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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS

Kids Wave the Flag for Mexican Independence

September 17, 1997|REGINA HONG

Taking care to stay within the lines, Martiza Ahumada lightly colored in the eagle with a fat, brown crayon.

After cutting her paper eagle perched above a cactus and pasting it on crisp, white paper sandwiched by broad green and red stripes, voila--the 6-year-old had constructed a Mexican flag.

For Martiza and her fellow students in a first-grade class at Campus Canyon Elementary School in Moorpark, Tuesday's art project was a colorful way to celebrate Mexican Independence Day.

"We try and give them a feeling of pride in who they are," said bilingual teacher Cynthia Beynun. "They all know about the Fourth of July, but they have to know what their own heritage is."

Beynun also brought in students from another class who speak only English to join in the lesson about Mexico's history.

Mexican Independence Day, which commemorates the start of Mexico's fight with Spain to end its colonial status nearly two centuries ago, is celebrated on a much grander scale south of the border than another holiday that is better known in the United States: Cinco de Mayo.

Miguel Hidalgo, a priest from the village of Dolores, is credited with beginning the movement for independence in 1810 by ringing a bell Sept. 16 and calling for villagers to fight against three centuries of colonial rule.

Because of the tender ages of her students, Beynun decided not to mention to the class that the Spaniards executed Hidalgo and many of the villagers for rebelling.

The point, she said, is that the event was the start of a movement and showed what kind of pride the ancestors in Mexico had.

"They had the courage and the strength to stand up to a force that was much stronger than they were and they had the spirit of unity, of working together," Beynun said.

At least some parts of the lesson sunk in.

Six-year-old Daisy Amezcua first paused when asked if she knows why Mexican Independence Day is celebrated. After a moment's thought she said: "Porque el sen~or toca la compana en la noche," or "Because the man rang the bell in the night." The sound, she said, encouraged villagers to fight.

But her classmate Carlos Aguirre was a bit more confused. Carlos decided he just loves making the artwork.

"This is so cool," the 5-year-old said as he poured glue on his cut-out eagle. "I have my glue, my sister, my dad and my toys and also my scissors."

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