Every year around September 21st, the International Sonoran Desert Alliance, in collaboration with the local school, businesses and civic organizations, holds its annual International Day of Peace celebration in Ajo, AZ. The United Nations General Assembly in 1981 passed resolution 36/67 declaring an International Day of Peace; in 2001 it declared September 21 of each year the official date for international celebration and observation.
Ajo, AZ is uniquely situated. It is at the intersection of three very distinct nations, located about 40 miles from the Mexican border and next door to the Tohono O’odham Nation. Ajo is 130 miles west of Tucson and 110 miles southwest of Phoenix. Political and religious motivations don’t drive the focus of Ajo’s International Day of Peace celebration. Rather, it’s the idea of community as Ajo chooses to bring its three cultures – Hispanic, Tohono O’odham and Anglo – together in a fun, celebratory way that highlights respect for its diversity, its individuals, families, the community, the environment and the diversity of our world at large.
The town plaza is decorated with peace-themed 4’ x 8’ wooden murals sponsored by local businesses, designed by local artists and painted by the community, along with culturally designed decorations. The celebration begins with the annual After School Peace Festival held on the Ajo Unified School District campus on Well Road. Around 5 pm, festival participants will line up at the school to begin the International Day of Peace Parade to the Plaza. Led by Tohono O’odham dignitaries, carrying 1,000 origami peace cranes (a gift from a Japanese peace delegation), neighbors from Sonoyta, Mexico, and the Tohono O’odham Nation will join Ajo youth and adults in the parade to the town plaza. Large dove puppet kites with 15-foot wingspans, dove and raven headdresses, giant Sonoran Desert “critter” puppets, peace poles and peace flags are all featured in this colorful multicultural community parade of about 200 participants. The community gathers in the Plaza around 4:30 pm to await this whimsical and colorful parade while being entertained by a Tohono O’odham band and cultural foods vendors. Once the parade arrives, cultural dance troupes, stilt walkers, and more thrill the crowd with their lively entertainment.