In the early morning hours of March 12, the rattling of ayoyotes was heard on Valencia Street as a handful of danzantes, clad in colorful feathered headdresses and sporting the ankle wraps that serve as ceremonial instruments, emerged from the shadows.

They gathered beneath the 27-foot tile depiction of the Aztec Calendar that decorates the exterior of City College of San Francisco’s Mission campus, where the street was closed-off for two hours during morning commute in observance of a ceremony that has become a tradition for the Aztec dancers and residents of the block between 22nd and 23rd streets alike.

Backed with a proclamation by the City of San Francisco officially recognizing March 12 as the Mexica New Year, dancers and community members rang in “Ome Tochtli” (“two rabbit”) in accordance with the Aztec calendar count–a ceremony that has been taking place at the campus for seven consecutive years.

As the sun rose over the college bringing warmth and promise, the danzantes moved harmoniously to the beat of drums for nearly three hours –stopping only once in order to move the ceremonial site to the college’s courtyard as the streets reopened.

It is this respect and dedication to indigenous culture and the elements, as well as the knowledge of one’s roots and identity, that many of those in attendance hope will preserve and translate into the community and younger generations.

“We all need to come together as a community and realize that the sun is like a good father, giving light and warmth to everything and everybody,” said Mazatzin Acosta, who led the new year celebration. Mazatzin has studied the Aztec calendar system for nearly two decades and, with the help of his sons Able and Ernesto Xe Acosta, has brought the ceremony to the CCSF campus for the past seven years.

“And the earth is our good mother, who gives us love, food and clothing. That makes us all brothers and sisters, and we have to be good to each other,” he said.