October 1, 2004

Oaxacan Community Workshop Aims to Educate North County Agencies

The needs of the large and growing Oaxacan indigenous immigrant population will be addressed at a “Oaxacan Community Workshop,” 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, October, 15, 2004, at the San Marcos Community Center, 3 Civic Center Drive, San Marcos.

The workshop is organized by the National Latino Research Center (NLRC) at Cal State San Marcos, in collaboration with the Coalition of Indigenous Communities from Oaxaca (COCIO) and the Oaxacan Indigenous Binational Front (FIOB). 

The goal of the workshop is to raise awareness among local health care agencies, law enforcement and social service agencies, educators, and foundations about the large and growing Oaxacan indigenous immigrant community in North County San Diego. These immigrants from southern Mexico comprise a large concentration of new migrants to the region.

While there is a large demographic presence of Oaxacans in North County, local researchers have documented a divide between the Oaxacan community and health and human service agencies in North County. According to event organizers, this divide is due to a lack of knowledge about this newest group of migrants by many agencies. Many agencies have expressed a need to better understand Oaxacan indigenous immigrants. Community residents also cite how cultural and linguistic barriers negatively affect their relationship with local agencies. The workshop will allow local experts and members and leaders of the Oaxacan community to discuss challenges and share information with an audience of health and social service agencies, city government, foundations and community groups. The workshop hopes to serve as a catalyst for dialogue that promotes the health, safety and well-being of Oaxacan families in North County San Diego.  

The keynote address will be delivered by Santiago Morales Ventura, a Oaxacan human rights activist.  In 1986, Morales was wrongly convicted of murder and spent five years in prison. Not realizing that Ventura spoke the indigenous Mixtec language, the court had provided him with a Spanish speaking interpreter. Four years after Ventura’s conviction, a reinvestigation of the case established that another man was the killer and that cultural and linguistic barriers contributed to a wrongful conviction. Ventura’s conviction was overturned and he was released from prison. He received a scholarship from the University of Portland, and graduated with a degree in social work. He now works for the Oregon Law Center as a community outreach worker. His story received national attention when he was featured on the Oprah Winfrey show. 

The event will be held in conjunction with Binational Health Week. The Workshop is co-sponsored by The California Endowment, the California Mexico Health Initiative and The U.S. Mexico Border Health Commission. Included in the $20 fee per person are the workshop materials, continental breakfast and lunch with some scholarships available. Parking at the Civic Center is free. For more information, call 760/750-3505.

The National Latino Research Center (NLRC) at California State University San Marcos specializes in applied research, training, technical assistance and research-based services that contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the rapidly growing U.S. Latino population.

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