Soboba Fiesta mixes culture and fun for all

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The annual Soboba Fiesta treated guests to a full day of cultural experiences and fun and games when it was held at the Soboba Sports Complex on Saturday, May 18. Through a collaborative effort between several departments and includes the Soboba Foundation and Tribal Administration, the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians also welcomed singers and cultural presenters to interact with those who attended the Tribal community event through their social songs and dances.

At left, Tashina Miranda Ornelas, Culture Department Coordinator/Instructor at Noli Indian School, works with fellow basket weavers at the Soboba Fiesta.

Several food vendors were set up behind the shady ramadas that were built to encircle the grassy area where bird singers and dancers were well-received throughout the day. Michael Mirelez, who led the Desert Cahuilla Bird Singers from Torres Martinez, has been teaching a class through Soboba TANF and Cultural Resources for almost eight years. Each Tuesday, from 6 to 8 p.m., he conducts Cahuilla Language Through Bird Songs that is open to all Tribal communities by RSVP to 951-663-6261. Some of his students who were present at the Fiesta joined in.

Soboba TANF staff members are among many other departments that collaborated to bring the Soboba Fiesta to life on May 18.
Michael Mirelez and the Desert Cahuilla Bird Singers from Torres Martinez are the first of many bird singers to present social songs and dances at the Soboba Fiesta, May 18.

“I do this because I have a passion for it,” said Mirelez, who teaches at three other reservations. “Our dances have always been unified; we’re all dancing together, and we are trying hard to bring that back.”

Dancers join different bird singing groups throughout the day.

Also presenting were Larry Hammond and the Mojave Bird Singers, Ft. Mojave; Jonny Ray Hemers and the Rez Life Bird Singers, Ft. Mojave; Mickey Salazar, Kumeyaay Bird Songs, San Jose de la Zorra; George Zuniga, Kumeyaay Birdsongs, Santa Ysabel; Mojave Boy, Ft. Mojave; Painiktem Singers, Pass Cahuilla Bird Singers, Agua Caliente; and Wayne Nelson and the Intertribal Bird Singers, So Cal.

Dancers in their colorful bird skirts join Larry Hammond and the Mojave Bird Singers, Ft. Mojave on May 18 fiesta at the Soboba Sports Complex.

Another highlight was a performance by the Apache Crown Dancers from White River, Arizona.

Co-ed sports were front and center with horseshoe and one-pitch softball tournaments starting at 11 a.m. There were 20 players in the double-elimination horseshoe tournament; the winners were Kathy Pico and Shad Wulf.

Twenty players signed up to compete in the double-elimination horseshoe tournament.

For the one-pitch softball tournament, the Beernuts took home first place among the field of 12 teams. The Soboba-based team roster was Andy Silvas, Noel Alverez, Noel Alverez Jr., Brave Alvarez, Davi Bentiste, Jocie Bentist, Fabian Correra, Tot Briones, Ciara Ramos, Jeremiah Ramos, Crystal Devore and Ane Pahulu.

Beernuts’ team member Andy Silvas slugs it out during the one-pitch softball tournament where 16 teams competed on two fields at the Soboba Sports Complex.

Games and contests were also popular activities. The tortilla contest was won by Kat Duro. Alice Helms, 92, was one of six entrants in the salsa contest which she has entered for many years, having won first place in the past. This year the top honors went to Ruby Arrietta.

“I use all fresh ingredients and roast everything with garlic,” Helms said.

Soboba’s Louis Cervantes makes his choice for his favorite salsa as did his son, daughter, wife and cousins.

All contestants had to submit a quart of salsa. A small amount was placed in bowls for tasting by guests who then cast a vote for their favorite. The rest of the salsa was available at the free lunch that was served inside the gymnasium. Meal contributors were Wayne Nelson who slowly smoked the shredded beef and turkey overnight before barbecuing it, Yolanda Rhodes who provided the homemade tortillas, and Anita Morillo and Jacob Rivera who made the sides that included salads, beans and rice. Also provided was homemade wewish, an acorn mush that was one of the main food staples of the Indigenous peoples of California. After the hearty meal, there were plenty of sweets supplied by guests at the potluck dessert table.

The Soboba Elders sponsored Bingo games from 10:30 to noon, which was a popular activity. Grease pole climbing, a watermelon eating contest and some tug-of-war sessions kept everyone’s interest. Peon games began at dusk and lasted well into the night. The pool and playground were also open and children enjoyed both throughout the event that occurred during a day of sunny and warm temperatures.

Soboba Tribal Environmental Department Environmental Assistant Christine Rodriguez, left, and Environmental Specialist Katelyn Thomas explain water pollution to Eva Uribe, 7. Their booth was one of several vendors at the annual Soboba Fiesta, May 18.

Soboba Tribal Preschool students earned much-deserved applause and smiles from the crowd as they performed three songs they have learned. One about colors was in the Luiseño language.

Sitting under one of the ramadas constructed with help from Noli Indian School students and enjoying a nice breeze, Alice Helms said that back in her grandmother’s day they didn’t have tents and canopies to provide shade so ramadas were a necessity. Today they serve as a reminder of the cultural traditions that Tribal members know are important to continue for future generations.

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