Tupac Enrique Acosta, Indigenous rights chief in Arizona, dies at 71
The Salt River Memorial Corridor will not be often open to non-tribal members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Group, however a uncommon exception was made to honor international Indigenous rights advocate Tupac Enrique Acosta, who died Nov. 9 on the age of 71.
Lots of of individuals attended a memorial ceremony on Nov. 18 to pay tribute to Enrique Acosta, a founding father of the Phoenix-based Tonatierra middle who additionally waged battles in opposition to former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration insurance policies in addition to Senate Invoice 1070, Arizona’s sweeping 2010 immigration enforcement legislation.
The reason for loss of life was issues from most cancers, buddies stated.
Born in San Antonio of Mexican heritage, Enrique Acosta recognized as Izkaloteka, descendants of the Mexica Indigenous folks of modern-day Mexico and the Southwestern U.S.
Match from years of religious operating, Enrique Acosta had film star beauty till a battle with throat most cancers ravaged his physique 15 years in the past. He additionally possessed a quiet charisma, but buddies described him as a humble drive who devoted his life to defending the Earth and advocating for Indigenous rights with out wanting to attract consideration to himself. He additionally served as a bridge between Indigenous peoples within the U.S. and Canada with Indigenous peoples in Mexico and Central America, they stated.
A long time in the past, Enrique Acosta legally modified his first title to Tupac after Tupac Amaru, the Inca ruler who fought the Spanish conquest within the sixteenth century. Enrique Acosta additionally used the standard title Huehuecoyotl, a Nahuatl phrase that means historical coyote, after the Aztec deity, in accordance with buddies.
Along with English and Spanish, Enrique Acosta additionally discovered Nahuatl, the Aztec language he studied for years with the assistance of a instructor from Guerrero, Mexico, stated Eve Reyes-Aguirre, who labored alongside him for greater than twenty years at Tonatierra.
Enrique Acosta cherished robust black espresso, stated Reyes-Aguirre. He brewed espresso by the pot to energy him by way of lengthy days of labor at Tonatierra but in addition to remind him of the Mayan battle for Indigenous rights in Chiapas, Mexico, the place he visited usually, she stated.
When he discovered meals missing in spice, Enrique Acosta pulled out dried chiltipin chilies or contemporary jalapeno or serrano peppers, which he grew in his backyard and all the time carried in his pocket, Reyes-Aguirre stated.
After transferring to San Diego his senior 12 months in highschool after which later to Phoenix within the late Nineteen Seventies, Enrique Acosta related with the O’odham folks whose ancestors have lived in what’s now the Phoenix space since time immemorial.
A ‘warrior’ for all Indigenous peoples
After his loss of life, his household requested an outside ceremony be held on the Huhugam Heritage Heart, a part of the Gila River Indian Group, residence to the Akimel O’odham folks. However, resulting from a forecast of rain, the ceremony was moved to the bigger Salt River Memorial Corridor, which required the approval of tribal leaders of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Group, which can be composed of Akimel O’odham and Piipaash peoples.
“Usually, in the event you’re not O’odham, it is uncommon that we enable entry to non-O’odham or non-tribal neighborhood members to have areas like that inside our neighborhood,” stated Shannon Rivers, a member of the Gila River Indian Group who served as a go-between.
Holding the ceremony on the Salt River Memorial Corridor demonstrated the respect O’odham folks held for Enrique Acosta as an ally and collaborator within the combat for Indigenous rights, Rivers stated.
“He was a warrior for our folks. For not simply the O’odham folks, however for all Indigenous folks,” Rivers stated.
Seven staffs with eagle feathers have been positioned on the entrance of an altar and a medication man opened the ceremony with a prayer and a blessing, Rivers stated.
Between 300 and 400 folks attended the ceremony, which lasted greater than six hours, Rivers stated.
Relations and buddies took turns remembering Enrique Acosta’s life, Rivers stated.
Indigenous leaders from all around the U.S. and Mexico attended the ceremony, amongst them Sid Hill, the Tadodaho, or conventional chief of the Haudenosaunee, also called the Iroquois Confederacy, and 93-year-old Oren Lyons, faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation in New York State, who gave the eulogy, Rivers stated.
Enrique Acosta developed friendships with Hill and Lyons within the Nineties, creating the framework of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007, stated Reyes-Aguirre, the organizer at Tonatierra.
Salvador Reza met Enrique Acosta in 1992 whereas collaborating in a “peace and dignity” run that began in Tok, Alaska, and resulted in Teotihuacan, Mexico, to unite Indigenous peoples and counter the five hundredth anniversary of the arrival of Europeans within the Americas.
