*Mexikaresistance.com Note: This ignorance and self-hatred are the direct result of the racist "mestizo" mentality engendered by colonialism and Eurocentric ideals.The adage about sticks and stones may apply to some, but not to Rodrigo Perea, 16, who thinks some words definitely hurt. The most painful in his memory are "Oaxaquita" (little Oaxacan) and "indito" (little Indian), words used to degrade indigenous people from Oaxaca and other Mexican states.
Perea, a Rio Mesa High School student, remembered being called those names in second grade and feeling belittled.
“At first, I felt bad. I wished I wasn’t from Oaxaca,” Perea said. “I was ashamed of it.”
Perea said he never reacted to the name-calling but he never forgot it.
“Once you open a scar, it’s hard to close,” he said.
To help the healing process and to raise awareness of the discrimination against the Mixteco-speaking population, youth group Tequio is urging local school districts to pass a resolution prohibiting such derogatory terms. After hearing emotional testimony from local teens, the Oxnard elementary and Rio school districts approved the resolution. When the academic year starts this fall, Tequio hopes the Ocean View and Hueneme school districts will follow suit.
“This issue of bullying for Oaxaqueños … it’s sad but it’s something that’s realistic and it’s happening,” said Arcenio Lopez, associate director of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project.
Tequio means “community work” in the indigenous language of Nahuatl. It was formed in 2010 as a youth leadership and social justice group by the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project, which is based in Oxnard and marking its 11th year in August.
Targeting schools, the “No me llames Oaxaquita” or “Don’t call me a little Oaxacan” campaign is the first major Tequio project. In addition to combating discrimination, the campaign also calls for school districts to form anti-bullying committees and promote the teachings of Mexico’s indigenous cultures.
When Tequio was formed, youth members completed a survey and identified discrimination as a key concern in the local Mixtec population, which consists of many farmworkers in Ventura County.
The Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project already was working on a campaign against discrimination in the workplace and helped Tequio target its efforts at school districts with large populations of indigenous Mexicans.
There are about 20,000 indigenous Mexicans in the county, many from the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero and speaking only Mixteco, according to the project. Discrimination in the form of name-calling and bullying are sometimes instigated by the greater Latino community. One student told Rio board members that a district teacher had used the word “Oaxaquita.”
“The schools’ responsibility is to make sure they create a safe environment for students,” Lopez said. “Many people are not aware of this issue in schools.”
Jorge Figueroa, 16, a Rio Mesa student, remembered using the derogatory words against his classmates when he was young. Born in Michoacan and growing up in Oxnard, Figueroa had never heard of Oaxaca and didn’t know some of the words he was using were hurtful.
“I thought I was just playing around, fooling around,” Figueroa said. “Then I realized that those words make you feel less than what you really are.”
Students who faced discrimination on school grounds said they were often singled out for their size, skin color and for speaking Mixteco.
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: Youth group campaigns to end discrimination against Mixtec students » Ventura County Star.