Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mayfair Organizations Host 'Community Action' Tianguis in San José

In Mexico and Central America, a tianguis is traditionally thought of as an open air market where merchandise is sold. The word tianguis is derived from the Aztec language, and the cultural tradition has been practiced by Indigenous peoples since before colonial contact. To create a space where community organizing skills can be shared, the concept of a "community action" tianguis was created by individuals in the Mayfair community of San José. The first such Community Action Tianguis was held at Lee Mathson Middle School (MIT) on November 15, and featured participation from a wide range of organizations working in the areas of health, education, labor, food safety, immigration, and legal defense.

Students involved with San Jose R.A.D. speak.

Visually, the Community Action Tianguis held at MIT resembled a traditional tianguis, however no merchandise was sold. Instead, individuals representing community organizations spoke, tabled and shared information, and a variety of goods and services were available at no cost. Hair stylists offered young people free haircuts. Community members cooked hot dogs which were distributed for free, and fresh produce was given out by Good. To Go., which displayed a box full of huge, organic pomegranates in front of a neatly arranged produce cart.

Good. To Go., which is a project of the Health Trust, brings affordable, fresh produce and other healthy foods to locations where finding decent food may be difficult for local residents. The organization works with businesses, such as convenience and liquor stores, to help them improve the types of food they are able offer their customers. Additionally, Good. To Go. is working on amending the municipal code in San José to allow vegetable stands and street vendors greater flexibility as to where they may operate legally.

Education was the focus of many at the tianguis.

Somos Mayfair, one of the organizations that sponsored the Community Action Tianguis, found that 90% of parents surveyed believe they can contribute to their school and community. Empuje, which is the Parents Organizing Committee of Somos Mayfair, hosted a table at the Community Action Tianguis and communicated with the public about how difficult it can be for parents to participate in their children's education.

One parent involved with Empuje, who has a child in the Alum Rock School District, described the committee's efforts to bring translators into their district to help non-English speaking parents communicate better with teachers. Presently, parents at the school her child attends are volunteering as translators and doing the work themselves for two and a half days per week. They can't meet the demand for that service, however, and they hope in the future to be able to convince administrators to hire translators at every school in their district, on a full time basis.

Organizers of the Community Action Tianquis also hoped the event would help kickstart the process of opening up more of MIT's resources to the public. There is a large, well-maintained sports field located at Lee Mathson Middle School that is off-limits to the public. The field sits unused outside of normal school hours.

On November 15, the field was used for a soccer league exhibition game during the Community Action Tianguis. Organizers explained that opening the use of this field to the public could help reduce the cost for youth to play soccer locally which costs families $125 per child at the nearest field used for that purpose.

The Community Action Tianguis was organized by individuals from Mathson Institute of Technology, Mexican American Studies SJSU, Uni-Tierra Califas, and Somos Mayfair, and community members hope to host more in the future. 

Lee Mathson Middle School

Gail Family Services

Free haircuts for young people.

Good. To Go.

Good. To Go.

Soccer league.

Activities for young people.

Community members cooking hot dogs.


Volunteer with Somos Mayfair.

Community Action Tianguis.


Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN)


Alum Rock Counseling Center

Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties

Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center/Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition

Higher Education for AB 540 Students (HEFAS) at De Anza College

Student Advocates for Higher Education @SJSU

Activities for young people.

Empuje of Somos Mayfair

San Jose Peace & Justice Center

5050 Crew

San Jose R.A.D.

School of Arts & Culture

Foothill Community Health Center

First 5 Santa Clara County

Mathson Institute of Technology

Lee Mathson Middle School

Lee Mathson Middle School

Alum Rock School District

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