El Museo Mayachen – a dose of Chicano History
By Joe Olvera ©, 2010
The Museo Mayachen in South-Central El Paso at 2101 Myrtle is a place where history has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen, according to the dreamers who began working on creating a museum that would showcase and highlight contributions by Mexicanos and Chicanos for the betterment of El Paso, the state of Texas, and the U.S.
Beginning around 2002 a committee, comprised of Jorge Jimenez, Carlos Marentes, Guillermo Glenn, Julieta Olvera, Malu Picard, Pedro Villagrana, and several others, began planning what was to be the first ever attempt to create a venue where generations of the future could look back and perhaps capture that seminal moment when Chicano history became a vital piece of the history of the United States.
“We hope that our history will be archived,” said Lorena Andrade, a museum coordinator. “The purpose of our museum is to have our own history spelled out. We need to tell the stories of our barrios, of the Chicano Movement, of the oral histories of our elders, the story of los braceros – many of our stories have not yet been written, but, we’re working on that.”
To that end, the Museo has held several events to commemorate and remind Mexicans and, especially, Chicanos, that their history is vital and strong. The month of February featured events such as a panel discussing the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo – this is the treaty that ended the war between the U.S. and Mexico in 1848. The Treaty suffered the fate of other treaties signed by the United States with indigenous groups. It was not ratified by the U.S. Congress, so many of the features of the Treaty – such as teaching English and Spanish in all Southwest schools – did not materialize.
Other events have featured such great El Paso poets as Juan Contreras – a long time El Paso Chicano poet; Ray Ramos – one of a new generation of Chicano poets; Nancy Lechuga, a young Chicana poet, and many others. The crew at the Museo contains such stalwarts as Guillermo Glenn, Ramon Arroyos, Carlos Aceves, and Yolanda Leyva.
The museo started in an inauspicious way, when in 1981 a group of women known as La Mujer Obrera (the Woman Worker), conducted its first protest against low wages, unfair working conditions, and other problems in El Paso’s clothing manufacturing industry by chaining themselves to their sewing machines. The police had to come and cut off the thick chains which they had used. From then on, it was one protest after another
Years later, with assistance from the City of El Paso and other funding sources, La Mujer Obrera has advanced to the point where it stands today – as directors of several social and economic programs in a barrio known as Piedras/Alameda. Today, these programs are part of a growing litany of businesses that include El Café Mayapan and Restaurant, El Mercadito Mayapan, Un Rayito Del Sol Day Care, and now, the Museo Mayachen.
Known officially as The Mayachen – Museo y Plaza Cultural, the museum is working to uncover the indigenous links, with one objective being to analyze, discuss, and disseminate the history of the inhabitants of Mexican origin in the U.S.
“We want to make sure that our Mexican history, our roots and culture, our folkways, our food, and our dreams are turned into reality in a way that will inspire not only our members, but members of the public as well,” Andrade said. “We welcome every El Pasoan, from every part of the city, to come down to the Museo Mayachen for a dose of Mexican and Chicano History. You’ll be amazed by what you see.”