Located about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Oxnard boasts some of the richest agricultural land in the state and a result, a large number of immigrant farmworkers. Last week the Oxnard School District unanimously passed a resolution prohibiting derogatory terms used by Latinos against indigenous Mexicans.
The district denounced the terms “Oaxaquita,” which translates to “little Oaxacan,” and “indito,” or “little Indian” referring to the indigenous people from Mexico’s Oaxaca state.
A 2008 USDA report estimated that up to 30 percent of California’s farmworkers are from an Indigenous-speaking town or village in Mexico. Local organizers in Ventura County—where Oxnard is located—tell the LA Times there is an estimated 20,000 indigenous Mexicans in the county, many of them Mixtec from the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.
Indigenous Mexicans have come to the U.S. in increasing numbers in the last two decades. Some estimates now put them at 30% of California’s farmworkers. In Ventura County, there are about 20,000 indigenous Mexicans, most of whom are Mixtec from the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero who work in the strawberry industry, according to local organizers.
Many speak little or no Spanish and are frequently subjected to derision and ridicule from other Mexicans. The treatment follows a legacy of discrimination toward indigenous people in Mexico, said William Perez, a professor of education at Claremont Graduate University who has interviewed and surveyed numerous indigenous Mexican students.
“One of the main themes is the discrimination, bullying, teasing and verbal abuse that they receive from other Mexican immigrant classmates who are not indigenous,” he said. The abuse, which often goes unnoticed or is minimized by teachers and administrators, has left some of the indigenous students too embarrassed to speak their native languages, he said.
The school district’s announcement came after a community group pressured the school board to address the bullying happening in schools. Through the “No Me Llames Oaxaquita,” or “Don’t Call Me Little Oaxacan,” campaign, the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project successfully got the school board to address their anti-bullying concerns.
“By launching this campaign in Ventura County, it will be a model to do something in other indigenous organizations,” Arcenio Lopez, associate director of the Mixteco/Indigena group told the Ventura County Star.