Tamejavi Cultural Exchange Project

It is through culture and the arts that young people gain a sense of pride in their heritage, elders pass on traditions, and diverse communities find ways to communicate across divides.

The Tamejavi Cultural Exchange Project, coordinated by the Pan Valley Institute (American Friends Service Committee), deepens cross-cultural learning and civic engagement through gatherings and The Tamejavi Festival, an interactive three-day event featuring performances, workshops, forums, exhibits, and an outdoor marketplace.

The word Tamejavi is derived from the Hmong, Spanish, and Mixteco words for a cultural harvest market—TAj laj Tshav Puam, MErcado, nunJAVI.

The Tamejavi Festival and year-round gatherings:

  • Create a safe environment for cross-cultural learning
  • Provide a public venue for cultural expression
  • Build pride, recognition, voice, and unity among immigrant, migrant, and refugee communities
  • Inspire new relationships and deepen understanding across cultures

Today Tamejavi celebrates...

  • A successful 2002 Tamejavi Festival attended by more than 1,500 diverse Valley residents
  • More than 30 public performances and forums produced by diverse immigrant communities
  • The 2003-2005 cultural exchange program, including a Tamejavi Festival II, in the fall of 2004

QUOTE: "Too often, different voices and cultures become hidden or silenced in America, when they have much to offer."—Allen James, 2002 Tamejavi Festival participant

Made possible with support from the James Irvine Foundation

For more information
Contact Myrna Martinez-Nateras at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at (559) 222-7678.

Join us in supporting the vision.
If you are interested in becoming a funding partner, contact Mark Miller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at (916) 638-1733.

A project of the Central Valley Partnership for Citizenship—engaging immigrants, migrants, and refugees in the civic life of California’s Central Valley

Tamejavi FestivalBlends Art and Civic Action...
Spring 2002

Just outside Fresno's famous Tower Theater, a Cambodian troupe performed a traditional folk opera before hundreds of Central Valley residents. Back in Cambodia, community organizers stage the very same opera to draw citizens into towns to participate in community activities. Despite the eight thousand miles between them, the performances share a similar purpose: to use cultural expression and the arts to bring people into the public square, to give them a voice and to involve them in civic life.

A committee of Central Valley Partnership participants, and local artists conceived of and organized Tamejavi, this first-ever cultural exchange festival. The word Tamejavi (pronounced “tah-meh-jah-vee”) combines the Hmong, Spanish and Mixteco words—Tai Laj Tshav Puam, Mercado and Nunjavi—for a cultural harvest market.

On the last weekend of April 2002, immigrants from the region celebrated their cultural traditions by presenting theater, music, dance, exhibits, workshops, films, food, and crafts from their home countries and cultures. In addition to the Cambodian opera, the nationally-known Hmong comedian, Tou Ger Xiong, used storytelling and rap music to bridge cultures and generations; El Teatro Inmigrante (founded by the co-founder of Teatro Campesino, "The Farmworkers Theater,”) performed a play about the journey of two immigrant women to the United States; and the opening night featured "The Twin Tower Songs Project," multi-lingual songs and stories about the immigrant experiences of September 11.

"The idea came to us at a CVP Civic Action Network gathering. After a long day of meetings, partners suddenly became energized when they shared their cultural traditions—songs, tapestries, folk tales—during an evening event," says Erica Kohl, consultant to the CVP. "We realized that there is hardly any time for these groups to come together. When they express themselves through their own cultural forms and traditions, they understand each other on a deeper level."

A unique characteristic of the Tamejavi Festival was that it was created as part of an intentional organizing strategy —to build a network among communities that are fighting for the same things but do not always connect because of cultural differences. "A lot of immigrant groups don't work together," says Myrna Martinez-Nateras of Pan Valley Institute, "because they're isolated by geography, language, the lack of opportunity to meet and work together—and occasionally mistrust."

The Festival brought members of diverse Central Valley communities together in the promotion, organization, production, performances, and documentation of the event. It brought neighbors together and helped them understand the other cultures that call the Valley "home."

"We don’t want this to be a one-time event," says event organizer, Estela Galvan, "People have been inspired to organize other events in their communities, as well as keep the momentum for a second annual Tamejavi going."

With such a great turnout and positive feedback, Tamejavi may indeed be here to stay.

“Too often, different voices become hidden or silenced in America, when they have much to offer.” 

—Allen James, reflecting upon The Exchange Project’s play Promise of a Love Song, performed at the Tamejavi Festival.

“People have a hunger to connect through art. The new Californians have a hunger to connect with one another through their cultural traditions. And that's what they're doing through the Tamejavi Festival.” 

—Craig McGarvey The James Irvine Foundation’s program director for Civic Culture

Our History

Since 1996, CVP partners have launched campaigns and implemented programs to assist migrants, immigrants, and refugees organizing to claim their rightful place in the civic, cultural, and economic life of the Valley. The CVP supports Valley communities working together to achieve social and institutional change - change that provides the opportunity for all who reside in the Valley to live in dignity and good health, participate fully in decisions that affect their lives, and assume the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in its broadest sense.