Merejildo Ortiz Merejildo Ortiz Merejildo Ortiz came to the United States around 1989, he was fifteen years old at the time. He went to school briefly but quickly dropped out to work in the fields to make money for himself and for his parents who were back in Mexico. He remembers the first ten years of his life in the U.S. as a haze of alcohol and work, always work. He struggled with alcoholism for many years until he began to understand it as a disease. With the help and support of his wife he has been sober for almost 20 years. Merejildo is from the town of Ocumicho in the state of Michoacan. He is a member of the Purepecha, an indigenous Mexican group of people whose history extends back to pre-Columbian times. The Purepecha were contemporaries of the Aztec and were the only group that the Aztec were not able to conquer. Currently there are about 200,000 people worldwide who speak the Purepecha language. There are approximately five thousand Purepecha people in the Eastern Coachella Valley. The majority of them work in the fields. All of them are Catholic and adhere very closely to the church for community and guidance. They live under three sets of rules: the traditions and norms of the Purepecha people, the Catholic Church and American society, to balance and navigate all of this they have created an organization named La Comunidad Purepecha del Valle de Coachella. This organization serves many purposes. It is a mediator between the people and other entities in the valley, it sets norms for the community and it creates space to continue and preserve their traditions. Merejildo helped found the organization in 2005 and he was at the head of it until 2015. He stepped down from it’s leadership because he feels that there needs to be change as a matter of course and because he wants to focus some of his time and energy on his children. Merejildo is deeply knowledgeable about his people’s history, he knows where the bodies of his people’s gods are buried from the time when they hid them from the Spanish. It is very important for him to keep that history alive. He would like to document traditions and language and to use that documentation to educate young people. Some of the young people from the community rebel against being Purepecha and they try to differentiate themselves by assimilating as fast as they can into American life. It is difficult to maintain them engaged with their past. He would like to set up a non-profit to continue and preserve traditions and to further the development of the Purepecha community. Merejildo has not been back to Mexico in twelve years and there is nothing he would like more than to go see his land, his home and his family but as time goes by it becomes more difficult, especially as his children grow up because he needs to be here for them. He cannot risk not being able to come back. In the meantime he continues to make a super human effort to balance tradition and progress, both for himself and for his people.