Izcalli, the Nahuatl word for “house of reawakening,” is a community-based organization that began in San Diego in 1993 by a group of young Chicano/Native American activists who wanted to create a space for young Chicana/o students to learn about their history and culture in response to a public school system that does not encourage knowledge or pride in that history.
Izcalli started without money, grants, or an office, but with a lot of heart and dedication. We established a Saturday school program and began working with youth from kindergarten to young adults. The curriculum ranged from the Aztec culture to graffiti art. Izcalli has now grown and the Saturday school has now become a Summer Project known as Proyecto Ollin. Since its inception hundreads of students from San Diego county have participated in Izcalli’s Summer Project and other programs. Many of these young people have now gone on to college and have become leaders in the community.
From the first Saturday school class with less than 10 students to having classes at the Centro Cultural de la Raza with over 100 participants, we have grown both in size and in purpose. In 1995 we established a theater group, Teatro Izcalli that raises consciousness and funds for the organization. We have performed all over the country at various universities and venues with great success. In 1999 the men’s circle known as Hombre Noble was formed and in 2001 the women’s circle, Cihua Ollin. Within these circles a space is created for men and women of different ages to gather and discuss issues and to make the personal commitment necessary to be positive men and women in our community. These gatherings have developed into an important voice for Chicanas/o in the San Diego area.
We look back proudly on Izcalli’s growth, accomplishments, and important collaborations such as with the San Diego Unified School District, the MAAC, and the Centro Cultural de la Raza over the years. The Summer Project-Proyecto Ollin, Teatro Izcalli, Hombre Noble,and Cihua Ollin are all endeavors that have helped to better the Chicano/Native American community. Most importantly, Chicano/Native youth in San Diego are relearning their culture, their traditions, and their true place in history along with being empowered to achieve their dreams.
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