In November of 2006 the Cervantes & Velasquez Conference Room was dedicated to the memory of Ascencion Solorsano de Cervantes (1857-1930) and Josefa Gonzales de Velasquez (1839-1922). They were two of the last fluent speakers of the Mutsun Language. Josefa also spoke the Awaswas Language. Mutsun and Awaswas are a couple of the many “Ohlone/Costanoan” dialects that were historically spoken along California’s Central Coast. The Mutsun speakers were the people of the Pajaro River Watershed. While the Awaswas were the people of the San Lorenzo River Watershed. The indigenous people were forced into the Missions, where they were coerced to speak Spanish and abandon their tribal culture. Fortunately, Ascencion and Josefa retained some of the ancient customs and language. Together they served as leaders in the Mutsun community. Josefa was an entrepreneur running a Cantina/Tamale Factory at Freedom with her partner Ascencion’s cousin, Jose Espinosa. The factory employed many Mutsun in the early 20th Century. Ascencion was a renowned doctora serving all who came for her healing powers. Both shared some of the language and tribal stories with John Alden Mason. Later at the door of death, Ascencion collaborated with the ethnologist John P. Harrington, who made records of songs, language, tribal lore and history. These records are part of the Smithsonian Institute’s Ethnographic Collection and copies may be found in Colleges and Universities nationwide.

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