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  • Writer's pictureGabriel San Roman

Mark Gonzales Bridges Muslim and Latino Worlds at Valley High School in Santa Ana

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

"Saludos, que onda, salaam."

Storyteller Mark Gonzales offered his Spanish and Arabic greeting yesterday to an auditorium filled with nearly 700 students at Valley High School in SanTana. He came at the invitation of activist Rida Hamida and Valley teacher Benjamin Vazquez. It's the first in a series of outreach events spearheaded by Hamida called "Adventures in Al-Andalus," a bicultural effort with Vazquez to bring OC Latinos and Muslims closer together through history, food and community.

"Borders change," the Mexik Muslim adorning a black kabus Tunisian hat told the students. "Andalusia is today what we call Spain." For centuries Muslims ruled southern Spain, ushering in a period of tolerance and civilization where all Abrahamic religions lived in peace until 1492. Gonzales started the journey to North Africa and Spain through Mexico, sharing family history of when his abuelos migrated after the 1910 revolution. His father became a bracero, toiling in the fields before moving to Alaska where Gonzales was born. "I am proof that Mexicans are everywhere," he chimed.

Read more on my latest OC Weekly Navel Gazing Blog post:

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