Haydee Sanchez helped found the Centro Cultural Techantit or the Techantit Cultural Center in 1999 with a group of 6 other Salvadorans that tasked themselves with rescuing their ancestral traditions, the traditions of the indigenous people of El Salvador. At that time those native groups were not internationally recognized. In order to gain recognition by the United Nations as indigenous people and to rescue many of those traditions, they collected oral hsitories from elders and documented some of the histories following the genocide in 1932 in El Salvador, when 35, 000 indigenous people were killed. They have grown their work invovling young people and elders in the community, to promote and preserve their culture. They create spaces where elders can tell stories, teach their ancestral music and dance, and indigenous languages that the youth can learn. The youth are also able to design their own programs incorporating muralism, music and ancestral forms like the marimba, a wooden xylophone like instrument played by a group of 6 or 12 people depending on its size.
A major part of their work is also to stay connected to land struggles in Latin America and a larger movement to defend the rights and land of indigenous people. They see these issues clearly linked to migration. When governments and transnational countries exploit indigenous lands, and make it impossible for people to survive, they migrate to places like Los Angeles. The Center understands the difficulty many migrants face in recreating their homes in a place where they are often consumed with work and other pressures. They hope to continue to expand the work of Techantit and serve as place of gathering, performance, art, and belonging for indigenous people of El Salvador and anyone seeking a place to tell their story and be heard.
Centro Cultural Techantit is located in MacArthur Park. People often ask why we don't do more cultural programming. We are not an entity dedicated only to folk traditions and art for art's sake, we are more focussed on environmental justice and human rights. On the other hand, our Board wants to expand. We once had a space that burned down on Bonnie Brae St. where we hosted ceremonies and programmed events - Haydee Sanchez