Culture

Cafe Ohlone Gives Diners A Taste Of California’s Oldest Most Traditional Foods

Long before Europeans colonized and occupied what is today modern California, there was a land full of communities.

These communities stretched from the deserts of the south, along the coasts and beaches of present-day Los Angeles, all the way through the Central Valley and into the mountains.

Indigenous communities not only had their own unique identities, culture, and language – they also had their own foods. And one California restaurant is working to show the world this original California cuisine.

In Berkeley, Cafe Ohlone is serving only Indigenous foods common to the area.

Credit: makamham / Instagram

Cafe Ohlone is named for the Ohlone tribe indigenous to Northern California’s East Bay. It’s a small backyard restaurant serving up big flavors with even bigger dreams. The cafe’s founders, Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino, have dedicated themselves to reviving the foods of the Ohlone tribe.

They’ve created a menu deeply rooted in Ohlone tradition.

Credit: visitberkeley / Instagram

Salmon, venison, acorns, amaranth, chia, yerba buena, blackberries. These are the ingredients of a culture nearly forgotten and one that Medina and Trevino are trying to revive.

This is California Cuisine long before the introduction of Spanish, British, Russian, and American influences.

Credit: makamham / Instagram

The menu at Cafe Ohlone changes with the season, depending on what’s available. The duo often gathers ingredients in the East Bay hills and Carmel Valley. Though Medina said they often have to forage early in the morning or late at night.

He told BerkeleySide.com: “it’s not always comfortable, especially as a brown person, with people looking at you as a criminal for gathering your own food.”

For Medina, the push to popularize the foods of the Ohlone is a personal mission.

Credit: baynaturemagazine / Instagram

He is a member of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and grew up on the very land his ancestors have always lived on. Even though he has deep roots in the East Bay, he wondered by he never saw his culture represented. Medina grew up eating foods like mole, tortillas, and chiles – foods that were imposed on his ancestors by the Spanish.

In an interview with BerkeleySide.com, Medina said: “It can be very isolating when you’re Ohlone, you don’t see tangible evidence about your culture anywhere even though you’re right in your home.”

Together they launched a guerilla food pop-up called Mak-’amham – or “Our Food” in the Chochenyo language.

Credit: carolineseckinger / Instagram

Most of the ingredients have been gathered in traditional ways on their native lands. Mak-’amham holds pop-up events and offers catering services to fund monthly events where they cook for the Ohlone community

The duo is showing respect for their culture and people are here for it.

Credit: @atlasobscura / Twitter

Many across the Internet couldn’t believe how little opportunity there is to try traditional Californian foods – the foods of Indigenous California tribes.

“Food is such a good way to have intercultural dialogue,” Medina told BerkeleySide.com. He added: “It’s hard to disrespect a culture when you sit down and eat their food, especially when you enjoy it and you’re around the people, when you’re having a positive experience.”

“A major misconception is we’re extinct. Our community is doing quite well today. The truth is, we also come from powerful and strong people who survived this difficulty that still exists today.”

Some on Twitter pointed out they themselves group on Native lands but never got to try the foods.

Credit: @ryneches / Twitter

And now with the opening of Cafe Ohlone, they’ll finally be able to taste the foods of California’s original inhabitants.

The Internet is sending a huge thanks to these two leaders bringing forth the flavors and traditions of a nearly forgotten culture.

From El Centro to LA and Sacramento to Lake Tahoe, it’s about time Californians of all backgrounds get to know the history and the flavors of California’s original identity.

READ: Nature Chola Is Making Space For Indigenous People In The Great Outdoors

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

A Long Beach Street Vendor Was Attacked And The Community Is Showing Up To Help Him

Things That Matter

A Long Beach Street Vendor Was Attacked And The Community Is Showing Up To Help Him

GoFundMe

In 2020, we saw several street vendors attacked while trying to make ends meet. As the pandemic drags on and people are desperate, the attacks on street vendors have not abated and a Long Beach street vendor is the latest victim.

A street vendor in Long Beach was brutally attacked while working.

@moisesthechosen1

please spread awareness and Hispanic Lives Matter 😭😭😭. It happened on LB Blvd and Burnett today. #vendor #mexican #awarness #hispanictiktok #help

♬ original sound – Moises Rodriguez

Gerardo Iván Olmeda Del Pilar, 22, was working as a street vendor in Long Beach when he was attacked by two people. The vendor, according to LA Taco, was later than usual in setting up after dropping of fellow street vendors on his way.

