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Phillip Esparza, director and founder of the...

Phillip Esparza, director and founder of the Aztec dance group Yankuititl, says he is proud of his Scottish-Irish ancestry.

“But when I ask myself, ‘Where is my soul?’ I speak Spanish,” he added.

Yankuititl will be the host of today’s Ceremony of Unity--Cuauhtemoc 1992 at Pasadena City Hall. The event is a gathering of as many as 200 Aztec dancers from the Los Angeles area, other southwestern states and Mexico.

“The Celebration of Unity is the gathering of all these dancers and the community,” Esparza said.

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It was Esparza’s pride in his indigenous Mexican ancestry that led him to found the Pasadena-based dance group two years ago. Esparza says he has been actively involved in learning and teaching Aztec history and culture since 1973, when he and his friend and teacher, Florencio Yescas, stumbled onto some Aztec dancers during a trip to Tijuana.

There was no Aztec group in Pasadena when Esparza moved to the city two years ago. So, because he doesn’t like it when he is not part of such a group, he started one.

“I will take the initiative and start these things,” he said.

The community-based group has more than 40 members.

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“I’m working with basic grass-roots people,” Esparza said. He estimates that 90% of the group is of Mexican descent, with a sprinkling of Anglos, African-Americans and people from other Latin American countries, such as Guatemala and Honduras.

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“It’s very much a reflection of our community here in Pasadena. And I do keep it open,” he said.

Esparza thinks that it is important to acknowledge all parts of one’s heritage.

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But “we have been brainwashed not to acknowledge our indigenous background,” he said. “Part of our way is to share our way of life, to share our points of view. It makes you feel good and it makes the community feel good.”

The event will start at 1 p.m. in front of City Hall, 100 N. Garfield Ave., and will continue until 5 p.m. Admission is free.


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