Cultural Roots as a Source of Strength: Educating and Organizing A Fragmented Immigrant Community: Rediscovering Pride

Abstract

Oaxacans represent a range of indigenous groups from southeastern Mexico. The groups speak 16 different languages. Their cultures and customs are neither American nor Spanish. Prone to "double racism" they experience widespread discrimination. Founded in 1991, the Oaxacan Indigenous Binational Front educates Oaxacan migrants about their rights and helps win improvements including better wages and working conditions. With many Oaxacans going back and forth between jobs, homes and families in both the U.S. and Mexico, the coalition has offices and members in two countries. This unique feature allows them to truly create possibilities for building a better world for the Oaxacan people. Founder Rufino Dominguez and his colleagues use the following approaches to this complex situation:

  • Educate People About Their Rights: The coalition offers civic participation workshops to educate people about their rights under U.S. law.
  • Cultivate Women as a New Source of Leaders: In this traditionally conservative though participatory culture, women are the most promising source of leadership.
  • Build A Foundation To Leverage Action: Dominguez and his colleagues mobilize people for basic rights as well as broad policy changes. They also assist people one on one with problems both large and small, building connections with the community.
  • Tap Into History And Culture: The coalition promotes the Oaxacans' rich, varied traditions, through concerts, sports events, dances and other activities, especially those appealing to youth. This directly counters the fragmentation wrought by prejudice, exploitation and isolation.

Rufino Dominguez and his colleagues describe their strategies and challenges in this leadership story.

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