This post is part of a special Women’s History Month series highlighting 31 community advocates (one for each day in March). The words on the feature image above were chosen by the interviewee when asked to select three words that best describe her role in the community.
For more information on how you can get involved, follow the links provided at the end of each interview.
Full name and age: Melissa Ehekalli Sanvicente, 30
Your cause(s)/organization(s)/profession(s)/passion project(s):
I am the program coordinator at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore where we dedicate ourselves to the holistic healing of the community through cultural arts and literacy.
I represent Kalpulli Xochiyaoyotl & Danza Tonaltlahuak group of Sun Valley. We are committed to the dissemination of ancestral indigenous knowledge through Mexica danza, temazcal sweat lodge and sacred ceremonies. I lead the music component, teaching huehuetl drumming and songs.
I am a member of HOODSisters, “Honoring Our Origins, Ourselves and Dreams,” an all-womyn and womyn-identified crew dedicated to creating awareness through public art.
I also play jarana and sing in Son Valleros Collective, a Son Jarocho group with the purpose of promoting, supporting, and learning the historical, political, and musical art of musica tradicional de cuerda.
Why do you choose to focus on the Valley and do the work that you do?
I grew up in Sylmar since I was five years old, and there weren’t any bookstores, cultural centers, or even a place for people or youth to come together. It was until Tia Chucha’s Cafe Cultural opened in 2002 that I realized there was a yearning in the community for something artistic, cultural, ancestral and meaningful. I wanted to be a part of this and contribute to building community through the arts.
To this day, the Valley needs more spaces of healing, expression, learning, and sharing of ancestral knowledge. It is my passion for the arts that inspires me to do this level of work in hopes that it fulfills the needs of our community.
Why is it important for women to share their passion with the community?
I have been inspired by many women of our community, and I am grateful to them because they decided to share their passion. Whether it was a friend who organized, shared her poetry or taught me a nahuatl song or danza, they all showed me their strength and passion and helped me continue on my own path. My hope is that, in the many years of doing this work, I have inspired other women on their paths to follow and share their passions. Sharing our passions is sharing a piece of ourselves, which is essential medicine that can heal and inspire others, especially young girls and women in the community.
If you had one wish for the San Fernando Valley, what would it be?
My wish would be for the San Fernando Valley to be interwoven together in our work—to bring an abundance of beauty, arts, strength, and awareness, and for this work to become self-sustainable.
Where can we find you online?
Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural on Facebook