Macedonio Arteaga, executive director of Izcalli, an indigenous education and support network for youth, describes the organization’s annual men’s gathering, Círculo De Hombres, as a rite of passage. But as long as he’s been doing this work, he said, no young man has ever known what a rite of passage is. It is often associated with meaningful experiences. The first time you were arrested or sent to prison, the first alcoholic drink, or the day your father left.

So Arteaga has them imagine a bridge. “You’re on one side of the bridge, trying to cross it, and when you come to the other side, there’s a man there to guide you, support you, and teach you something different,” he said. “You can cry, you can talk about your feelings, you can go to therapy,” he continued.

For nearly 30 years, Iscari has worked primarily with indigenous, immigrant and at-risk Chicano youth to help them understand their trauma by educating them about their cultural heritage and finding new ways to express themselves. I have helped you deal with But it turned out to be an incubator for a new generation of educators.

A photograph of Marcelino Robles, a Huichol shaman, is placed inside the altar. / Photo by Jakob McWhinney

Izcalli began as a Saturday school for students in San Diego County and has since run restorative justice and healing circles in schools throughout the area. formed Teatro Iscari, a nationally recognized comedy troupe aimed at educating people on the issues of giving However, they have developed new traditions, such as an annual gathering for male-identifying people. Many of the events at the school are coeducational, and in the past we have also had gatherings for women.

The three-day ceremony, where attendees camped in Kumeyaay Land, about an hour east of San Diego, consisted of activities such as healing circles and sweat lodges. Arteaga emphasized that the ceremony was not created by him or any of Iscari’s other founders, but was a tradition handed down from elders who came from several different tribes and traditions. It’s a kind of amalgamation of the customs of the tribes from which they came.

Attendees reflect that mix. There are also immigrants from Mexico, Chicanos, and members of certain tribes.

“If you look at the crowd, there are people here who have gone to jail, people who have gone to college,” said German Grolla, a Los Angeles teacher who attended this year’s rally. “Some have PhDs, some are educators…some are working class, some are from middle class or wealthy backgrounds. There are three generations of activists, but you can’t tell who they are just by looking at them.”

But one of the most impressive things about this gathering is how many members of the group work in education. For example, Arteaga has a restorative justice job at a school. Many of them grew up with Iscari in their lives, like her 41-year-old Glora, who has been attending the organization’s events since she was 17.

Glora grew up in Tijuana but crossed the border every day to attend school. Growing up, he was angry with the world, the injustice he saw, and the system that created it. He wanted to be a gangster.

During his sophomore year at Sweetwater High, he took another educator and Izcalli founder, Joe Lara’s Chicano studies class, and one day, Arteaga was a guest speaker. Gurrola, intrigued by his stories about indigenous ways, culture and healing, approached the two after class and said he wanted to learn more. A year later he joined his first Sweat.

Gurrola said his introduction to Izcalli, indigenous practices, and Chicano research focused on his life trajectory. These new press outlets were not only political, addressing the inequalities he saw crossing borders every day, but they were also spiritual, an indoctrinated method of his Catholic upbringing. It was not.

Teenagers search for the next teepee pole-carrying man to be added to the frame, and Guillermo Aranda surveys the group’s progress. / Photo by Jakob McWhinney

“It provided an alternative … and it was a way to criticize the system,” he said. “Many of us tend to gravitate toward the role of the heart healer, the healer of the mind, such as counseling, education, education, and mentorship because of our exposure to these methods.

Another founding member of Izcalli, Luis Gomez, is also an educator and former Vice Principal. He describes education as his version of “Walking the Red Road”. This is a phrase that broadly means going through life in a spiritual way, with purpose and intention to grow.

“But until then, I will always support, teach and share,” he said.

“It’s no coincidence that many people here are educators,” Gomez said. When Gomez learned less than 50 years ago that people could be persecuted for practicing Indigenous traditions, he felt even more compelled to share what he had learned from his elders. I’m here. Many of them have already been passed down. “I’m leaving, but what I do know is that it needs to continue through my children, my godson, or my relatives,” he said.

That commitment to the guide was present throughout the weekend. On the first day, renowned muralist Guillermo “Yarma” Aranda adorns some of the highway supports in Chicano Park. As the man added the poles one by one, the teenagers ran in a circle around the frame of the teepee, tightening the fixing ropes upwards and tightening the new timber to the end. Aranda frequently checked in on her work.

“Each teepee is an individual,” says Aranda. “You can get to know them and what they need.”

In healing circles and throughout the weekend, leaders and adults try to lead by example and teach, share their traumas, pains and weaknesses, and learn that doing so is not only okay, but necessary to thrive and grow. I showed the next generation something. grow and move forward.

“We live in a society where, as men, we’ve been taught that we shouldn’t take advantage of those feelings because it’s wrong,” Gomez said. to see my father for the first time, see my cousin, my brother, my uncle and say, ‘Wow, they’re talking, they’re sharing, they’re crying,'” he said. He said.

In Arteaga’s view, decolonization means reintegrating indigenous knowledge into people’s lives and is a key teaching of the congregation. He believes that knowledge long buried by colonization can help alleviate many of the unjust gender pressures and expectations placed on men, as well as their reluctance to share their feelings freely. “We’re not reinventing ourselves when we’re challenging toxic masculinity,” he said.

Men gather around the fire to sing and pray. / Photo by Jakob McWhinney

During breakfast, over a plate of Nopales con Huevos, Arteaga told me stories. “They said that evil spirits came to a country and took away their happiness,” Arteaga said. For months the guys searched for happiness. They asked the animals, searched rivers, lakes, caves, and treetops, but could not find them. And the men grieved.

In desperation, the sorcerer of the country went to the evil spirits and said, “I have sent my strongest warriors to find happiness, but I cannot find it. Tell me where it is,” said Arteaga. “We hid our happiness in places we knew we would never find,” says Arteaga, who told the witch doctors.

We sat there quietly for a while. bite. idea. “So that’s all?” asked Arteaga. “How to teach a man how to see his own mind?”

“Exactly, bro,” he said.

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