Beatrice and Mario Aguilar: Connected Through Culture
June 16, 2017
By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña
The connections we can have with people are often hidden in plain sight and we do not initially see that someone who can understand and support our passions has already been in front of us.
While some are doubtful that finding someone with whom they can share a life with is even possible, Mario Aguilar and Beatrice Zamora-Aguilar have proven that it does happen.
A daughter of second generation Mexican-American parents, Zamora-Aguilar has dedicated her time to communities in San Diego and tradition through her involvement with a Chicano-Azteca dance group.
Zamora-Aguilar grew up in Los Angeles in an environment where family members struggled financially and socially while working factory, railroad, and construction jobs.
She said that she witnessed her dad lose his temper because often times he was frustrated with the way that people treated him because of his race, which encouraged her to learn about Mexican history and her background.
“As brown people of this country, we don’t always have to be the laborers,” Zamora-Aguilar said. “We can do other things and we need our people to become educated to change the world that we live in.”
For Zamora-Aguilar, education was a path to better opportunities and a chance to influence change. Her husband Aguilar, has a similar dedication to education and to the community.
Aguilar was born in Mexico City but arrived with his family in East San Diego when he was 18 months old.
Aguilar remembers that growing up he lived an experience that is shared among immigrant families because life outside of the home is vastly different from what is inside.
“From the gate to the street was the U.S. and from the gate to my house was Mexico,” Aguilar said. “It was truly living in a third space neither in the U.S. or in Mexico.”
As a 19 year old, Aguilar became involved with the Chicano Indigenous movement and learned about nuances that affect young Latino men in several communities.
In 1980, Aguilar founded Mexicayotl Indio Cultural Center, a nonprofit organization and leads the Danza Mexicayotl, a traditional Chicano-Azteca dance group.
He first witnessed traditional Aztec dancing while in Mexico. After he left, Aguilar felt an empty hole in his heart knowing that we did not have access to it in the U.S.
But Aguilar learned how to dance, reconnecting him to the memories of dancers in Mexico and put him on a path to connect with an important person in his future.
Zamora-Aguilar first witnessed this kind of dancing during Chicano Day at Cal State Fullerton. She said that watching the dancers gave her chills and brought forth a soulful connection to them.
Although she didn’t know it at the time, Zamora-Aguilar was watching her future husband during that performance.
Zamora-Aguilar was the first in her family to attend college and receive a bachelor’s degree. Upon completing her bachelor’s, one of her professors encouraged her to complete her masters, but she was not sure that a master’s degree program was right for her.
While attending San Diego State University to complete her masters in counselor education, she met Aguilar who was in the same program.
Aguilar said it’s funny how their paths crossed because he later learned that his future wife was watching him perform at Cal State Fullerton.
Today, Zamora-Aguilar and Aguilar are both professional dancers and are involved with Danza Mexicayotl.
Zamora-Aguilar is a lead woman dancer for Chicano-Azteca dance group and she also leads workshops on beadwork, sequence work, and much more for other members.
“It’s a pretty powerful connection,” Aguilar said. “ We keep each other real and we are each other’s best critic and wall to bounce ideas off of and any one of us take leadership of the group when one of us is away.”
Zamora-Aguilar recently retired in 2015 from her position as dean of counseling and student support programs at Southwestern Community College.
She said that although she worked on helping students plan their lives she never really had a plan for hers but that she is excited for what is to come from being retired.
Aguilar currently teaches a college academic mentors program class at the University of California, San Diego.
Together they have two children that inherited their love for education, with one attending UCLA’s Law School and the other working toward his PhD in Linguistics from UCSD.
“It’s really nice to see that they are educated and that they can walk in all worlds,” Zamora-Aguilar said. “(They) have to be able to walk in the professional, English speaking world. But because of us, also be able to walk in the Spanish speaking world and the indigenous world.”