, vamos a sembrar, a maize granito. Con tierrita se tapa, con agua fresca vamos a regar.(With spring, the garden comes, we will plant a grain of corn. Cover it with a little soil, with fresh water, we will irrigate.)

“As children, you are really special,” said López Ramírez, co-founder of Black Zócalo, a food justice movement for indigenous black people of color in central California.

López Ramírez – a Mixtec woman, raised in Yokut country and the daughter of immigrant parents from Oaxaca, Mexico – showed children and adults a variety of corn, including Colorado as well as multicolored.

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Children holding a variety of corn during Saturday’s Boom Oaxaca Children’s Corn Planting Workshop at Arte Américas. Maria G. Ortiz-Briones [email protected]

Miguel Padilla, from Sanger, was one of the many parents who brought their children to the workshop. He liked that the workshop gave the children the opportunity to discover their roots.

“I feel like it’s kind of teaching them what their grandparents did, because I remember doing it when I was little when I went to my grandparents’ house,” said Padilla, who grew up in Valle de Guadalupe, Jalisco, Mexico. “You just have to bring that to them and understand a tiny bit of what they (the grandparents) have done. It is very important for me.

Padilla said he grew up on the ranch, growing corn and helping his parents on their farm, so seeing his kids exposed to corn planning, “gives me hope that they can see a bit of where come from their roots.It is a very important part of their cultural richness that they should learn every day.

“I really wanted to bring my kids because I wanted them to learn how to plant, but learn like our ancestral ways of doing it, our indigenous ways. So, connecting with our roots, connecting with our ancestors and, with the community too,” said Lorena Domínguez, from Fresno.

Yenedit Méndez, a program liaison consultant for Arte Américas, said seeing the children participating in all the activities was “beautiful to see honestly.”

“We impart knowledge to children, to toddlers for our future,” Méndez said. “And I think exposing them, as you know, as little as they can be, the better. And having activities that help them with their senses, help them see touch, we thought that was something important.

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Rosalba López Ramírez, co-founder of Black Zócalo, at the Boom Oaxaca Children’s Corn Planting Workshop Saturday at Arte Américas. Maria G. Ortiz-Briones [email protected]

Méndez said the workshop also highlights people from the Central Valley like López Ramírez, who are already doing the work.

“We have truly amazing oaxaqueños who do this type of work here in the Central Valley, so we don’t need to look elsewhere,” Méndez said. “We are here and we have people who have this knowledge.”

And when it comes to choosing seed planting maiz as the subject of the workshop, Méndez said “maiz known and part of our communities since pre-colonization” adding that it is of great importance “within the oaxaqueño community and indigenous communities.

López Ramírez said seeing the participation and enthusiasm of children was “really special” in the “cultural space” provided by Arte Américas.

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Sahir Padilla, right, and Nicholas Domíguez-Kelley, during an activity at the Boom Oaxaca Children’s Corn Planting Workshop Saturday at Arte Américas. Maria G. Ortiz-Briones [email protected]

As someone from Oaxaca, López Ramírez said, “I really wanted people to know that we can be ourselves wherever we go.”

“So whether it’s in the central valley here, you know, in this big farming, or in New York, which is also a very special place where I lived for a few years and it seems like you belong anywhere and everywhere, and you, you wear your culture on your back,” said López Ramírez, who earned his Master of Science degree in community development from UC Davis. She is a Fresno State alumnus.

“And let’s not try, you know, to fit into these little boxes, because we are, we are radiant and we have so much to offer this country, and this world. So let your culture shine wherever you go.

This historia fue published originally April 2, 2022 6:54 p.m.

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