Enrique Acosta ran alongside Reza and the opposite runners for a several-mile stretch by way of Tolleson within the scorching August warmth whereas offering assist for the runners. The encounter modified Reza’s life, he stated.
On the time, Reza was working as a neighborhood organizer in Los Angeles after leaving a Ph.D. program in political science. He was obese, out of practice and drank closely. He recollects being impressed by Enrique Acosta’s operating skills. However much more, Reza was impressed by Enrique Acosta’s consciousness of his Indigenous identification and his information of Indigenous traditions and teachings.
“I used to be impressed. I used to be actually impressed by what he was saying,” Reza stated. “He was talking with numerous conviction and depth of information, and I used to be hungry for information.”
After finishing the run, Reza known as Enrique Acosta.
“I stated that I wished to come back and work at Tonatierra, and I requested if there was any work. He instructed me, ‘Yeah, there’s numerous work, however there isn’t any cash.’ So I stated, ‘I will be there in every week.'”
Reza has labored at Tonatierra ever since and helped lead the group’s battles in opposition to Arpaio’s immigration sweeps, SB 1070 and different immigration insurance policies.
“He taught me numerous the Indigenous half, after which I principally had a few of the strategies on easy methods to counter Metropolis Corridor,” Reza stated. “We have been a tag workforce.”
For Enrique Acosta, Indigenous rights and migrant rights linked
Organizers at Tonatierra regularly heard complaints from members of Indigenous communities in Arizona who had been focused by Arpaio’s immigration sweeps due to their bodily look.
“We have been listening to from our Diné kin, our Hopi kin, even our O’odham kin, that they have been being pulled over and so they have been being requested for his or her papers, and so they have been being requested about their citizenship and being harassed,” Reyes-Acosta stated. “And so it was essential for us as an embassy of Indigenous folks to guarantee that we have been highlighting that combat, that it was not only a Latino/Hispanic combat, however it was a combat for Indigenous autonomy, for Indigenous rights to self-determination, for Indigenous rights emigrate.”
Enrique Acosta considered migration by way of an Indigenous rights lens, Reza stated.
“Indigenous rights are additionally human rights to stroll, dwell and work on any a part of Mom Earth,” Reza stated later in a textual content message. “Thus, they’re a part of the so-called migrant rights.”
Enrique Acosta additionally acknowledged that many migrants coming to the U.S. from Mexico or different elements of Latin America have been Indigenous folks displaced or pressured emigrate by impacts of the North American Free Commerce Settlement and different financial insurance policies, Reyes-Aguirre stated.
Forsaking a legacy working for justice
Within the late Nineteen Seventies, Enrique Acosta participated within the organizing of a large-scale strike of undocumented employees by way of the Maricopa County Organizing Challenge, a precursor to Tonatierra, the nonprofit community-based group he co-founded within the early Nineties.
The title Tonatierra is a mixture of two phrases, “tonalli,” which suggests “solar” in Nahuatl, and “tierra,” which suggests “earth” in Spanish, Reza stated.
The group has launched many initiatives over time, amongst them Los Comités de Defensa del Barrio, a social justice community; Macehualli, which advocates for day laborers and used to run a day labor middle on Bell Highway in Phoenix; and the QuetzalCo-op, which helps Maya Indigenous folks in Chiapas, Mexico, by way of the sale of roasted espresso.
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Tonatierra’s headquarters on Seventh Road in Phoenix additionally serves as a gathering place for Indigenous folks and hosts danzas and different conventional Indigenous occasions.
“He did this with out something, no expectations in return — apart from justice,” Reyes-Aguirre stated. “That was the one factor he ever wished, was justice for every part that he did and all of the work that he did. That was the end result. To not make a reputation for himself, not for any sort of funding, not for any notoriety, just for justice.”
Enrique Acosta fought off throat most cancers 15 years in the past, however the most cancers returned in February, Reyes Aguirre stated. He started therapy in March, and a scan confirmed him cancer-free the day earlier than he died of pneumonia, a complication of the illness, she stated.
Close to the tip, Enrique Acosta may now not drink his beloved black espresso. However his household would raise up a cup so he may savor the odor.
Enrique Acosta was within the strategy of digitizing a storage room filled with papers documenting his life’s work advocating for Indigenous rights, Reyes-Aguirre stated.
Enrique Acosta is survived by his spouse, Maria; eight youngsters; 22 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
“Tonatierra has each intention to proceed the work and to proceed to uplift that legacy that he left behind as a result of we all know that the sacrifices that he made have been for all of us,” Reyes-Aguirre stated.
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Daniel Gonzalez covers race, fairness and alternative. Attain the reporter at email@example.com or 602-444-8312.