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Border & Immigration

Segundo De Febrero: A Celebration Of Mexican-American Heritage

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National Archives and Record Administration
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Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Exchange Copy, cover

On Feb. 2, 1848, a treaty was signed that ended the U.S.-Mexican War and ceded 525,000 square miles of land from Mexico to the U.S., including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. The Rio Grande was designated the boundary between Texas and Mexico. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo also created a new population of Mexican-Americans, and Mexicans on new U.S. territory could either remain Mexican citizens, return to Mexico, or claim U.S. citizenship.

The 170th anniversary of that signing is something Hispanic communities in the U.S. are celebrating as a part of their heritage, calling it Segundo de Febrero.

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Credit Norma Martinez / Texas Public Radio
Carlos Gonzalez and Rogelio "Smiley" Rojas

Carlos Gonzalez, coordinator of Segundo de Febrero commemorations in San Antonio, said the treaty marked the political birth of the Chicano movement, and has roots that extend beyond the historical to the spiritual.

“Feb. 2 is not only the signing of the treaty, but in our Catholic understanding it’s also la candelaria, the levantada del niño,” Gonzalez said. “In respect to old tradition that the baby in Jewish times was not taken out of the home until 40 days after, so from Dec. 25 to Feb. 2, that’s the 40 day period.”

Rogelio ‘Smiley’ Rojas is a member of Danza Azteca Xinachtli, a ceremonial dance group with indigenous roots. Rojas said the anniversary has a strong pull with the indigenous community. His group frequently plays masses that commemorate the Segundo de Febrero. He said the ceremony blends not only Catholic elements, but indigenous ones.

“In our tradition, we have four directions,” he said. “We do our dance, the ceremony, then the flowers — the petals — are spread out in the four directions and into the center.”

The ceremony also has a blessing of the seeds, to mark the beginning of the agricultural season.

Segundo de Febrero is celebrated in three states, Texas, Arizona and Colorado. Texas has been marking the anniversary of the  signing of the treaty for 40 years. Arizona began commemorating Segundo de Febrero 20 years ago, and Colorado, three years ago.

Gonzalez sees Segundo de Febrero celebrations expanding across the Southwest.

“We would like to continue promoting awareness of ourselves as a people celebrating the diversity that is within each of us and bringing to light the historical context that probably gives us a little better understanding of the political dynamics that are going on right now,” he said. “It’s an event that took place, it’s a reality that our people have dealt with, and we’re going to continue to evolve into a better world.”

 

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Segundo de Febrero events in San Antonio:

  • Friday, 6 p.m.: Art Exhibit Opening Reception Centro Cultural Aztlán, 1800 Fredericksburg Road.
  •  Saturday, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Open Mic/ Poetry Session Sabinas Coffee House, 2303 W. Commerce. hosted by Radio Aztlan and the Jazz Poets of San Antonio.
  •  Sunday, 8 a.m.: Segundo Mass and Blessing of the Seeds Ceremony Xinachtli; at 11 a.m.: Screening of a documentary about Segundo De Febrero, Christ the King Church, 2610 Perez

Norma Martinez can be reached by email at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1