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Outside a Triqui restaurant in upstate New York. March 2022. Photo by MT Vallarta.

Oaxaca in the World

Oaxaca and the Indigenous people from Southern Mexico who now live in California and the migrant circuit have been at the heart of my research and foray into questions of Indigeneity and social movement. As Siicha'anja (Triqui) and Putleco from the Mixteca region of Oaxaca, and born in Pomo territories (Sonoma County, CA), this has led me to multiple projects, public humanities, and responsibilities as part of this diasporic community. Below are a few projects I have been involved in that begin to ask why the politics and expressive culture of Indigenous Oaxacan migrants are important for all of us as we seek to understand our future relations.

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Oaxaca-Based Projects

Creating Public History with the Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB): 30 Years of Migrant Farmworker Activism in California

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Dr. Gaspar Rivera-Salgado and myself gave a virtual talk at the Northwest Five Consortium (NW5C) workshop: Oral History as Public History - Building Reciprocal Relationships. September 2023.

Muchos Caminos de Resistencia en Oaxacalifornia (the many paths of resistance in Oaxacalifornia)


As part of the Oaxacan Heritage Month in Los Angeles, I took part in the Politics and Culture Roundtable. August 2023.

Oaxacan Graduate Education Panel

I was invited to be part of the OaxaCal Seminar to speak about graduate education and experiences, as part of the OaxaCal organization at the University of California, Berkeley. OaxaCal is an Oaxacan and Oaxacan-American student-led organization. April, 2022.

Indigenous Sovereignty didactic for Boom Oaxaca

I wrote this didactic for Boom Oaxaca: Conversaciones de Campo a Campo, an art exhibition about food sovereignty and Indigenous sovereignty within the Oaxaqueño community in the Central Valley of California. Below is the full description of the didactic. March 2022. Photo by Dr. Xóchitl Flores-Marcial.

Indigenous Sovereignty

by Jorge Ramirez-Lopez


Similar to the Indigenous people of the territories we reside on, the people from Oaxaca have maintained Indigenous sovereignty for centuries. Indigenous sovereignty is the will to bring Oaxaqueños together in community. It is also the commitment to shape an Indigenous future on our own terms. In Oaxaca, this has often been through the mechanisms to govern and exercise authority in one’s community of origin, often referred to as usos y costumbres, la ley del pueblo, or comunalidad. Indigenous Sovereignty has been expressed by fulfilling responsibilities like cargos, maintaining relations with the land, cultivating food, joining asambleas, and the tequio and guelaguetza forms of labor and exchange. When the first large wave of Indigenous migrants from Oaxaca arrived in the United States, many of these practices continued and became essential to create a new world for themselves. Indigenous sovereignty generated unique Oaxacan forms of politics never before seen among Mexican migrants.


At the heart of these politics was the strong ties between the communities of origin and new territories. As new generations of migrants left under different historical moments, or were born outside the community of origin, innovative forms of Indigenous sovereignty have taken place that come from these previous practices and reflect multiple experiences. From the backyard fiestas with families and the feasts, music, artwork, community gardens, the continuation of language, and the willingness to learn about one’s Indigenous history and those whose lands one is on. To the younger generation defining a sense of who they are among three cultures, the formation of youth-led groups, and to those learning what it means to be Indigenous when one cannot return or has never been in the community of origin, and when one does not speak the language. All of these and more share the determination to bring Oaxaqueños together wherever they may be. Indigenous sovereignty begins with the first questions of, “who am I?” and “who is my community?”

La Lucha de los Migrantes Indígenas de Oaxaca en Los Campos Agrícolas del Noroeste de México y California


A presentation on the history of Indigenous Migrant organizing in California and Northwest Mexico from the 1970s to 1990s. I was invited by the Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project's (MICOP) Tequio Youth Group in California's central coast to speak with Indigenous Oaxacan youth. February 2022.

Remembering Asunción Nochixtlán: State Violence, Building Bridges, and Global Struggles of Resistance


In 2016, the state sponsored massacre in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca against the teacher's movement transformed into a mass popular struggle alongside a powerful transnational solidarity effort in the diaspora. With community members, scholars, and artist, I organized a panel that centered the aftermath of the event and hosted conversations about how people throughout the world refuse to be consumed by violence, and the ways they create new worlds for themselves. Invited speakers included Elybeth Alcantar, Mariela Dieguez, Bayan Abusneineh, Marcela Rojas, Aundrey Jones, and moderator Kim Clark. April 2017.

Colonialismo, Resistencia y Emancipación Epistémicos


I worked alongside UC San Diego's faculty groups "Nature, Space, and Politics Group" and "Indigenous Resource Group" to host the “Investigating Diverse Ways of Knowing" event. I invited longtime Mixteco activist, lawyer, and scholar Francisco López Barcenas to the conversation. With the help of community organizers in San Diego, we organized an event to talk more intimately with López Barcenas at the Sherman Heights Community Center about how Indigenous ways of knowing and being are necessary for the emancipation of all in our neoliberal moment. June 2019.

Night of Indigenous Hip Hop

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As part of a network of Indigenous Oaxacan youth, Indigenous migrant organizations, and local community members like the DOJO Cafe, Daisy Alonso, Paola Ilescas, Julie Gonzalez, Néstor Venegas Zárate, and I co-organized a night of Indigenous hip hop in San Diego's mid-city. We brought together Mare Advertencia Lirika, a Zapotec hip hop artist from Oaxaca and trilingual Mixteco rapper Miguel "Una Isu" Villegas from the Central Valley of California. In addition to organizing politically, a new generation of Indigenous Oaxacans have found expressive culture as a means to describe the structural conditions many of us face as much as the possibilities of imagining new worlds and relations.

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