By Carolyn Smith
Arizona Daily Wildcat
A three-day celebration of desert cultures in Mexico will include various lectures and presentations from UA professors and students, as well as a Mexican version of Tucson Meet Yourself.
From March 2-5, about 90 presenters will gather in Caborca, Sonora, Mexico to discuss history, ethnobotany, archeology, and share their work on economics and heritage based tourism.
They will also describe how local economies and political systems shape culture.
Members from indigenous groups in Baja California will share their views and interpretations, as well as various authors, anthropologists, artists, dancers and musicians from around the region.
The event's director, Wendy Laird of the Sonoran Institute, said the idea is to bring people together and celebrate diversity.
"It's going to be absolutely awesome," Laird said.
"We expect anywhere from 500 to 600 people to attend."
In addition to the presentations, there will be plenty of food prepared in different ways, dancing and music, as well as a display of arts and crafts, including a "Sonoran Peoples' Tapestry," woven by Tucson artist Ann Keuper.
Each person attending the conference is asked to donate a small item that represents their way of life in the Sonoran Desert, and Keuper will then weave it into the tapestry as a way to symbolize the diversity of cultures.
Edward Williams, a University of Arizona political science professor, said it is important to recognize the relatively poor lands in the region.
"We need to maintain our own culture, and develop a sense of worth and support one another within the community," he said.
Williams will give his presentation on the North American Free Trade Agreement and cultural changes.
Gloria Valdez-Gardea, an anthropology graduate student doing applied research work, said field work is very important, and that she will incorporate her field work into her presentation.
"Students make the difference because they give fresh information that they get from their community," she said.
Valdez will give her presentation on the community and the economic changes occurring in El Golfo de Santa Clara, with focus on families and women.
"I am very excited to be doing this ... I saw the list of presenters and told myself I had to be on there, because this is my area of field work and people have to hear the voice of the people who are represented," she said. "I think our mission as students is to maintain contact with our exterior community, not to just sit behind a desk and write papers."
This event marks the third international conference convened by the International Sonoran Desert Alliance, in conjunction with the Sonoran Institute and Friends of PRONATURA, an organization that focuses on conservation of habitat and species diversity.
This year's conference will be hosted by the University of Sonora and the municipality of Caborca.
For students, the registration fee is $7.50, and includes all of the activities except the meals. For general individuals the cost is $15, and the meal package is $25.
To register, call the Arizona Historical Society at 628-5774, or the Sonoran Institute at 290-0828.
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