Mam Cultural Festival to Celebrate Bay Area’s Mayan Community

Oakland, CA – To celebrate the Bay Area’s growing Mayan population, the Oakland Public Library is hosting the Mam Cultural Festival on September 15 at the César E. Chávez Branch Library (3301 E. 12th St., Suite 271).

The Mam are an indigenous Mayan group based in the highlands of Guatemala and Southern Mexico. This family-friendly festival will showcase the traditions and history of Oakland’s indigenous Mam community, featuring live music, authentic cuisine, activities reflective of the Mam culture and an opportunity to learn basic phrases in the Mam language. Mam is the second-most widely spoken language of the 21 Maya languages currently spoken in Guatemala.

“We’re looking forward to sharing our Mam culture at the festival,” said Henry Sales, a library aide at the Chávez Branch who is organizing the event along with a local community group, the Mam Cultural Exchange. “For many of us - because of the way we look and the fact that we often speak Spanish - we’re put in an identity box as ‘Latino’. But we’re Mam. We’re Mayan. We’re indigenous. And we’re proud to be.”

For the past 15 years, thousands of indigenous Mam immigrants have settled in Oakland. While exact numbers are hard to come by, schools, health clinics and courts attest to the growing demand for Mam speakers and a need to better understand who the Mam are and where they come from.

The Mam Cultural Festival aims to foster a sense of pride and belonging among the Mam Mayan community, and facilitate greater visibility, understanding and appreciation of the Mam community and its indigenous heritage among non-Mam people.

This event is supported by California Humanities through the Library Innovation Lab. The program encourages California libraries to develop creative and innovative programs that will respond to the needs and circumstances of today’s immigrants and immigrant communities and foster more inclusive communities within our state. Visit

In addition, the event is being put on by the Mayan Cultural Exchange with the help of the Akonadi Foundation’s Beloved Community Fund Grant. The Beloved Community Fund supports free public art and cultural events that celebrate and are rooted in Oakland’s communities of color, and that advance racial justice.

What: Mam Cultural Festival

When: Saturday, September 15, 2018; 2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Where: César E. Chávez Branch Library; 3301 E. 12th St., #271

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