'Oaxaquita' (little Oaxacan) is used by other Mexicans to demean their indigenous compatriots—who are estimated to make up 30% of California's farmworkers.
By Paloma Esquivel
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.
Educators and others in the U.S. often don't recognize diversity within the Mexican community, said Gaspar Rivera-Salgado, a researcher at the UCLA Labor Center who has written extensively about indigenous Mexican migration.
"We forget that it's a multilingual, multiethnic community," he said. "We forget about the fact that 62 indigenous languages are spoken in Mexico."
The organizing project's campaign, Rivera-Salgado said, "is a really interesting way to confront, very directly, something that the Mexican nation and the Mexican immigrant community sometimes sweeps under the rug, and that's the prevalence of racism and discrimination that indigenous people have to endure in Mexico and that is reproduced here in the United States."
Ironic to see Mexicans discriminate against each other. To many Americans, they're all one big brown horde.
For more on the subject, see More Latinos Identify as Native and "Most Mexicans Are Indians."
Below: "Abelardo Popec, left, and Romaldo Lopez listen to speakers as indigenous Mexican students and leaders of Ventura County public schools launched the "No Me Llames Oaxaquita" (Don't call me little Oaxacan) campaign at the Center for Employment Training in Oxnard." (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)
There's also "indio feo" (ugly Indian) and a few others. Yeah, Indians have it tough in Oaxaca. It's not even just words, of course. Words do nothing by themselves. It's actions.
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