Community Organizations demand Health Care “for anybody who needs it”

Text and photos by Bertha Rodriguez

Fresno, California.- On June 25th, around 50 people gathered in front of the Court House building in Fresno to demonstrate in favor of a Health Care Reform that can offer quality, affordable health care for all, with choice of public or private health insurance plans.
The event was part of the national lobby day and rally that simultaneously took place in Fresno, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In Fresno, a group of 14 members of different organizations that are part of the “Health Care for America Now” campaign met with Sarah Moffat, field representative to Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose office is located at the Court House building.
Among the voices that expressed their concerns about the current health care system were those coming from survivors of cancer who said were able to be alive thanks to public health care.

Jessica Rothhaar, from Health Access, who led the meeting with Feinstein’s staff, highlighted the importance for federal legislators to support the choice of a Public Health Insurance Plan, “expanding Medicare to cover anybody who needs it”.

Members of Health Access, Planned Parenthood, Acorn and the Binational Center for the Development of Oaxacan Indigenous Communities (CBDIO), among other community organizations, were part of the rally and legislative visit.

Oaxacan indigenous migrants: Challenges navigating the US systems

By: Bertha Rodriguez
Oaxaca is located in the South of Mexico. It is the fifth largest state and it occupies five percent of the whole Mexican territory. Oaxaca is characterized for it’s largest ethnic and linguistic diversity. During the last three decades, the wave of indigenous migrations to the United States has strikingly increased presenting different cultural barriers and challenges to our communities.

Oaxaca distinguishes itself for being one of the most diverse states of Mexico. Not only is the home to Mestizos –the blend between indigenous people and Europeans- but also to 16 diverse indigenous communities that speak their own language.

It is important to highlight that out of the 16 indigenous languages spoken in Oaxaca, many of them have different variants. For instance, there are three types of Zapotec (Zapotec of the Sierra, Zapotec of the Valley and Zapotec of the Isthmus), and three kinds of Mixtec (Mixtec from the Highlands, Mixtec from the Lowlands and Mixtec from the Coast), to mention just a few.

Photo: David BaconPhoto: David Bacon
The indigenous migration to the United States started at the end of the Bracero Program (1942-1964); however it was in the decade of 1980’s, when the first significant wave of migration took place and had continued to the present. The economic crises in Mexico have compelled the indigenous to migrate to the US. SEDESOL, the official Agency for Social Development, asserts that 73 % of the total population of Oaxaca, 3 million 500 thousand people, live in extreme poverty. Most of the people live with an income of less than $300 a month. Furthermore, according to the Census 2000, 80.3%, of the 570 municipalities in Oaxaca, were highly marginalized, that is to say, they lacked at least one of basic the services such as electricity, running water, and paved floor.

There are not official statistics that accurately document the volume of Indigenous migration. Some sources point out that around 2 million Oaxacans are living outside the state; the National Council of Population (CONAPO, by its Spanish initials), estimates that in the year 2000 a total of 194,785 Oaxacans were living in the US.

According to the Oaxacan scholar, Gaspar Rivera-Salgado, Oaxacan migrants concentrate primarily in California, Oregon, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, Washington and other states. Among the indigenous communities who have migrated to the United States, Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Triquis and Chatinos represent the largest numbers.

Foto: Bertha Rodriguez
According to the Indigenous Farm workers Study (IFS), led by professor Rick Mines, in the last 19 years, the indigenous communities have been able to establish in California migrant networks coming from 350 towns of the states of Oaxaca (75 %), Guerrero (15%), as well as Chiapas, Puebla, Veracruz and Michoacán. However, this study only focuses on the rural areas. Of those indigenous towns found in the study, 57 % speak Mixtec, 15 % Zapotec, 12 % Triqui and the remaining 16 % is divided within P’urepecha, Chatino and Náhuatl, among other indigenous languages.

Most of the Mixtecs, Zapotecs and Triquis work in the Central Coast of California (46%), in the Central Valley (37 %) and San Diego (11%). The Binational Center for the Development of Oaxacan Indigenous Communities (CBDIO), estimates that the Oaxacan population in Fresno County is around 10,000 people.

The majority of these “newcomers” are people who come from remote and marginalized villages lost in the highlands of Oaxaca, Guerrero and other southern Mexican states. Their education level is very low: many of them are illiterate and some of them do not speak Spanish or English fluently.

Given the characteristics of our indigenous migrant communities, when dealing with any member of these communities, we recommend keeping in mind that we have different values, culture, historic experiences and belief systems. Based in CBDIO’s 15 years of experience serving the indigenous communities, we have the following recommendations for providers so they can deliver culturally appropriate services.

Significado del petate entre los pueblos indígenas

El margen que decora esta página electrónica es un petate de palma. Elegimos esta decoración en honor a la capacidad creativa y el conocimiento de nuestros antepasados indígenas. Este petate fue pintado por un escriba Ñuu Savi (Mixteco) en un libro antiguo actualmente conocido como códice.
Desde antes de la llegada de los europeos al Continente Americano, nuestros antepasados usaban el petate como trono en el que se sentaban las reynas cuando se reunían con los reyes en conferencias, ceremonias sagradas y eventos especiales.

A pesar de tantos avances materiales y tecnológicos, los trabajos hechos a mano con la palma tales como petates, tenates y mecapales, entre otros objetos, actualmente siguen siendo elaborados por los Ñuu Savi.

Aunque en la Región Mixteca de Oaxaca, México, ya no se da el mismo uso, valor e importancia a los petates, éstos continúan siendo objetos muy apreciados porque representan una conexión con nuestros abuelos indígenas.

CBDIO Envía Firmas al Presidente Obama para pedir Reforma Migratoria

Fresno, California. 10 de Junio de 2009.
Barack H. Obama
Presidente de Estados Unidos de América.
Casa Blanca
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D. C. 20500

Honorable Presidente:

A nombre del personal del Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO), respetuosamente le enviamos esta carta.

La misión de nuestra organización es implementar programas que impulsen la participación cívica y el desarrollo económico, social y cultural de las comunidades indígenas de México que viven en California, Estados Unidos, así como las que están en las comunidades de origen.

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