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San Ysidro Festival: Bringing back wheat farming traditions from Sonoran fields to Tucson

 San Ysidro Festival: Bringing back wheat farming traditions from Sonoran fields to Tucson
Posted at 4:11 PM, May 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-22 01:40:01-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Centuries ago, Downtown Tucson was filled with wheat farms. Water shortages and a changing landscape mean Tucsonans now get their wheat from other places. As a result, younger generations are unfamiliar with the process of turning wheat from a plant to a tortilla.

“I think a lot of young people are starting to get a little angsty and realize that we’re disconnected from our food system,” said Justin Risley, Tucson resident.

“We don’t ever see anything like that because we’re so innovated now,” said Ruth Ramos, Kentucky resident.

That’s why the Mission Garden hosts the San Ysidro Festival every year. To celebrate the history of wheat in the Sonoran desert and give Tucsonans a taste of their past.

“This is just a symbolic way of bringing back traditions that were part of Tucson for hundreds of years,” said Jesus Garcia, Research Associate, Sonora Desert Museum.

Jesus Garcia guided participants through the traditional process. He helped spread bundles of wheat on the ground for horses to stomp on, their hooves eventually separating the wheat seeds from the hay. Garcia grew up harvesting wheat on a farm in Sonora, Mexico. In his childhood, this arduous, long process was necessary for survival.

“It wasn’t a small amount like this," Garcia said. "It would’ve been two or three tons of wheat that you had to do because you were using it for the rest of the year.”

Now, he’s happy to be reminded of his roots, without having to dig for them.

“It’s a peace of mind that you are able to see this again," Garcia said. "Something that maybe through my eyes, I can bring back this entire process and have hundreds of people see it and experience what it’s like to eat a flour tortilla and where the hard work comes from.”

Perla Shaheen is a reporter for KGUN 9. Perla graduated in May 2020 from the University of California, Berkeley, where she majored in Political Science. Share your story ideas and important issues with Perla by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.