El Pipila

el pipila


Luis Lopez Resendiz∞

I remember El Pipila, the middle school from my childhood. It was a school divided by race, different from other parts of Tijuana, in el pipila we were all poor, the same economic struggle, and the same hood. El Pipila had the typical urban kid from Tijuana and us, the mixtecs whose families migrated from “el sur”. El Pipila is located in la Colonia Obreara 3ra sección, a community where the majority of the residents come from la region mixteca of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Today, la Obrera is one of the biggest community of indigenous Mixtec peoples in Tijuana.

I attended el Pipila from first to sixth grade. Most of the teachers were indigenous Mixtec. Okay, the fact that we had indigenous educators was really important for the native kids because we were all connected to the teacher that looked like us, and to some of the native kids who hardly spoke Spanish some of the teachers were a great resource since many of them spoke mixteco and were able to facilitate education for them. Isn’t that crazy? I mean in the educational system of the United States; I have never encounter an educator who could speak a native language to the native kids who had/have a hard time understanding all the things the teachers want to teach. Speaking of California where indigenous communities are growing due to the displacement from their pueblos in the south, education is still being taught in the language that is hardly understandable to the indigenous communities. Maybe people in power need to reconsider the way their educational system is set up, I mean, the native kids are also capable of reaching the highest levels of education just like rich-white kids do.

Back to El Pipila. Like I said, we were divided by race, but it was not clear, I mean we didn’t know what was race or what that consisted of, we just knew that some our families spoke mixteco to us in the house and the other kids only spoke Spanish.  That’s it. I remember only having native kids as my friends, and one or two friends from Tijuana that was always hanging around with us. I remember talking about girls with the native kids. Somehow we all wanted to date a girl whose family came from the big cities of México, we didn’t know why, but we wanted too. I guess we thought they were beautiful since they went to school with new clothes and smelling good. Sometimes the mixteco kids always fought the mestizo kids just to show their bravery to the girls. The native kids were always down to fight other kids, it was like having so much anger in one little body, Mixtec kids never gave up at fighting other kids. The same was outside in the streets with bigger native kids fighting even bigger kids from the cities.

Anyways, in the classrooms the smartest girls were the native girls, they didn’t have to wear new clothes to be beautiful, they knew it, they were very smart. Among the native kids there was always a competition to get better grades than other kids. To some of the teachers we were all the smartest kids in Tijuana, but we always wanted to be something else, the number one, better than kids from other parts of Tijuana. It was a race from the beginning to the end of the school year, we always wanted to know who got the highest grades in our classrooms. I was always the third or fourth one, a native boy a native girl were always the first and second students with the highest grades in my classes. Sometimes I would think that they were always getting good grades because their parents were teacher in the same classrooms we were at. Then they would tell me that their parents were very strict when it came to education. Then I knew I had to work harder to be the number one. There was like 10 mixtec students among the 15 highest grades in el Pipila. Wait, 10 indigenous students among the best students of the school? Say, “what”. Yup. Native kids can be among the best students in any educational system in the world if the educators are from their communities or at least if they understand the culture and traditions of the kids. I thought I was smart before coming to the United States.

Anyways, I was in the chorus. The chorus had a band and all the native kids were in the band. Music plays a very important role in our community, it’s part of our life. In the chorus there was like 70 percent Mixtec students. Want to know something interesting? Every Monday we will would have a ceremony for the Mexican flag. The flag was carried by the girls, better known as “la escolta”, around the basketball field. Those girls carried the flag with such proudness in the middle of the basketball field that I remember I was in love with la escolta and the flag and the music. Every Monday all the kids from El Pipila would feel this sentiment of proudness of being Mexican. We could all see the United States from our school and we knew that sooner or later the majority of us were going to be migrating to the other side of the border. It was sad but there was nothing we could about it, not even the teacher la escolta, the band or the chorus could do anything to stop us from migrating. When la escolta reached the middle of the field, the band would always mark the beginning of our songs, then the chorus would start singing the Mexican anthem first in Spanish and then in Mixteco. Yup, in Mixteco. El Pipila is not like the school in the United States, El Pipila did or does recognizes (because El Pipila still exist) the languages of the kids in the school. I remember going home signing the anthem in mixteco every day after school, it made me happy even though people in the mercado would laugh at me.

El Pipila would always be the best school in the world, at least for me it will be. The importance of recognizing the languages and the identities of the kids attending a school is very important. El Pipila knew that and they included everyone when it came to teach and learn with the students. The best education in the world is always in the poorest communities, and it always works when the teachers are from the same communities of the student and when they speak the same language and practice the same traditions as the student do.  Now in the United States, I feel that this education is missing something that El Pipila has, which is the representation of the indigenous communities whose land this campus is built at and/or those communities that were displaced and forced to migrate here.  Sometimes I just miss La Colonia Obrera and my school; El Pipila.