Relevance of Ancient Traditions One of Many Workshops at Lansing’s Dia de la Mujer Conference
Celia Perez-Booth longs to reintroduce a generation to her Mexica-Aztec roots and traditions.
“I want to create a community so that we can practice our old traditions,” she said. “I want to return the history of my people to my ancestors.”
The retired Mott Community College counselor will present at this Saturday’s Dia de la Mujer Conference at Michigan State University. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a sponsor of the event.
The daylong celebration of Latina culture will focus on topics ranging from education, health, STEM, finance, business, relationships and self-empowerment. Over 20 workshops will be offered, including keynote speaker Christine Chavez, granddaughter of legendary labor rights leader Cesar Chavez. Christine Chavez has carried on her grandfather’s work, currently working as the farm worker coordinator for the United States Department of Agriculture.
For Perez-Booth, helping people rediscover ancient traditions and important elements of their history is an important step in positively moving forward. She said just as Native Americans in the United States have had to deal with their culture being torn from them, natives of Mexico suffered a similar fate after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire, which started in the 16th century. After being told the “old ways” were bad, Perez-Booth said many let them go over time, instead adhering to Western ideals, especially for people who eventually migrated to the United States.
“There are some people who don’t want to identify with their ancestors,” she said.
Perez-Booth feels strongly that bringing back traditional practices such as smudging and moon dance ceremonies, the use of sweat lodges, a connection to the earth, nature and plants, and oral and song traditions will go a long way in healing some of the historical trauma she feels her people have suffered. She believes it’s a responsibility to her ancestors to keep those traditions alive.
“When you stop remembering those that you’ve loved that have passed on, that’s when they really die,” she said.
Besides the cultural value, Perez-Booth points to the health benefits of some of the ancient ways. Personally, she feels relief from back pain after a sweat lodge session and she also references some of the mental health benefits to focusing on ceremony and oral traditions that she observed as a former counselor.
“There’s just so many different things that we could use that would make us feel better so that we could be in the right mind to take care of the other issues that we have,” she said. “There are many, many things that we can teach our children.”
If you’re interested in hearing Perez-Booth’s presentation, which will include other speakers and the performance of traditional ceremonial songs, plan to attend this year’s Dia de la Mujer conference. On-site registration takes place Saturday from 8 to 11 a.m. A complete workshop schedule can be found here.
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Photo credit: Rafael Saldaña