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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tucson Meet Yourself: Get immersed in Tucson culture


    Courtesy of Maribel Alvarez

    A vendor at Tucson Meet Yourself shows her baskets at a previous event. Tucson Meet Yourself will be taking place this weekend in downtown Tucson.

    Tucson Meet Yourself is opening its culturally diverse world this weekend to the Tucson community, giving individuals the chance to learn more about those around them.

    Maribel Alvarez, executive program director for the Southwest Folklife Alliance, said this festival created a healthy way for community members to “cross borders” and get out of their comfort zones in order to really understand each other. 

    This year, Alvarez said there are 31 cultures being represented in food vendors, 24 in folk art and 45 in performances. She said she believes that getting to know our own region of southwest Arizona and the history here is equally important as knowing about countries on the other side of the world. 

    “It’s interesting to talk about cultural diversity in a festival of this nature, because for most people, when they think of cultural diversity they think of adding some color, adding something exotic to what seems to be very homogenous,” Alvarez said. “But [at TMY] you kind of flip that and try to understand the complexity within what is already complex.” 

    For this year’s event, Alvarez said TMY wants to emphasize more on the culture in the Southwest, like music that represents the western/cowboy culture or a motorcycle club that represents the urban Chicano culture in the Southwest and keep expanding it to the community. Alvarez said festivalgoers will also notice the diversity in the people at TMY. 

    “The audience is equally diverse and that stands out when you go to the festival,” Alvarez said. 

    Every year, TMY hosts new groups that join the festival, Alvarez said. Here are some of the cultures you can expect to find at TMY:

    Buddhist Community­ 

    The Buddhist community will be presenting their spiritual practice of their prayer beads, or Mala beads. These are used during their prayer to keep count while reciting and chanting a mantra. These mantras at times are said hundreds and thousands of times. This community will also be presenting a Phowa practice, which is a form of meditation.  


    Alvarez said that the Japanese culture has not been represented for some time now. Tomomi Katz is bringing it back by making Takoyaki, what he says is a very popular food at Japanese festivals. This dish first started in Osaka, Japan, and is a round-shaped snack filled with ingredients like green onion, ginger and octopus. Katz moved to Tucson in 2013 and started making this snack when he began missing the food in Japan. He decided to also share this part of his culture with Tucson. 


    The Cuban community has resided in Tucson since the 1960s and Alvarez said there will be a Cuban club showcasing the music and culture of the Cuban people. She said there has not been an “organized Cuban community for years.” The community will come together for TMY and take the audience through the folk and popular music of Cuba. 


    A community of refugees from the Republic of Burundi  will also be present in the folk-art section of the festival. Burundi is located in East Africa and in the African Great Lakes region.  Crafts such as basket weaving, sculpting and pottery are very popular and important in Burundi culture.    

    Urban Chicano Culture 

    Los Vatos motorcycle club will also be in the folk-art section, presenting its colors and patches.  This club has done memorial runs and runs for people who are ill or suffering. The club has also hosted other philanthropic endeavors to help out the community, such as toy drives. This group helps to represent the Chicano Culture here in the Southwest.  

    Follow Erika Parra on Twitter.

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