A photo featuring one of the striking buildings in the Town of Guadalupe: Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.
(Photos by: Shalanndra Benally/Turning Points Magazine)

The tight-knit Town of Guadalupe

By: Noah Huerta

Tribal affiliation: Pascua Yaqui

Major: Journalism — Public Relations

As 2020 has shown, tribal communities in Arizona have been hit hard by COVID-19. Although this year has been fraught with unprecedented hardships, it has also brought moments for communities to reflect on the strength and resiliency of Indigenous peoples. The Town of Guadalupe is one of them.

“This pandemic was just a reminder that we know how to rally,” said Town of Guadalupe Mayor Valerie Molina. “And that we will continue to take care of one another.”

Guadalupe is a small town nestled between Phoenix, Tempe and Ahwatukee. Made up of mostly Pascua Yaqui tribal members and Mexican Americans, the Town has been here for over 100 years and has a population of 6,631 residents. Serving as mayor since 2016, Molina has worked with Maricopa County as well as the Pascua Yaqui Tribe this year to combat COVID-19.

According to a Maricopa County Public Health Disease Control report, the Town’s case rate was more than 4.6 times the rate of the rest of Maricopa County from April to June of this year. The data also showed that Guadalupe had a rate of 1,659 cases per 100,000 persons compared to the county’s 354 per 100,000 persons. Though the Town received funding from the Cares Act, it was not nearly enough to protect Guadalupe’s residents. This led to the Town and tribe splitting the cost of the first testing blitz on May 28 and 29, which was open to all community and tribal members.

Molina met with tribal councilwomen Catalina Alvarez and Angelina Valencia-Matus to discuss what the Pascua Yaqui Tribe could do to support the Town and tribal members. The three concluded that Guadalupe would benefit from $2 million in tribal assistance. The very next day, Mayor Molina learned that this amount was approved by the tribe.

“I was floored,” said Molina. “We were getting $2 million dollars to help the community with more testing, more PPE and more education.”

A bright yellow sign shows a superhero woman wearing a mask and a red-flowered shirt flexing her arm muscles saying “Warrior up and wear a mask. Our tribe needs you!”
(Photo by: Shalanndra Benally/Turning Points Magazine)

The Town has since held more testing days, as well as sending out ‘promotoras’ to educate residents and also assist those who have contracted the virus. Signs have also been placed all around the town urging Guadalupanos to wear masks and continue following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Also assisting in the Town’s response was ASU’s COVID-19 Response Team, a team of student volunteers who tracked and responded to COVID-19 by assisting with case investigations, contact tracing, delivering supplies and assessing needs.

Wearing a black mask and gloves, Esteban Fuerte picks up a box full of food into the backseat of a vehicle lined up at a food drive in Guadalupe, Arizona. Four more vehicles wait in line in the background.
COVID Field Response: ASU graduate and Community Action Program case manager Esteban Fuerte loads a box into a vehicle in Guadalupe in August of 2020. (Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU)

Nati Valenzuela (Pascua Yaqui) is a Guadalupe resident whose family was hit hard by COVID-19. She and members of her immediate family began testing positive for the virus. Valenzuela almost lost her father to the coronavirus, but he was able to fight it and eventually be cleared to return home. Her family was supported by the Town and tribe throughout their struggle with the virus. They were provided with food, household supplies and medical supplies.

“I’m just so glad that he was able to pull through, I give thanks and feel so blessed to be part of such a wonderful community that cares about each other,” said Valenzuela. “Even right now we still continue to come together and help each other out.”

Helen Ramos (Pascua Yaqui) is another Guadalupe resident who had the virus. When her family contracted the virus, the Town and tribe quickly came to their aid.

“Family, friends and the Town helped me and my family during our quarantine,” said Ramos. “I will forever be grateful to live in a town where the community can come together to help without hesitation.”

Seeing the impacts of the coronavirus on Guadalupe, resident Natalia Macias (Pascua Yaqui) urged students to remain vigilant against the disease for the safety of everyone.

A bronze statue of a man wearing a deer antler headdress. This statue signifies the Yaqui ceremonial deer dance.
(Photo by: Shalanndra Benally/Turning Points Magazine)

“I think it is important to be alert and vigilant during these times because we are living through a pandemic and this is new to everyone,” said Macias, an ASU senior majoring in elementary education. “Don’t think just because you are young that it cannot happen to you. Think of others who have family and elders at home and are at a higher risk.”

For Mayor Molina, the Town of Guadalupe’s handling of the pandemic have highlighted not only the strength of its residents, but also of the Town’s own inherent resiliency to continue thriving despite unprecedented times.

“Look at the Pascua Yaqui tribe, the Mexican government tried to drive them from their land in Mexico, they had to flee to avoid persecution,” said Molina. “Guadalupe’s strength comes from those who first settled here and made sure we would be here for generations.”

Free COVID-19 testing for Sun Devils, families & communities

The Arizona Department of Health Services has partnered with Arizona State University to launch several testing sites providing free saliva diagnostic testing for COVID-19 in high-need underserved communities around the state. The tests are by appointment only. No walk-ins. Children under 5 years old cannot receive saliva tests.

Writer bio

Noah Huerta is a senior at Arizona State University studying journalism and mass communication with a focus in public relations. He is also pursuing two minors in digital audiences and political science. An Arizona native, Huerta was born and raised in the Town of Guadalupe. His family comes from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, born and raised in Guadalupe, Arizona. He is currently serving as president of the Native American Journalists Association chapter at ASU as well as facilitator of marketing for the Multicultural Student Journalists Coalition.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store