I have nothing but beautiful memories of Consuelo Aguilar, a young woman who passed away from cancer in 2009. That is the same year I started running.
Nowadays, it seems not a day goes by that I don't think about her. In part, this is because I continue to run and because we shared similar passions: justice, hip-hop, healthy lifestyles and education.
Since 2009, I have been running with Calpolli Teoxicalli, a Nahuatl-Indigenous based collective of families. My first run, after a hiatus of 25 years, was in the summer of 2009, from Tucson to Phoenix in 115-degree heat. We ran with three ceremonial staffs; one of them was dedicated to Consuelo, whom we nowadays view as a hummingbird.
On April 15, our community will once again run for her; a run and a walk, sponsored by the department of Mexican American studies at the University of Arizona, for the purpose of contributing to a scholarship in her name at the UA, this while bringing about cancer awareness to the surrounding community.
When Consuelo had cancer, she was working for the embattled Mexican American Studies department at Tucson Unified School District. There, she did not have health insurance.
In her last months, weeks and days, I would visit her frequently at the hospital, at which time we would have extended conversations about the state's efforts to dismantle MAS-TUSD, about Tucson politics and its politicos. As a new professor at the UA, it was my crash course on the history of Tucson and Arizona politics.
During these conversations, she was conscious that she was not going to survive. Several times, she told me she wanted her death to contribute to creating cancer awareness, especially among the Spanish-speaking community of Arizona.
This year, the event will include a timed race, a ceremonial run and a walk.
Those of us who run with the Calpolli will run together ceremonially in her honor and in her memory because we consider running a prayer in motion. So when we run for Consuelo, it will be to send prayers to her and her family and in part, to help fulfill her last wishes.
The Calpolli's barrio runs have been taking place since 2004. They take place in between the Peace and Dignity spiritual runs that take place every four years from Alaska and Chile, meeting in Central America.
This year, they will converge on Tikal, Guatemala. The purpose of the runs, which began in 1992, is to unite the continent, part of a prophecy referred to as the unity of the eagle and the condor.
The 13 annual barrio runs are very special; they are run for the spiritual health of our barrios and communities. Since 2009, we've also run to raise awareness of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and domestic violence.
We've also run several times in defense of ethnic studies and indigenous education, something that Consuelo also fought for. This has included two runs from Tucson to Phoenix.
It is important to note that most of us are not competitive runners … and yet, whether we are running six to seven miles on the barrio runs or 120 miles, the intent is the same. Admittedly, on the runs to Phoenix, the idea of giving up did cross our minds, but when we remembered why we were running, and when we also realized that we were running through the same inhospitable desert that has claimed the lives of thousands of migrants, we were able to complete our runs. The knowledge that our hummingbird is guiding us on every run also gives us the strength to finish; we run not against people or things but for ourselves.
Three days before the run, on April 12, there will also be a Latina health symposium at the University of Arizona; I believe she will smile upon us on both those days.
For information regarding both events, call 621-7551 or go to mas.arizona.edu
Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez is an assistant professor in Mexican American studies at the University of Arizona. Email him at XColumn@gmail.com