On Sunday, October 15th, hundreds came to the first annual Baja Bird Festival. Families came from Tecate, Tijuana, Ensenada, Mexicali and San Diego. And to their surprise, they found themselves at the base of one of the most sacred mountains in the world, Mount Cuchama in Parque del Profesor. Cuchama means exalted high place and for generations Kumiai would come to Mount Cuchama for initiation and mystic rites for their people.
The festival started with a Kumiai blessing with Norma and young Kumiai warriors and their elders. It was an honor to see the Kumiai returning to their sacred mountain and blessing us with their ancestors’ kumiai songs at the base of the mountain. All of our youth must be taught the old ways of the ancestors.
The Baja Bird Festival was supported by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in a binational collaboration with WorldBeat Cultural Center (San Diego, CA), Culture Beat Mexico (Tijuana, Mexico), Casa del Túnel (Tijuana, Mexico) and Fundación La Puerta (Tecate, Mexico). It began out of a four year citizen science program, Celebrate Urban Birds at WorldBeat Center’s Children’s Garden and Outdoor Classroom provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Last year we were presented the opportunity to host a festival that celebrated the arts, science and culture as one in Mexico. After visiting enchanted Tecate, Mexico and Parque del Profesor next to Mount Cuchama, we decided it was the perfect place.
It was wonderful for the festival to coincide with Tecate’s 125th anniversary and have cultural exchange between Mexico and Africa. Ibrahima Ba from Sene Africa brought Senegal through his angelic voice, Makida Anderson had women, men and families dancing African Dance and WorldBeat Center’s Master Drummer, Nana Yaw Asiedu taught children and parents African Drumming.
Our science guests for the Bird Festival were young Mexican scientists like Eunice Murua Figueroa who shared the benefits of bird tourism and bird watching and came from CIAD – Unidad Mazatlán en Manejo Ambiental (Research Center in Food & Development – Mazatlan Division in Environmental Management). Also, David Garcia Solorzano from Alianza Mexicana para la Conservación de la Vida Silvestre (The Mexican Alliance for Wildlife Conservation) from the state of Mexico shared the importance of citizen science in research and conservation.
UABC’s Birding Club, Los Correcaminos, from Ensenada also led an informative guided bird walk through Parque del Profesor’s chaparral trail with families and people of all ages. Contacto Salvaje AC (Wildlife Contact) from Ensenada also took us into flight with a birds of prey demonstration including a Burrowing Owl, Harris’ Hawk, Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, and American Kestrel. Plus the San Diego Seed Library came with us to share their knowledge of heirloom seeds and hosted a seed exchange. Throughout the day children had fun with Mary Lou Valencia’s mask making activity and science card games designed by Nysai Moreno.
A few years ago, a NSF (National Science Foundation) report found that African Americans, Latinos and American Indians are underrepresented in science and engineering careers. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is trying to make a change through its citizen science project, Celebrate Urban Birds and let everyone know everyone can be a scientists. If we look back at our history and ancestral grounds we can see that people of color have been great biologists, medicinal healers, astrologers, and engineers who designed cities, pyramids, and ceremonial sites. Our ancestors understood how we as people are interconnected with nature. Our children are struggling in math, science and engineering because of many factors including not knowing that it took science, math and engineering to create the legacies of our ancestors even if they did not receive degrees.
The best part came after the event when a fireman came asking for help. He had just found an eagle that did not look well and wanted to know if there was anyone who could help. We called Contacto Salvaje, the animal refuge facility that presented the birds of rapture and they were already on their way to Ensenada but they turned back around. When they took the eagle out she was disoriented but once the bird team covered her eyes she was more relaxed. As they checked her out they found that she looked intoxicated and guessed she must have eaten a poisoned pigeon. When they asked the fireman why he came to the park he said he remembered seeing the event on Facebook and thought there might be someone who would know what to do. Recently, Contacto Salvaje let us know the eagle was in much better shape and with the help of PROFEPA (Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente, Mexico’s Federal Agency of Environmental Protection) they have now released her back to the wild.
~Berenice Rodriguez, Publicity Staff, WorldBeat Cultural Center