Del Pilar was at the intersection of Burnett Street and Long Beach Boulevard on Saturday Jan. 16 when it happened. The street vendor was approached by two men who seemed to be regular customers when they attacked.

“Everything was calm, then I want to say four hours passed when two men came towards me and like any other customer they asked me for an order of fruit,” Del Pilar told LA Taco

Del Pilar is not letting this stop him from what he has to do to survive.

Del Pilar has been a street vendor for a while. The man, who is from Veracruz, Mexico, was suckerpunched and attacked. According to LA Taco, Del Pilar was giving the men their order when one punched him in the chin to knock him down. They then both started to attack him until they got his wallet and ran away. The men stole $500 from him.

Del Pilar told the Long Beach Post that there was not much he could do while being attacked. He was left with a swollen face and horrific bumps on his face from the vicious attack.

Two friends have set up GoFundMe accounts to help Del Pilar out.

Both Alex Diaz and Marissa Gomez have set up GoFundMe pages to help the young man. Combined, the two GoFundMe pages have raised more than $10,000 and are still accepting donations to help Del Pilar.

“While he was cutting up their fruit, one man reached into his backpack and took out an object and used it to punch him in the face. They broke his nose and lumped up his face and then dragged and kicked him while he was on the floor,” reads Gomez’s GoFundMe. “This man was an innocent victim just trying to provide for his family. All donations will go to replace this man’s lost income. There is no such thing as a donation too small anything is appreciated.”

READ: Family Sets Up GoFundMe To Help Paletero In Chicago Retire

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

At 78-Years-Old, This Oaxacan Woman Learned To Read And Write And Even Authored An Award-Winning New Book

Things That Matter

At 78-Years-Old, This Oaxacan Woman Learned To Read And Write And Even Authored An Award-Winning New Book

Jorge Fernandez / Getty Images

It’s never too late to follow your dreams. It may sound cliche but one Indigenous woman from the Mexican state of Oaxaca is showing just how true that sentiment really is.

Although growing up knowing how to speak her native language of Náhuatl, she was never able to read or write it – let alone Spanish. Now after years of studying and being too embarrassed to attend classes, this 78-year-old woman can say that she achieved her dream and is now an award-winning author.

Despite being illiterate for years, Justina Rojas has finally finished primary school.

Justina Rojas Flores, a resident of the Oaxacan community of San Miguel Espejo, learned to read and write at 76. She remembers that at first she was embarrassed to attend her classes, but with the support of her teachers sh was motivated to learn the alphabet and words and communication.

In fact, she became so motivated that she’s recently authored a handmade book that earned her a national award. She recently told El Sol de Puebla, that “I was already cracking under pressure because I was cheating a lot, but the teachers told me ‘yes you can, Justina’, so I continued taking classes and it was thanks to them that I learned. After two years, I wrote La Mazorca, which is dedicated to the community of San Miguel Espejo.”

In her Indigenous language of Náhuatl, Rojas shared the history of La Mazorca, which emphasizes the value of appreciating all things – especially that which the land gives us.

“I beg you, if you see me lying on the ground, pick me up, don’t step on me. Just as you take care of me, I will take care of you,” is part of the story in the book that was awarded in 2019 by the State Institute for Adult Education (IEEA), an achievement with which Rojas feels accomplished, and with which motivates other people to enter the competition.

Rojas is proving that it’s never too late to learn something new.

Now, at 78-years-old, Rojas is able to celebrate her achievements. Though she admits that many in her community continue to doubt her real motivation. It’s common to hear people ask ‘Why do I learn if I’m old?’, ‘What use is it going to do?’, and ‘I’m on my way out so it doesn’t matter.’

But many of the people who ask these questions are the same people who don’t have the same opportunities, since they can’t read or write. According to figures from the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval) in Rojas’ community, there are around 2,267 inhabitants, and the majority are living in poverty, a factor that significantly influences educational access. Many, from a very young age, leave school to work to support their families and take jobs working in the fields or construction.

Finally, Rojas wants everyone to know that they should not limit themselves and to embrace knowledge regardless of age. “If you don’t know how to read and write, or if you know someone like that, I invite you to go where they teach, so that those who know more can share their knowledge with us.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com