September 28, 2021

Native Mexicans carve out their own space in America: ‘We are invisible’ | Our America: Todos Unidos

FRESNO, Calif. — For Felix Mendoza, rising up as an Indigenous individual of Mexico in the US was no simple feat.

He and his household immigrated from the Mexican state of Oaxaca to California in 1990 when he was a teen. They began working in the agricultural sector of Madera, selecting grapes, tomatoes and strawberries on meager seasonal wages.

“I am very proud about being an Indigenous person from Oaxaca. I’m Mixteco,” stated Mendoza. “I think we are very hardworking and very capable of doing things like everyone else.”

California is dwelling to an estimated 120,000 Indigenous Mexican farmworkers from the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero and Michoacán, in response to the Indigenous Farmworker Research. This consists of folks from the communities of Mixtecs, Zapotecs and Purépechas who face language boundaries, as many usually solely communicate their native languages.

The Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO) was created to assist decrease these boundaries. The nonprofit primarily based in Fresno, California, provides translation providers for monolingual Indigenous migrants.

“We have been one of the most marginalized groups,” stated Miguel Villegas Ventura, a program coordinator at CBDIO who identifies as Mixteco. “When our communities are not being seen or not being recognized, or not even being considered when information is being provided, they don’t know that there are resources available to them. They don’t know that they have rights.”

Villegas Ventura pointed to the lack of expertise for Indigenous communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Most of the information is in English, in Spanish and other languages, and most of our communities don’t know how to read or write. That’s when we come in and make sure they have information about how to protect themselves from COVID, where to go if they need testing or vaccines, how to apply for support if they’ve tested positive for COVID,” stated Villegas Ventura.
Spanish is the dominant language in Mexico, however there are about 68 Indigenous languages acknowledged in the nation. Within the state of Oaxaca alone, there are 16 completely different Indigenous languages and communities.

“People will talk about Indigenous people in the history books like the Aztecs and the Mayans, and they talk about the past a lot, but we are still present. Our language has been around for more than 3,000 years,” Villegas Ventura stated.

Felix Mendoza and his spouse Nicolasa Aguilar opened Sabor a Oaxaca restaurant in April of 2020.

“We want everyone to know about Oaxacaqueno food, about the Oaxacan flavor. Our slogan is ‘La casa de tlayuda,’ which means, ‘the home of the tlayuda.’ It’s a big tortilla with special beans we prepare,” Mendoza stated. “It includes cabbage, avocados and tomatoes. All these ingredients make this plate very delicious.”

“The Oaxacan culture is happy and colorful, primarily the colors, the tradition, the food. I feel it’s the best-tasting food in the world,” added Aguilar.

From actors to activists, folks share tales of celebrating their heritage, expressing their id as Latino, Latinx, or Hispanic, and representing and embracing their numerous cultures. Have a good time Hispanic Heritage Month with “Our America: Todos Unidos” on ABC Owned Tv Stations streaming apps and Hulu.