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Indigenous Peoples Day: Demonstrators March and Rally Through Downtown San Antonio

Jolene Almendarez for Texas Public Radio
The Kalpulli Ayolopaktzin dancers led the way to the Alamo where they danced and prayed in recognition of ancestors who were on the land before the area was colonized.

For over 20 years, Indigenous groups have celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day in the city. But this year, they have something to be especially proud of — the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue and renaming of the namesake park this summer.

At least 40 people gathered for this year’s event — the first one in the newly named Piazza Italia Park.

“It’s very significant and, like I said, my heart’s full with happiness that we're doing it and there's no statue here and the park’s been renamed,” Antonio Diaz, Indigenous Rights Activist, said.

Jolene Almendarez for Texas Public Radio
Indigenous rights activist Antonio Diaz speaks to dozens of people in front of the area where the Christopher Columbus statue used to stand.

During speeches at the park, people talked about the “pandemic” of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the country, conditions at reservations, and the importance of voting in the upcoming election.

“We want to start moving forward as who we were thousands of years ago, not who we were colonized to be 300 or 500 so years ago,” Diaz said. “We want to be who we were and practice our culture, relearn our languages, relearn our ceremonies, so that we can have that pride instilled in the coming generations.”

Demonstrators first marched from the park to the Alamo. There, the Kalpulli Ayolopaktzin dancers, wearing feathered headdresses and traditional cultural garb, drew in a crowd of tourists.

“We're also acknowledging all of the Indigenous people that have walked these lands and have been victims to the systemic violence caused by capitalists and colonizers that came and still continue to exploit people and the land and its resources. So today is a manifestation of our resilience,” one dancer said.

There’s been a longstanding contention between Indigenous groups and the history of the Alamo. Native Americans say there is a cemetery at the site and over 1,000 people are buried there, but the history of the site is almost exclusively focused on the Battle of the Alamo in 1836.

The march continued to areas organizers said are major points of power in the city — the Bexar County Courthouse and City Hall.

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Jolene Almendarez for Texas Public Radio
Dozens of demonstrators marched through the streets of downtown San Antonio in celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day Monday afternoon.

Jolene Almendarez can be reached at jolenealmendarez@gmail.com.