Art & Culture

Celebrating Native American culture in San Juan

Annual market and festival will be the last one coordinated by co-founder Elayne Reyna

The California Indian Market & World Peace Festival in San Juan Bautista began 31 years ago with a dream.

Elayne Reyna, one of the event’s founders, had a vision of the festival in 1984 and has since watched it grow to a hugely successful event, with 4,000 to 5,000 people expected to attend May 2 and 3. “We have celebrities coming from Carmel and Big Sur,” she said. “It is magnificent.”

Reyna said she wants to educate people through her non-profit, One Earth, One People. “I taught people that we are all related, that is what my non-profit is all about,” she said. The organization inspires and empowers people to restore honorable and respectful relationships between all living things.

Reyna said the festival has a very specific purpose: "to bring focus to a diversity of cultures, with a specific focus on the youth participating in their particular culture,” Reyna said.

Crafts will abound, with 44 art vendors, offering wares such as basketry, bead work, crafts, jewelry, painting, pottery and weavings with tribes from across the West and Southwest.

“You can walk around and meet different artists from all over,” Reyna said.

There will also be special visitors, such as a gentleman coming from the Flathead Nation in Montana.

One of the highlights of the festival will be dancing, such as the Folklorico children, who make their own costumes for the Saturday regalia. There will also be Aztec dancers, called Xite-Totec, who have beautiful headdresses. “People are fascinated to see the dances,” Reyna said.

A big portion of the festival focuses on different kinds of crafts.

“The patrons come through; they can purchase beautiful, wonderful wares," Reyna said. There will be silver and gold jewelry, pottery, basketry and rugs. 

Food is always a popular item at festivals, and this one is no exception. Reyna said the food will consist of traditional fried bread and tacos, coconut drinks, caramel corn and snow cones.

Reyna hopes that the weather is "wonderfully cool" and that “many people come to participate in our culture, get in there and dance, meet the vendors, intermingle with different cultural groups, and meet the first nation of peoples. "I hope for throngs of people and to join in the peace dance,” she said. “It’s so enjoyable to dance, to hear the drumbeat, to move your body and get in there and dance.”

“I just want the intermingling of cultures and to celebrate life,” Reyna added. “We are also celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Celebrating life is what it’s all about. Song and dance are the most important and prayer. We will do a blessing song; Sonne will be part of that. The song goes to the universe and our ancestors for giving us life.”

This is Reyna’s last year organizing the festival, and she is handing over the reins to her daughter and others.

“They will continue to make it happen,” Reyna said.

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